Even more bikerafting!

It’s what all the cool kids are doing..

Photo of/from Doom.  Go there, read, wonder, zoom in on the pics, and learn.  Good ideas for that elusive best bike on raft rig, and an excellent route.

The new boats look aweseme, and the bigger bow is likely even better for lashing on a bike.

The Junk Show

Tomorrow is the Pole-Pedal-Paddle triathlon up in Whitefish, and I’ve resolved to get full value by riding there and back and hauling all my gear.  Speaking of full value, the forecast calls for 40s and 100% chance of precip.

It took some thinkering and futzing, but past experience hauling skis and fly rods in the masthead position and my new Tubus Cargo made it all possible.  If you look closely you can see the ski tails tucked into the rack, and the foam taped to either side of the headtube.  Once I cinch down the strap around the headtube there is just enough tension in the skis to keep them sturdy and rattle free.  My packraft, ski poles, and the middle sections of the paddle are strapped to the rear rack.  Boots, skins, PFD, and paddle blades are in the pack.

Curb testing seems to indicate that it will work no problem.  Will report back tomorrow.

Testing (testing)

My mission to ski the Nyack-Coal loop failed, but most everything else was a success.  In short, bad snow and improperly broken-in boot liners conspired to make for a slow pace and painful feet, so I turned around.  I still got to see Glacier, covered in snow but fast melting out, which can never been done often enough.

One commentator on a post of Jill’s the other week elicited this response from the author herself:  “Only difference between me and most people who everything always seems to go right for, is that I actually own up to my mistakes. And I really do make an effort not to make them again.”  And in that spirit I own mine: even well baked liners with toe caps need some shorter outing to settle in properly.

That said, the TLT 1000s did well at the job for which they were built.  The snow on Saturday was soft and punchy, and overnight it froze up, hard.  I crashed twice on the ice in the 100 yards going from my camp to where I hung my food today.  I needed every bit of the control plastic soled boots provide.  The intuitions liners rubbed my ankles badly on a test mission last Wednesday, so I substituted (and cut down) these Raleigh liners.  With a few tweaks and some breaking in these boots will be a winner.  That they’re waterproof to 6″ is a nice feature in spring.

I broke my poor, decade old BD trekking poles for the third time today.  I fell backwards and fully weighted a pole stuck 2 feet in the snow, it didn’t have a chance.  That is a lower of the two flicklocks on each pole.  Not sure any pole could’ve survived the fall, and at least I could pry the broken piece out and make the pole workable.

The bears are awake, and about.  During one fall today the bear spray, which I secure to the side of my pack with a bungee, fell off.  I didn’t notice for quite a while.  Lesson: secure your bear spray more effectively.

I’ve owned my Bushbuddy stove for almost two months, and hadn’t used it until yesterday.  I wanted it for exactly this situation, when 5 feet of snow on the ground make a proper fire impractical.  Bonus is how quickly and easily the bushie fires up with only modest attention paid to tindering, and how much juice you get from a very small amount of wood.  All that, and it is a work of spot welding art.  Very cool.

The MLD simple poncho-tarp in tarp mode.  Not much to say here, it works just fine, and I like the color.

A method for carrying skis on the raft: lash skis and poles to back of pack, then lash pack sideways on raft with skis forward.  Stable, weight balanced, not good for running tight gaps.  I was able to float the last 1/2 mile of Nyack on the way out, with plenty of water.  The 5 miles down from the lower camp will probably be in good boating shape very soon, and promise to make for a very good, mellow float.  The upper reaches look spicier.

Mount Stimpson in postcard mode.  There be dragons.

Gear combos not often seen.  Having the packraft to access across the Middle Fork open many options.  Oddly, I followed days-old ski tracks the whole way, someone had been out using a patrol cabin (for science, I assume?).  Even without those tracks following the trail was dead easy.  There are even some bare patches, and the recent sun made several partially-collapsed creek crossings rather interesting.

The North Fork pack did it’s job very well.  Great carrying pack for big loads.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was getting out (and being picked up by wonderful shuttle driver M) early enough to have brunch and beers at the Belton Chalet.  They do not fuck around with their corn beef and hash with poached eggs, toast and gravy.

I even got a good workout out of the trip.  Lunging to save when your fishscales cut loose on hidden ice is a burly core exercise.

3 Photos of 2 packs

Packing for a trip this weekend, and M thought is amusing to see the cavernous North Fork at full extension.

Not so huge when cinched down, but huge for an overnight.  Packraft, ski stuff, synthetic insulation.  The plan: Nyack Creek and Coal Creek in Glacier.  Spot link. Should be fun.

Some new gear arrived this afternoon.  It won’t fit a packraft inside, but may well be the shiz for ultralight and fast hikes come summer.

Initial impression: slick.  Very slick.

Pertex Equilibrium vest (and fabric review)

I possess a (what at times seems) ridiculous variety of technical clothing.  Three different hooded shells get used on a regular basis, two different big puffy jackets, three different insulated vests, and a 4′ by 2′ by 8″ rubbermaid bin which is mostly full of various base layers shirt and bottoms.  Yet with the exception of some of the older base layers, it all gets used.  Different activities and conditions require or at least lend themselves to very different ensembles.  Technical clothing is an area so prone to gear sluttery precisely because of the many practical reasons for owning a pile of stuff.

The truly persnickety build and modify their own clothing, as stock stuff so rarely fulfills the predilections of the obsessed.  Sewing stuff from scratch is really hard, at least for someone so undisposed to mind fine details as me, but sometimes it is worthwhile.  For instance, the vest I made today.

It is entirely made from Pertex Equilibrium, as I have plenty left over from my anorak (which has been rendered mostly useless by my Essenshell).  It is very remarkable fabric, which ought to lend itself well to a layer designed to provide some extra wind and precip protection with minimal impingement on breathability.

BPL has discussed the technical reasons in depth, so I’ll let it go by saying Equilibium combined impressive breathability with impressive wind resistance, seemingly bending the direct inverse relationship the two normally have.  It doesn’t seem to have impressive water shedding abilities (though that may largely be due to the lack of any DWR treatment on my fabric, then again, DWR works against breathability), and thus seems to be especially suited as a winter shell for human powered endeavors.  I imagine this jacket would be great for BC skiing.

I’m skeptical about my ability to leave a Goretex shell home for trips this spring and summer, and am hoping that capilene, this vest, and the Gore will get the job done.  Time will tell.

Pin wear

The UN 72 of ski bindings.  Above is a Voile Mountaineer with minimal miles.

Whereas this binding (on my Guides) has many miles on it, and it shows.  Still fully functional.

This binding is on my first pair of Marquettes.  Obviously of an older vintage, I got it used for a song at a ski swap last spring.  Used as a resort binding, the pins had minimal up and forward rotations (from kick and glide) and are thus in pretty good shape.  Most of the wear visible I’ve put on myself since December.

Bindings on the new Marquettes, with a very similar story to the above.

Take home lesson: locking your 3 pins on the first click down lets the duckbill rotate a bit, making for easier forward motion, but accelerated pin wear.  Possibly still worth it a lot of the time.

Second lesson: anti-ice tapes are the shiz.  Get ’em.

Tiny cuben drysack

The smallest of MLDs cuben ditty bags.  Seam sealed, with the cord removed and the buckle glued on.  Made for holding the most basic of fire starting and repair gear in the pocket of my PFD or coat, should I become separated from my packraft and/or pack.  The bulk of the webbing may make the seal less than ideal, at least without a full bag to hold pressure against it.

Emm Ell Dee!!

Silnylon Simple Poncho. Stealth olive brown.  Large.

Batman.

I’ll probably use it more as a tarp than as a poncho, but an Epic shell and poncho approach to rain gear will be worth trying, too.  One more awesome thing, only the hood needs to be seam sealed, as there are no other seams!

Review: Climbing Skins Direct v. BD Ascension

Climbing skins: if you ski the backcountry you gotta have ’em.  As nifty as fishscales are, and as good as kickwax can be under the right conditions, if you’re off in the woods you will find hills steep enough to require skins.  So, what to get?

Skins are not cheap.  They’re also one of those peculiar bits of gear that is profoundly imperfect, fundamentally flawed, yet quite remarkable in its utility.  Not so much the plush of the skin itself, which is no longer the most significant part of the skin.  The reason skins are both a marvel of science and a serious nuisance is skin glue.  (I’m aware of clipskins, but the in-field fiddle factor and lack of flexibility w/r/t ski shape doesn’t appeal to me, yet.)

Skin glue sticks to your skis (and most everything else), yet stays on the skin, time after time.  Remarkable, when you stop to think about it.  Of course, the glue wears out, gets pine needles, dirt, dog hair, etc in it, looses its hold in cold temps and after multiple laps, and so forth.  Skin glue is high maintenance.

Skin plush, on the other hand, has to do three things: resist sliding backwards (grip), slide forwards (glide), and not fall apart when subjected to logs, patches of dirt and rocks, ice, and all the indignities of backcountry skiing in places (the lower 48) not blessed with easy access to vast alpine terrain and vast snowpacks.  So long as durability is good and neither grip nor glide is too atrocious, skin plush is not something to worry over.

I have three sets of full length skins at the moment: BD Ascensions bought in 1/2009 for K2 Summit Superlights, CSD skins bought in 3/2010 for Karhu Guides, and CSD skins bought in 12/2010 for Marquette BC skis.  Even though they were too narrow, I used the BDs on the Guides for a good while until I got them their own carpets.

The BD skins probably have the most use, though I’ve been skiing so much this year that the number of days and miles on all three pairs is rapidly approaching equality.  My findings are as follows:

-CSD skins have significantly better glide.

-BD skins have marginally better grip.

-The BD plush is much thicker and stiffer when new. It has a very boardy feeling which softens up after a lot of use.  The CSD plush is supple out of the box.  The corollary here is that the CSD skins are much, much more compact when folded.

-I’ve noticed no functional difference in durability.

-The BD glue is a lot stickier then the CSD glue when new, maintains this level better, and seems to last longer. I say seems to because my sample size is so small.  My Guide skins need to be reglued.  The glue is still serviceable, but is becoming patchy (ie some areas have almost no glue).  This does not seem to be the case (yet) with my Marquette skins, which though new, have a lot of days on them.  The glue on my BDs is noticeably degraded with age (which in many ways makes them easier to use), but with no functional deterioration.

This would seem to make the Ascensions a no-brainer, until another factor is introduced: cost.  130mm CSD simple skins (no tail attachment) retails for 99 bucks.  125mm STD Ascensions (no tail attachment), retail for 144 bucks, though they are on sale right now.  I use a rat tail on all my skins, which has the dual advantage of being secure and easy to remove with skis still on, and lets you buy the cheapest skins.

So, is the seemingly better glue worth the almost 50% premium?  That’s for you to decide.  I have a new pair of (free!) skis on the way, and in contemplating skins for them, I have a hard time deciding.