There are big-name brands in the outdoor clothing market that turn out lustworthy, cutting-edge shells, baselayers and insulation pieces season after season. But every once in a while, we stumble upon a small brand doing things a little bit differently yet equally well. One of those is NW Alpine, based in that outdoor playground, Portland, Oregon. We got to test out three pieces of NW Alpine gear in the mountains this fall: the Black Spider Hoodie, the Fast/Light Pant and the Simplicity Jacket.
Initiate Ghost Protocol
In 2010, the crew of the latest Mission: Impossible movie called Charles Cole, Five Ten’s president, with one simple question: could he design a shoe that could climb up a glass wall? Cole and his team went to work on their Stealth C4 rubber, rebuilding it stickier than ever. The result? Rubber that is viscous enough to gain purchase on glass (just watch Tom Cruise use it in Mission: Impossible), while maintaining the durability to do battle with even the sharpest rock faces. We got a look at Five Ten’s Team VXi and Freerider VXi Element ($125), two groundbreaking pieces of footwear.
Part I of III in The Mountain Series
The rotor wash from a Bell 212 helicopter is startlingly strong. Though I was getting used to the pick up and drop off routine — kneel, huddle together, cover your face — every time the helicopter landed I was nearly blown off my feet. Peering out the side window as we lifted straight up from a postage-stamp-sized rock atop a peak called “Kickoff”, I noticed that getting blown over here would have meant a very long fall. Note to self: don’t be the guy at the back of the huddle.
Helicopter travel is addictive. Though it’s loud and uncomfortable, it’s the swiftest and most scenic way to get from Point A to Point B in the mountains. There’s also a certain Green Beret appeal to being whisked off a remote peak by a Huey. Purist hikers and climbers may call it cheating (I used to be one of them), but reserve judgment until you’ve hiked for five hours and 5,000 vertical feet in some of the wildest backcountry in the world and can get back to the lodge in ten minutes for a beer by a crackling fire. I came to this newfound appreciation after a week of up and down in the Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia.
What's old is new
Retro gear is retro for a reason: modern outdoor gear design performs better than its forebears in almost all respects. But we still have a soft spot for the leather, wool, canvas alpine designs of the 1950s and ‘60s — you know, before things got all sleek and neon. After seeing two Gear Patrol favorite brands, Topo Designs and Howler Brothers, collaborate to design a classic climbing pack, the Klettersack ($189), we decided to go all Reinhold Messner and take it to the mountains to see how a retro style pack works in the environment that inspired it.
Mount Rainier - 14,410 feet
Mount Rainier rises 14,410 feet above the landscape two hours to the southeast of Seattle. It towers above its surroundings, dwarfing the smaller peaks of the nearby Tatoosh Range and creating its own weather systems. It is the largest and most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. From the city on clear days, it is a beacon, almost a benevolent presence. Yet Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the Western Hemisphere. Should it ever erupt again, the resulting mudslides and ash would threaten not only Seattle but much of Washington state and beyond.
For climbers, Mount Rainier presents a tantalizing challenge given its accessibility to a major urban center and the established routes that zigzag up its flanks. Its topography and numerous glaciers and crevasses make it an excellent training ground for bigger climbs in the Alps and Himalayas. Only about half those who attempt to summit it succeed each year, the other half turned away by weather, unstable conditions or fatigue. It was also the scene of one of the worst mountaineering accidents in North American climbing history when an ice fall killed 11 climbers in 1981.
It sounded like a good challenge.
Gear to get you up the Wall
No other sport relies quite as heavily on gear during life-and-death situations as climbing. Your gear is the only lifeline (and sometimes when you’re a few hundred feet up a sheer wall, no amount of gear seems to be enough) holding you to the rock. Selecting the right harness, rope, and protection, then, makes the difference between not just surviving your time on the wall, but enjoying every agonizing toe hold and finger-cramping crack jam. Here’s what we hauled up the rock on our climb up Ancient Art tower in Moab, Utah.
No cubes in this icebox
Guys like to climb stuff — trees, corporate ladders and, of course, icy mountains. The scarier, the better. The Black Diamond Ice Box ($80) is a great solution for storing lots of pointy gear that needs to be handy at a moment’s notice. The box holds four tools, a pair of crampons (stop giggling, dammit)…
In 2011 Petzl gathered over 600 climbers from all over the world to bring to China to climb the Great Arch of Getu He located in the Guizhou province. This film was put together by Baraka Films and tells its story unlike a traditional narrative. The film follows the beat of music and sounds gathered…
The last thing you want while hiking or training is stagnant sweat. Yeah, we know, nasty. Mountain Hardware brings their outdoor expertise into the Wiked Tee with a moisture-wicking lightweight shirt perfect for the hot summer months. The shirt moves away moisture from your skin through an open-kint mesh structure which also breathes. It has…