Winter Gear Tweaks
Not surprisingly, winter climbing conditions are looking very promising for the rest of February. If you're planning on heading north in the next few days here are a few gear tips which are simple, effective and will save you time and money.
Gaiter Instep Loops
Most technical gaiters come with some kind of instep strap which is neoprene or braided; usually secured with a buckle on the outside of the foot. Generally these straps don't last very long. The fact that the strap is flat, and can't roll, and the material is quite hard means they are prone to rapid wear in anything but total snow cover. I know that might not quite make sense, but if you think about it, a hard rigid fabric is more prone to impact damage than a softer elastic fabric. A pair of Black Diamond Talus Gaiters fitted with a 4mm bungee loop. A very simple and more durable solution is to replace the straps with a bungee cord loop. In fact I'd go a far as to cut off the straps of any new gaiters I've bought recently and fit bungee loops from day one. Don't make the loop too big, it should just be big enough to keep your gaiters in the right position without pulling them too low on the boot. Tie an overhand knot on the inside of the loop so it can be tucked inside the bottom edge of the gaiters, out of the tripping zone. Advantages: More durable than straps because they roll and compress in rocky terrain, thus avoiding direct impact Quicker to use, no fiddly buckles to thread, just pull the loop under the bottom of your boot Less chance of catching or damage when climbing cracks
As with gaiters, many technical climbing gloves come fitted with ridiculously complex adjustable wrist loop systems. When your on a stance or half way up a pitch you need less stuff to get in the way, not more. By far the most effective system is again, a simple 3mm bungee loop. Being elastic there's no need for extra cord locks or loops. Grivel Ice Fall Gloves. The fiddly cord wrist loop has been replaced with a neat and functional 3mm bungee loop. Simply form an overhand knot/loop which is small enough not to fall off your wrist when relaxed and tie the long end of the knot to the gloves at an appropriate length; not too long. Some gloves already have small tape loops you can tie into, if not, you need to deploy some basic skills with a needle and thread. Advantages: Does not require any buckles to adjust tension Because they are elastic the distance from glove to wrist can be reduced, hence less chance of getting tangled up with other gear Cheap and replaceable, (although you won't need to) Buy 3mm Bungee
Waterproof Your Gloves
Most people carry a couple of pairs of liner gloves for winter climbing. The actual combination of gloves is down to personal preference but as an example you might want some big, numb, but warm mitts, which you would use for belaying. Plus a more sensitive fingered pair of gloves for use on technical pitches and sorting gear. For example a couple of pairs of thin polypro gloves can be used inside the fingered gloves and swapped as they get wet. Polypro liners with a bottle of TX Direct Wet gloves are the enemy. An excellent way to keep your fingered gloves and liner gloves drier for longer is to wash them in Nikwax TX Direct at the start of the winter. This wash-in proofing has a remarkable effect on keeping gloves dry in wet snow and spin drift conditions and can really make a big difference in your ability to climb and generally enjoy the day, not to mention the safety implications. I have found the best washing method is to get all your gloves together in an old basin or washing up bowl. Fill it with hand hot water (about 40'C). Add a lot more TX direct than is recommended on the bottle. I have used up to a third of a bottle to a bowl, far more then is recommended by Nikwax but the results were amazing. Hand wash the gloves for 10 mins or so and leave to soak over night. Be aware that the gloves will take al least 24 hours to dry out, so don't do this the night before you are due to head out on a trip.
Mid Trip Tear Repair
Breathable fabric manufacturers would love to sell you an expense patch repair kit to stick over that sickening hole that's just appeared in the back of your jacket. Well go ahead, it may look nice but it won't last and will not work at all if the jacket slightly dirty. The best solution to repair a fabric tear in any of your equipment is to use something like Stormsure. SeamSeal is a better know competitor and does the same job. Stormsure is a glue that dries over night to form a flexible weld across the tear line. It sticks like crazy and once cured will probably out live the fabric its attached to. It has multiple uses including, gaiters, rucksacks, jackets, even footwear. It works best if the area is clean and dry. I would definitely recommended taking a tube with you on any trip. Repairs can be made overnight between climbing days.
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