Jonathan Siegrist is one of the few American sport climbers who has dedicated himself almost entirely to developing routes on his home ground. As Chris Sharma has settled in Spain and Ethan Pringle and Dave Graham have bounced between continents over the past two years, Siegrist has opened a half-dozen 5.14s around the States, including testpieces like Pure Imagination (5.14d) in Kentucky's Red River Gorge and Shadowboxing (5.14c/d) in Rifle, Colorado.
On February 21, Siegrist added one more tick to that list with the first ascent of Le Rêve (French for "The Dream") in Arrow Canyon, Nevada. With its proposed grade of 5.14d/15a, the line is Siegrist's hardest yet. "It's clear to me that this route defines a new category of difficulty for me," Siegrist wrote on his blog. "Le Rêve took twice the effort of any route I've done save maybe one of my first 5.14s."
The world's top alpinists continue to push the boundaries of human suffering and exposure with climbs of ever more technical peaks. Gear companies like The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and Marmot don't sell a lot of high-end, alpine gear, but they need to keep their athletes happy. Clients willing to pay guides to get them up Everest and other peaks reap the rewards. Is that you? Well then, lucky you. Here's a round-up of the latest and greatest gear for 8,000-meter vacations.Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Suit: It’s been years since a brand has undertaken a wholesale redesign of its 8,000-meter down suit. At the request of Ueli Steck, Mountain Hardwear took on the project. The fully welded and watertight suit is now lighter, compatible with modern Himalayan climbing equipment like air masks, and user friendly. Hood adjustments are easier to make, the 850-fill body is mapped for warmth with improvements to wick away sweat, and the rainbow seat is easier to unzip when you gotta go. Mountain Hardwear built waterbottle pockets on the inside, to reduce the chances you'll carry chunks of ice to the summit. Available August 2012, $1250, mountainhardwear.com.
We hear a lot about young people climbing big mountains. However, we rarely hear about the steady-handed partners climbing alongside them and keeping an eye out for them.
In 2010, I covered 12 -year-old Matt Moniz as he set a High Pointer record by standing on the highest point of each of the 50 states in under 50 days. His dad Mike was with him on every climb, from Florida's 345-foot-high Britton Hill to the summit of Denali. Now, Mike is setting out on his own. This spring, he plans to climb Everest, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu—all in a single push.
Mike is not a guide: he is a regular father with a real job. So attempting three 8,000-meter peaks during the same expedition is ambitious, especially considering that his highest thus far is 6,962-meter Aconcagua. But Mike is a case study in preparation and training, and is approaching this summit with a meticulous attention to detail. Not be left out, Matt is going back to Everest Base Camp too.
How is Matt these days? Any recent climbs? Matt is doing really well – his latest climbing project was in the Bolivian Cordillera Real, attempting three 6000-meter peaks in 6 days, summit to summit. Always thinking ahead, he’s been looking for a possible “first ascent” or something ambitious. I’m not sure what he has in mind but he’s creative. This summer he’s planning a trip to Spain to connect with his climbing hero Chris Sharma for some rock climbing and Spanish lessons.
Wenger Evowood Nail Clipper: Swiss Army Knives and Leathermans are handy, but any committed climber will tell you that the tool they're most often pining for at the crag is a nail clipper. Ever tried to jam your feet into climbing shoes having forgotten to cut your toe nails? Crimpping, gripping or jamming without a fingernail trim is just as ugly, and can turn a redpoint into a bleeding fingernail hang on the rope at the last hold.
A year ago, Boreas was started by Tae Kim, the Creative Director behind Alite Designs. Kim showed he wasn’t afraid to take design risks, creating the two-legged balancing Monarch Butterfly Camp Chair and the zip-crotch Sexy Hotness sleeping bag. With Boreas, Kim is offering design flair while showing his serious side.
We tested Boreas’ lidless Buttermilk on a climbing trip to Spain. Despite the fact that it has a bald, strap-cinched roll top, the pack has plenty of options for packing organization—a zippered front pocket, an oversized stretchy front pocket that clips close, and waterbottle pockets. The bag has tapered sides, which make searching for gear much easier because the mouth of the bag was wider than the bag. One of our favorite features is the hidden front lash loops, which recess into the pack’s seams when they’re not in use. The z-foam back panel pack carries a solid load wihtout being overbuilt. The hip belt holds a rain cover, which comes in handy more than you'd expect. The only clips on the bag are nose to nose on the front—one to cinch the roll top closure and one to clip the front pocket. It's a nice minimal feature for the airport. (When we checked the bag at Barcelona Airport on the way home, there were no straps, clips or clutter to get caught in airline conveyors. And even packed full of metal climbing gear and tossed around by baggage handlers, the bag pack was good as new when it arrived home.)