Gear Guy

Can I repair the butt of my mountaineering pants?

My wife says that my regular reading of your column has cost us a fortune but I swear you've saved me money. Here's a chance to prove your worth, and much more importantly, prove me right. It's spring again, and my Mountain Hardwear Guide pants are suffering from a severe case of "glissade bottom." Are they totaled, or is there a way to economically repair this malady without tossing these wonderful but expensive pants in the trash heap? Secondly, I've tried to prevent "g.b." by pulling a pair of shorts over the pants, but to no avail. The shorts just ride up in to full wedgie mode, leaving me uncomfortable, and the pants largely exposed to the worst effects of snow abrasion. Is there some other method to avoid this in the first place, or should I just buy cheap pants for mountaineering? John Giles Carlsbad, California

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Anybody who has done a face plant on granular spring snow knows all too well that it’s incredibly abrasive. So of course it will thoroughly trash pants. Back in the olden days, when I started to climb, we almost always carried what we called “glissade pants”-usually a simple, inexpensive pair of coated-nylon overpants that we’d slip on before the big slide. But back then we were wearing wool knickers, which had a friction coefficient something akin to Duco cement.

But I understand why you don’t want to trash your expensive pants. The Guides go for, well, I’m not certain. Do you really mean Mountain Hardwear? Patagonia makes a Guide pant ($169) and so does L.L. Bean ($125). But not Mountain Hardwear. In any event, they’re certainly repairable. A company like Rainy Pass Repair in Seattle ( could sew an abrasion-resistant butt patch onto the pants, allowing you to make an exceptionally cool fashion statement and also avoid glissade bottom. Alternatively, you put up with an extra pound and pack some overpants for glissading, something like the Dutch Harbor Rain Pants-just $40, and completely waterproof.

And there’s one other alternative, which I’ll make gently: Revise your glissade technique. Sitting glissades seem easy and intuitive, but they’re difficult to control. It’s too easy to start tumbling, then whack into rocks or a tree. Happens all too often. Better to use the standing technique, where you can hold your ice axe in the ready self-arrest position. And it’s pretty effective-often you can execute a standing glissade more readily than sitting one

That said, some years back I climbed the Kautz Glacier route on Rainier. Long ascent over steep snow to camp at 11,000 feet. Wow, what a descent THAT was. Sitting glissade for some 4,000 vertical feet. Man, that was fun.

Oh, and one more thing: Of course I’ve saved you money!!

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