Rock Exotica Silent Partner

It’s not often a purchase of climbing equipment turns into a Berkshire Hathaway level investment, but if you picked up one of these a few years ago, you were very fortunate.

Let’s delve into what makes this unique piece of climbing gear so rare, and so expensive.

Discontinued Gear I’m Still Using

Outdoor gear companies are always innovating and marketers always want to sell things. Sometimes, older discontinued gear simply does the job. These four items discontinued by their makers still deliver after years of use. I’ll tell you why they remain my favorites and why great discontinued gear–used or new–just makes sense in 2024 and beyond.

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX Mountaineering Boot Long-Term Review

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX

“Are these warmer than the Nepals?”  “Do they front-point as well?”  Lighter?  Heavier?  More or less supportive?  As durable?  What about the price?

From climbing blogs to message boards, it doesn’t take long to find someone making a comparison to the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX boot.  And it should come as no surprise that La Sportiva’s Nepal Evo is one of the most popular mountaineering boots of all time; a combination of rugged, supportive 3.2mm Perwanger leather, classic lacing system, lugged Vibram sole with rigid midsole, all lined with insulated Gore-Tex to keep a mountaineer warm and dry (elusive conditions, to be sure) add up to a serious boot that may not be the best at any one thing, but proves consistently strong across the board.

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When Weather Doesn’t Cooperate: Attempt on Hiuchi-yama (火打山) and Myoko-san (妙高山).


Climbing partner J and I have already delayed our trip one week due to heavy rain, and now it’s June 27 and we’ve decided to take our chances on the oscillating weather forecast.  We load our packs into J’s Honda and hit the road for Niigata, where we hope to summit Hiuchi-yama today and Myoko-san tomorrow, before returning tomorrow afternoon.  Traffic is light at 5:30 a.m., and aside from one 15-minute detour courtesy of our GPS unit, the trip is largely smooth.  As we near the trailhead at Sasagamine, we drive past a family of monkeys moving through the roadside trees; they’ve attracted a dozen cars, all parked along the two-lane road, eager to photograph them.

Continue reading “When Weather Doesn’t Cooperate: Attempt on Hiuchi-yama (火打山) and Myoko-san (妙高山).”

Looking Down is the Best Part: How I Conquered my Fear of Heights

A desire to climb compelled me to conquer my fear of heights. This is how I did it.

I remember the first time.  It happened, of all places, at the La Brea Tar Pits, in Los Angeles.  The Wilshire Boulevard site doesn’t sit on any particularly steep relief.  But one of the buildings, set on a very small hill, is ringed with a cement sidewalk wide enough that, from my low perspective as a child, seemed to drop off into the air.  With no railing to protect passers-by, from my “safe” location next to the building’s full-length glass walls I warned my father not to get too close to the edge.  My dad, with his usual sense of humor, walked carefully up to the edge and “fell” off into the abyss.  I remember feeling extremely distressed, but soon my mom’s laughter hinted that I had missed something.  With her coaxing, I tentatively worked my way up to the edge, finding my father sitting on the hill, looking up at me.  Relieved, the experience passed from my immediate memory as we continued our visit to the museum, but looking back, I’m pretty sure that was the first significant time I associated a perception of height with a sensation of danger.

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Petzl Sirocco Climbing Helmet Review

Petzl Sirocco

With the Sirocco, Petzl has taken the trend of lightweight gear almost to absurdity.  After eliminating as much as possible, what is left is brilliant.

I began climbing in earnest in my thirties.  Yes, I had spent time in an ROTC program in the Mountain West, where we abseiled from towers (using a figure-eight backed up with a fireman’s belay!) and practiced moving across class III terrain.  But it wasn’t until years later that I bought my first shoes, chalk bag and harness.  One of the decidedly few advantages to beginning a sport like climbing in middle age was that I never thought twice about wearing a helmet for sport or trad routes.  Long past the need to “look cool” (now a woefully unattainable goal in any case–just ask my kids), and conscious enough of my own mortality to want as safe a climb as possible, a helmet proved–forgive me–a no brainer.

Petzl Sirocco
Petz’s ultralight Sirocco climbing helmet.  Note the minimalist headlamp clip.

I didn’t play contact sports in school, and I grew up long enough ago that nobody wore helmets when riding their bicycle, so between ROTC and a few other brushes I’ve had with the military, my idea of a good helmet was something heavy and, well, heavy.  Think one of the old Joe Brown helmets.  But as I began researching helmets, and as I handled them in the local outdoor equipment store, I realized that my days of heavy headgear were behind me.  And with the Sirocco, French climbing gear manufacturer Petzl has taken the trend of lightweight gear almost to absurdity.  After eliminating as much as possible, what is left is brilliant.

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