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Reviews by j_ung (30)

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Serenity Coating Finish 8.9mm x 70m Dry Rope (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 0.00/5 Average Rating : 0.00/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Climbing Ropes: Dry Ropes

Review 0 out of 5 stars

Review by: j_ung, 2006-07-11

[size=14][color=red]Editor's note: This product review written by Michael Reardon and submitted by J_ung.[/color]

[b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]

What matters more, girth or length? It is a question pondered through the ages, particularly when it comes to ropes. To understand the variety of cords, one needs to get into the mindset of the variety of climbing and the generation gap that separates them.

Mountaineers have always preferred the wider strands with which to savor the slower gains into the altitude of the gods, while alpinists go thin and long to dispatch with their conquests as quickly as possible. Traditional ground-up climbers prefer a thicker sheath to withstand the abrasions from extended belays and occasional dismounts from risky protection, while sport climbers trend towards the color-coordinated lightweight skimpy models for quick sends without the emotional commitment. Me? I'm a “variety-is-the-spice-of-life” kind of guy, otherwise known as a slut, particularly when it comes to climbing gear. So when I got the new Mammut Serenity 8.9mm rope, I jumped like a dog in heat to see what it would take to tear this baby down.

First up, the sport climbing haven of Malibu Creak. The breccia pockets are unforgivable to the skin and I figured running a circuit would destroy it in a matter of moments. I was wrong. Though skinny to the touch, the weight belied strong innards (capable of sustaining five UIAA falls according to Mammut), and remained supple throughout the course of the day. However, fifty laps was the limit before the sheath started to puff out like a warm bagel from the repeated rubbing. Two days later I decided to take it to the thousand-foot granite spike of Tahquitz for a bit of multi-pitching. The lighter weight was an obvious plus when simul-climbing while the anorexic profile shimmied its way smoothly between blocks that a girthier package might not have been able to squeeze through. After a vertical mile, the wear started to get worse but there was time for one last date. Stoney Point has the texture of a belt sander and never been kind to the pretty, skinny models. Toprope set, I mounted up with the intention of going until one of us collapsed. It took two blown tips and a core shot in the elbow before an inspection portal finally appeared at the halfway point of the rope rendering it unsafe. I finally untied with a whimper of relief.

Ropes are slowly getting thinner and lighter, but the ability to handle the same abuses as their predecessors diminishes as well. The Serenity unfortunately does not provide any real breakthrough in this regard, so it still all comes down to what you what you want your rope to do. While the Serenity is somewhat surprising in its durability, it won't stand long under conditions in which thicker, sheathier cords still hold sway. Ironically, rock climbers at [i]opposite[/i] ends of the spectrum of our craft will like the Serenity most. Sport climbers who want separate ropes for working and sending and alpinists who need light, fast, long and agile cords all the time are, for once, in the same camp. Blame Mammut!

Bachar: One Man, One Myth, One Legend (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 5.00/5 Average Rating : 5.00/5

In: Gear: Archive

Review 0 out of 5 stars

Review by: j_ung, 2006-06-06

[size=12][b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]

[i]“Yosemite was THE place. Bachar was THE guy. That makes him more than just a climber. [/i]– Peter Croft

[i]“$10,000 to anybody who can follow me for a day.” [/i]– John Bachar

If those two quotes together don’t perfectly sum up the legend that is John Bachar, I’ll eat Ron Kauk's hair. All that remains is to fill in the details. From where did he come? Who were his influences? What drives a man to not only become arguably the best climber of his generation, but one who did much of it ropeless, adrift in Yosemite’s vast seas of granite?

If you ever wonder what the answers to those questions are, or if you only know that Bachar liked to solo and was really good at it, then Michael Reardon’s [i]Bachar: One Man, One Myth, One Legend [/i]is well worth your time. And I guess that means this DVD is for most of us, because while Bachar pushed the limits of climbing far beyond what anybody thought possible and sat at the center of one of climbing’s most infamous controversies, today many of us haven’t really a clue about him and what he did. [i]Bachar: MML[/i] is a profile of one of the sport’s most colorful, controversial, standard-pushing climbers carried out by Reardon, who also fits that mold. Though Reardon himself never appears on the DVD (we barely hear his voice once or twice), it is essentially one stratospheric free soloist exploring the deeds and inner workings of another.

[i]Bachar: MML[/i] jumps right into the man’s psyche from the get go with the tale of an famous note pinned to the Camp 4 bulletin board one sunny morning: “$10,000 to anybody who can follow me for a day.” It’s a brash note. It’s a dare, but one he knew would never see an attempt, let alone fulfillment, because, to put it simply, [i]nobody [/i]could follow John Bachar for a day. And [i]everybody[/i] knew it.

[i]Bachar: MML[/i] takes off from there straight into his childhood. Throughout the DVD the viewer is treated to interview after interview with those who know John Bachar best: his father and brother, his closest friends, several climbing partners and even many other luminaries of that time and before it. Royal Robbins pops in. John Long participates, too. John Gill and Peter Croft lend a hand. And in a striking addition to [i]Bachar: MML[/i], Bob Kamps (I assume only months before he passed) also speaks extensively on style, ethics, Bachar and free soloing.

[i]Bachar: MML[/i] pulls its punches in only two areas. Most noticeable is that, while it delves extensively into that which makes Bachar tick, it lacks climbing footage. Much of it has never been seen before, but all in all, we get to see only seconds of John Bachar moving over stone. And while that’s completely understandable from a historical standpoint – there simply weren’t many cameras rolling in Yosemite in the 70s and 80s – we also don’t get to see him climbing [i]today[/i]. In [i]Bachar: MML[/i], he states that he still climbs and occasionally solos up to 5.11. None of it! We do get treated to his home-built training facility, though, and “Bachar” ladders abound. Reardon does a good job picking back drops for interviews… half the time. The other half we see Bachar’s dad’s living room, John Long’s office and similar places. The problem isn’t so much of backdrops themselves, but of acoustics, which are poor in those spaces. During those interviews, the sound is tinny. Dave Schultz and John Bachar by comparison, are outside with actual stone behind them. The effects in those cases are better.

[i]A much more recent shot of John Bachar, ropeless and onsighting "Out to Lunch," 5.11a, Joshua Tree, CA. Photo by Al Swanson and used here with permission from Acopa USA. All rights reserved.[/i]

[size=12]To Reardon’s credit, however, he adds a ton of photography of Bachar in action, and many of those breathtaking shots I’ve never seen previously.

All this is well and good, but how [i]accurate[/i] is [i]Bachar: MML[/i]? It’s a documentary after all; can we trust it? Luckily, I live a stone’s throw from another guy who was there, who soloed next to Bachar and hung out in many of the settings we see on the DVD. I grabbed a six pack and headed to Kurt Smith’s house. For the next hour I sat and watched the DVD with him. His eyes lit up time and again as forgotten memories flooded back in. But while, yes, according to him, [i]Bachar: MML[/i] is accurate, it seems to have glossed over one of the central events of the time: the bolt wars. Royal Robbins delivers a perspective-laced sentence or two about the Camp-4 parking-lot fight, but it’s obvious to me – listening to Smith’s stories – that Reardon decided it might be better not to go there.

So what makes a good documentary? Does it enthrall the viewer? Does it inform? If those are its measures, then this one certainly qualifies. Of all the climbing vids I own and have watched, it has the least actual climbing footage, but for some reason, it’s the one I’ve watched most by far. [i]Bachar: One Man, One Myth, One Legend [/i]is available at numerous websites. Check [url=]this one[/url] first.

HOW to Climb the Nose Faster! (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 5.00/5 Average Rating : 5.00/5

In: Gear: Media: Software

Review 0 out of 5 stars

Review by: j_ung, 2006-05-12

[size=12][b] Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]

Warning: If you ever hope to onsight the Nose, run away. Seriously. Click your browser’s back button, go directly to the Community Forum and talk about politics or whatever. Just never read this review, and for godsake, whatever you do, never look at Han’s Florine’s [i]HOW to Climb the Nose Faster![/i] CD. Don’t even think about it. Likewise, if you’re one of those who detest excessive beta, run, don’t walk, away from here. If you’re smart and you clicked your back button when I told you to, you’re not reading this anyway and you may not even know [i]HOW to Climb the Nose Faster![/i] exists. Perhaps that’s for the best.

If, on the other hand, you harbor no aspirations to onsight the Nose, but your dream of all dreams is just to climb the Nose, perhaps as fast as you possibly can, then read on, playah. It’s your lucky day.

The level of beta in HCNF is remarkable. On two discs, one data and one audio, Florine runs down pitch-by-pitch info on everything from gear recommendations to pitfalls, must-see moves and everything in between. Where can you bivvy without portaledges? Which are the most comfy ledges? Which pitches can you run together? Where should you short fix? Where can you simulclimb? How should you divide the pitches among partners? “The first pitch starts out with a one and a half, two-inch slot. You can get a number one or two Camalot there,” begins Florine on the audio disc, pitch-by-pitch beta. And it flows like wine thereafter! Copy the PDF topos to carry along, for sure, but if you really want the running beta, plug the pitch-by-pitch audio files into your Ipod and bring it along, too.

[i]“So, pitch four… easy climbing up to this dihedral and then there’s like one single move. It’s like seven feet, eight feet; just almost out of your reach. Off the little end of the ramp there’s a placement for a piece so you have to kind of pull off a 5.9-plus move.” [/i]

OK, you get it… [i]detailed[/i] beta.

Florine spared some expense in putting this package together. Its goal is information – it is not meant to be a pretty, flowing, interactive tool – so don’t expect stunning design and breathtaking aesthetics. You won’t get it. The data disc has no autorun, so don’t sit in front of your ‘puter waiting for it to start. Go on in and open files one by one. Much of it is novelty content: statistics, Nose-based records and trivia, and also beta on Yosemite lodging, which may actually prove to be the crux of your expedition. The audio disc has several voiceovers, during which you may hear one or two words with inconsistent audio quality, but while those are a little distracting, they don't affect the overall quality of information.

HCNF’s true gems are the topos. Florine takes the already comprehensive Chris-Mac Supertopos and fills the white space with his personal notes and tips for making each pitch pass quicker and easier. And since photocopied topos are easier to carry than an Ipod, I think this is where users will also see the most value. But even the included JPGs are – with reference marks – worth their bytes in gold. [/size]

[i]JPGs included on the data disc provide many of the time-saving tips. [/i]

[size=12]I decided before writing this that I didn’t want to touch style issues with a ten-foot pole. Whether or not one could be considered “cheating,” by using this 2-disc set is of no concern to me. I don’t care if you hang a 3000’ rope from the top, jug all 32 pitches and then tell me you sent it; it won’t affect my climbing in the slightest.

I ignore the issue, even though some folks might not, in part because HCNF is targeted to such a narrow audience. How many people want to climb the Nose and want this level of beta before doing it? Florine couldn’t be hoping to make a killing on this project. The potential audience is just too small. No, I suspect instead that he’s doing this more as a service for those who are as inspired to climb this classic of all classics as he is. And those who do want to climb the Nose, but don't want all the beta, well, I warned you. You should have clicked away at the first paragraph!

I’ve never climbed the Nose and I don’t intend to. I’ve never even been to the Valley. Therefore, I don’t know how accurate Florine’s beta is, but I’m going to assume that, since he’s climbed the route over 60 times with more than 60 different partners, and since the topo basis is the highly-respected Supertopo, that the info is top notch and comprehensive.

[i]HOW to Climb the Nose Faster![/i] Is available [url=]here[/url] for $17.95. [/size]

Stealth (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 5.00/5 Average Rating : 5.00/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Crash Pads

Review 0 out of 5 stars

Review by: j_ung, 2006-05-10

[size=12][b] Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to one of the reviewers. [i]This[/i] reviewer then stole it from [i]that[/i] reviewer and wrote the review himself. He does not intend to give this equipment back. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]

A few years back I was working in a climbing gym and it seemed like we were running through ice packs at an alarming rate. “What the Hell?” I mused. “Where are they all going?” Mostly, it seemed, they were going on ankles. Luckily, we kept excellent records, so I dove into our collection of incident reports and tallied a few digits. Of the injuries we experienced in a two-year period, 3/4 were bouldering related. Of those, the majority involved ankles rolled when falling boulderers landed feet first on the edge of a crash pad. Ironically, the very thing that was supposed to prevent such injuries was the single biggest cause of them!

Maybe that’s part of why I’ve never been all that interested in bouldering… until recently. Lo and behold, a relocation to an area rich in pebbles led to my emergence as a beanie-wearin’, sloper slappin’ talus tugger. Instead of slinging chockstones on lead, I now top them out on lunch beaks. I even have another crash pad – a Misty Stealth. [/size]

[i]My Stealth waits hungrily below.[/i]

Does it cushion you when you fall? Yes. Located right smack dab in the middle of boulder heaven, NC’s High Country, Misty is all about bouldering. Their pads, Stealth included, are designed with feedback from some of the Southeast’s sickest beanie wearers. I and my ass are happy to report that Misty’s experience in the field of bouldering has resulted in a mix of high and low-density foam that is equally adept at helping me stand back up after the highest of high-ball falls and those little butt-dragging, sit-start plops before which my chalk bag never even left the ground.

Is it hinged or taco? Hinged. And actually, this is what I find to be the Stealth’s best feature. Misty nailed the hinge like a sailor on shore leave nails a… well… nevermind. They just nailed it. Constructed of heavy-duty three-ply Velcro that overlaps itself, the closure is strong enough that I can pack the pad full of layers, shoes, chalk bags, cameras and water bottles, without worrying about it ripping open. The nifty part is that if you, for any reason, need two pads instead of just one, the hinge can separate entirely to form two separate pads. If space when traveling is an important issue, Hell, just bring half the pad. (Beware, though. If you’re cruxin’ 12’ up and you look down to see only half a crash pad, it’s tiny. Might as well be a postage stamp.)[/size]

[i]Left: The Stealth’s ultra-bomber (can you use the word “[/i]bomber[i]” in bouldering?) Velcro hinge. Right: Its not-so-bomber buckles. [/i]

[size=12]Billed as a streamlined, low-profile pad designed specifically for bushwhacking and commando boulder sessions (hence its name), the Stealth’s only small weakness pops up ironically in just those circumstances. The pad’s buckles, while simple and effective in any normal circumstance are prone to releasing when they snag on rhodo bushes and other underbrush. Bushwhacking, indeed! I know they're fashioned the way they are for quick release, but I think closed buckles would improve this pad.

I’ve been on and over this pad for almost a year now, and I’m certainly happy to report that I don’t notice any degradation of the foam’s consistency. The Stealth still provides the same firm cushioning today that it did the first time I landed on it, and it's obvious just handling it that it's built to last from materials that can take a prolonged 160-lb beating. At $189 it’s not exactly a price-point pad, but what you get for that is Misty Mountain Threadworks craftsmanship in a pad that will stand between you and the ground for years. [/size]

60L Worksack (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 5.00/5 Average Rating : 5.00/5

In: Gear: Hiking and Camping: Backpacks: Backpacking Packs

Review 0 out of 5 stars

Review by: j_ung, 2006-05-07

[size=12][b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]

My relationship with my two Cilogear Worksacks began as a misunderstanding. Long before I ever took possession of them, I sent [user]maculated[/user] to cover the Winter OR Show of 2005. While on the phone with her after the show, she mentioned, almost in one breath that some company was making shirts from veggie starch… and that a friend of hers was making backpacks hissssss-blort-click-hiss turkey. Given the context – clothing made from food – and the inopportune irregularity of my mobile-phone connection, is it any wonder that I walked away from that conversation thinking of backpacks made with bird flesh? I, a vegetarian, was astounded, confused and more than a little repulsed.

Flash forward to the August 2005 during the OR Summer Show, when Cilogear (pronounced chee-low) proprietor, Graham Williams and I shared a basement floor in SLC. Only then did I realize I had missed a crucial part of my conversation with K-mac: Worksacks are manufactured in Turkey, with a capitol T.

Oooooooohhhh… I see.

Williams started Cilogear in summer of 2004 by teaming up with an established Turkish gear maker, Linosport. Linosport’s packs and clothing have seen all seven summits and it was one of the first companies outside of the US to include Gore-tex in its products. The Cilogear partnership combines Linosport’s manufacturing experience with Williams’ drive for usability and versatility in a climbing-specific pack.

Williams, a self described “usability freak,” brings a focused history of hard climbing to the table, and his Worksacks are the product of that focus. Worksacks are made from 4-7 tough fabrics, depending on the model. The list is actually pretty exhaustive; click [url=]here[/url] for the complete rundown. But the real goal of the Cilogear line up is versatility. Take a look, for example, at the 40L Worksack. Its myriad adjustment options allows for an exceptionally wide range of sizes. The number “40,” in fact, doesn’t begin to describe the pack’s actual size. Fully stuffed, expanded and with the floating top attached, the “40L” pack expands to sixty liters. What’s up with that? Fully stuffed, but not expanded, it measures 42 liters. Close down the straps on one side all the way and you get 32 liters. Close down both sides for a tiny twenty. The alleged “60L” Worksack ranges from 28 liters to 90 – big enough for any backpacking trip I’ve done.

Even if the 60L Worksack weren’t big enough, my collection of two Worksacks allows me to do something rather unique: piggy-back the sacks! Cilogear’s unique attachment points enable me to fill my 60L with heavy gear, my 40L with a sleeping pad, bag and puffy jacket, and then affix the two together for one pack-mulish but highly practical carrying solution. I’m not bushwacking anywhere with that kind of bulk on my back, but for multi-day approaches, it’s worth its weight in extra GORP. Plus, after I establish basecamp, the 40L comes off and becomes a climbing pack.


[i]The 40L Worksack at work.[/i]

Speaking of which, as a climbing bag, the 40L ain’t half bad. It’s a bit bulky for sunny-day rock climbing, but some of its features compensate in wintry conditions. Dedicated biner loops allow the wearer to rack gear on the waist belt. A reinforced 500d Spectra crampon pouch on the back keeps spikes handy while protecting other gear from them. Sturdy dual axe loops work similar duty.

It goes on and on to the extent that the only thing really limiting the versatility of these bags is imagination. But, because they’re adaptable enough to change one’s opinion of what defines versatility, these packs are not entry level, nor are they for people who don’t want to have to think about their gear. In fact, it’s a challenge to figure how these packs work best for you. Whether that’s an asset or a fault depends largely on the wearer. I’ve had both for almost six months and I still wonder if I’ve missed anything. Actually, I’m sure of it. Cilogear doesn’t include anything even remotely resembling instructions; not even on its website. Williams once mentioned a DVD to cover that base, but to my knowledge he has yet to produce one. When he does, it will be a welcome addition and the non-technically inclined should feel free to join the as-of-now-small but ever-growing club of Worksack wearers.

It’s hard to imagine that packs with so many features and customization options can exist without a snag or two. Well, relax. You don’t have to imagine it. I’ll tell you about it. I have no gripe with the durability of the pack’s fabric. I managed to poke one hole in the 60L, but I regard that as my fault – I slipped and fell backward hard onto something sharp. The hole has since grown no bigger. Stitching is another issue entirely. The straps that bear the biggest loads are stitched internally and secure, but Cilogear opted for a one-tack method to hold a few smaller straps in place and they don’t seem to be holding up.

But after speaking with Williams, I don’t think this will continue to be a problem for much longer. He assures me that a new QA procedure is already in the works and that this one area it will cover. Also, a too-short sternum strap, which is missing a buckle that slipped quietly into the night – twice – will be replaced by one that’s a full six inches longer. All of this serves to illustrate Cilogear’s dedication to customer service. This is one company that thrives on feedback from actual users.

Also in the works for the near future is an upgrade package, which will be available to all Worksack owners, regardless of how long you’ve owned the pack or from where/whom you bought it. The package will include a sturdier hip belt and interchangeable unpadded version, a new floating lid and six colored replacement compression straps. The upgrade will sell for $40 ay most, plus shipping and handling.

Click away for additional reviews of both the [url=]40L Worksack[/url] and [url=]60L Worksack[/url]. Both reviews also include Q&A with company President, Graham Williams ([user]crackers[/user]). Author, Kim Graves, includes a fantastic level detail regarding the many straps and pictures of each Worksack in various modes of compression.

[color=red]Edit: I am mistaken! A manual for using Cilogear's Worksacks does actually exist. I'm told it's 15 pages long, in fact. [/color][/size]

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