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Cochamo Update

We just got an e-mail and photos from Chris Kalman who's down in Cochamo, Chile right now where he just finished putting up a big new route with Austin Siadak and Florian Haenel:

Highlights of the route include a true knife edge bolted arete for two pitches that was wild to bolt on lead, a traversing pitch to a dirty dihedral which I led onsight with a 50 foot runout to a  5.9 friction stance where I handdrilled half a bolt hole just to clip a sling to a hanger to stand up in and lunge for the trees!  Florian also had a pretty epic lead with a 5.11 runout over some pretty marginal gear.  By and large, the majority of the route has gone up at 5.8X or 5.9X.  However, as is the Cochamo way, it is not so much about how you first establish the line, but what you leave to future generations.  Thus, we will be spending another couple days working on the route, bolting on fixed lines or lead where necessary to make the route safe for future climbers.

Interestingly enough, though this will be technically the easiest route I have ever established in Cochamo, it will be probably be the most difficult to put up.  As is often the case, easier means lower angle means more cleaning and more bolting....  I have always wanted to establish an easier line, since I have had many experiences with more novice climbers coming to Cochamo and not having a nice line to climb.  This will be the longest route under 5.11 to reach the spectacular summit of Cerro Laguna, and probably very popular for that reason.

Photo courtesy of Austin Siadak

Photo courtesy of Austin Siadak

Portland Sample Sale Part 2

So the small sample sale we did at Basecamp Brewing the other week was great, but lucky for you we've still got a pretty healthy pile of samples that need good homes! That means that this coming Saturday the 7th of December, we're teaming up with CiloGear for the ultimate made in Oregon alpine climbing gear sample sale over at CiloGear world headquarters in North Portland. The sale will run from 1pm-6pm. 

Details: Date: December 7th, 2013 Time: 1pm-6pm Location: 6635N. Baltimore Suite #235



Sample Sale in Portland

So tomorrow is the final American Alpine Club Oregon Section pub club. It also just so happens that NW Alpine has a number of samples and seconds we need to sell. We've got Eyebrights, Fast/Light Pants, Hoodys, all sorts of awesome stuff, most for over 50% off retail. In honor of the AAC, we will also be donating ten percent of proceeds from the samples sold tomorrow night to the AAC. It's an awesome way to celebrate another great year, support the club, and get some rad gear at a really discounted price. Sample sales are first come first serve, so get there early. Also, rumor has it that esteemed Portland alpine climbing pack manufacturer CiloGear will also be on hand with some samples to unload.

Date: Thursday November 21st

Time: 7:00 pm

Place: Basecamp Brewing, 930 SE Oak Street

Marcus Donaldson on early season Montana ice

I had erased the Lowe Direct from my tick list a long time ago.  Sphinx Mountain lies in the Madison Range of western Montana, 750 miles from my doorstep - not as far or remote as many places I've visited - but far enough to require a real effort to reach the ice routes snaking up it's northern flanks.  After two previous attempts had ended with poor weather and unstable snow, I'd written off the Sphinx finally, told myself that it was "too small, too far" to be worth that effort. 

Unfortunately, I kept bumping into the Sphinx. Speeding along I-90 to access the dense concentration of water ice up the road in Hyalite Canyon each winter, I was often reminded of that looming absence waiting just beyond the horizon.

Photo: John Frieh

But secrets are never safe in the age of social media: images came trickling in this fall tagged #sphinx, #montanaice, #lowedirect.  Tasty pics of long blue ice and reports of once-a-decade conditions.  An October storm was on it's way in, so we piled gear in the rig and sped off Montana-bound, knowing that in just a few days the face could be loaded up and off-limits once again.  

Photo: John Frieh

Photo: Kevin Oberholser

The climb itself went off just as planned:  gorgeous open trails led to pitch after pitch of enjoyable ice and a sunny topout under windless skies.  We'd been on enough trips gone awry in the past to appreciate just what we were missing on this one.  We savored every swing of the tool and the crunch of snow beneath our feet.  Things have to line up just right to nab even the most ordinary ascent: partners, schedules, weather and conditions all have to come together.  When it does happen and the stars all align, one might be tempted to think,"Well that was pretty easy!"  But back down at the trailhead, ditching the pack and psyching up for many hours of long road that still lie between us and home, we are reminded that even on the best of days in the mountains, easy is never easy. 


Photo: Kevin Oberholser

Portland Boulder Rally this Saturday!


The PBR is a really fun event hosted by The Circuit climbing gym. We've been supporting the event since the beginning, and it's been a cool way to bring the climbing community together. It's a fun event and the finals are really high energy and awesome to watch. Some official info:

On Saturday, October 12, 2013, The Circuit Bouldering Gym and Next Adventure will present the 3rd annual Portland Boulder Rally at The Circuit Bouldering Gym NE in Portland, Oregon. 100 youth athletes will compete for points and advancement to the USA Climbing Regional Championships in December and 200 athletes will compete for big prizes including a $10,000 cash purse. The cash purse draws acclaimed professional athletes from around the country. The PBR stays true to its roots as an independent competition accessible to all.

The Portland Boulder Rally will have global coverage via a 4 hour HD webcast produced by Louder Than 11, best known for its coverage of the recent Psicobloc competition in August as well as of USA Climbing and UBC Tours. The webcast will include professional athlete interviews, competition and festival highlights, and a live feed of the Open category finals with expert analysis by ClimbingNarc.com creator, Brian Runnells. The webcast can be viewed at www.portlandboulderrally.com. Pre-show: 5-7pm. Live finals coverage: 7-9pm.

The 2013 Portland Boulder Rally is a free event for spectators and will feature the following:

  • 7am-11pm - Local food vendors (Portland rated #1 best street food in the world by US News in 2011)
  • 8am-11am - USA Climbing Youth competition
  • 9am-5pm - Outdoor industry exhibition with sponsor booths and entertainment in a 3,500 square foot tented area.
  • 11am-5pm - Portland Boulder Rally competition – 2 Sessions, 150 new problems, 5 categories per gender. Top 5      climbers in Open Women’s and Open Men’s categories advance to the finals.
  • 12pm-7pm - Raffle drawings for $17,000 worth of outdoor gear
  • 1pm-10pm - Beer garden with discounted micro brews (“Portland currently has the most breweries of any city in the      world.” Oregoncraftbeer.com 9/26/13)
  • 5pm-7pm - Online stream broadcasting professional athlete interviews, qualifier and competition highlights,      festival highlights, and behind the scenes footage.
  • 7pm - Open category finals. Live web coverage with exclusive online-only commentary.
  • 9pm – Awards then After Party


Exciting Changes are Ahead

As the seasons are transitioning and we're all getting excited and ready for the snow and ice to get here, we're also making some big changes here at NW Alpine. For the past year and a half our offices have been housed in a warehouse in Portland's Central Eastside Industrial District. This has been an excellent location for us (aside from the horrendous parking) and has been a great place for our business to grow.

 Unfortunately we've outgrown this space and have been looking at alternatives for a while. In talking with our primary manufacturer, who is growing right alongside us, we decided the best course of action would be to partner up and share a space. Thus we've rented a 3,000 square foot warehouse in Newberg, Oregon (30 minutes soutwest of Portland) that will house some of our operations along with our primary manufacturer's operation.      

This is exciting for a number of reasons. This move will help streamline our production increasing efficiency, decreasing lead times and allowing for superior quality control. This move will also help create more manufacturing jobs in Oregon, which is obviously one of our core values.  

All that being said, please be patient with us for the next couple of weeks as we transition into this new and exciting time for NW Alpine. Thanks again to all of our tribe who have made NW Alpine what it is, we appreciate your ongoing support. 

For quarterly updates on NW Alpine news and happenings, please subscribe to our newsletter if you haven't already.


Revelations Article in the AAJ

The 2013 American Alpine Journal is out and it includes a great article on climbing in Alaska's remote Revelations range. The cover photo is of Jason Stuckey by Clint Helander, and Jason is wearing his NW Alpine Neoshell Salopettes. Beautiful photo, great article. 


2013 AAJ Page 102

2013 AAJ Page 102

Brent Peters reviews the Black Spider Hoody and Simplicity Jacket

Brent Peters of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is the author (along with Kendra Stritch) of the soon to be published Ice Lines: Select Waterfalls of the Canadian Rockies.   Brent estimates he has climbed in the Black Spider Hoody and Simplicity Jacket for over 100 days. Here's his review!


Brent Peters on Aussi Beau

Functional clothing; that's exactly what's needed when ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies. While working on Ice Lines, a new select guide to waterfall ice in Canada I needed to complete an ascent of Aussi Beau, a Guy Lacelle original. We spent the night in Jasper and drove out to Robson in the morning. It was March and the avalanche path had already slid providing a better approach. Its a stiff hike up to the base with plenty of elevation gain. The Black Spider Hoody was just the right weight over a merino wool T, with maximum breathability. On the route, I added the Simplicity Jacket for added wind protection and warmth. Both garments stay well stuck under my harness. It was Kyle's first day on a true pillar. He was shocked as the ice released a winter's tension. Shooting cracks raced away from my picks as I swung into the initial apron. Patience and deliberate movement were the name of the game that day. A hanging belay below steep bobbles of ice that marked the final crux made the exposure even more real. The massive S Face of Mt Robson glistened in the sun behind us as we dealt with our cold reality.

The Black Spider Hoody and Simplicity Jacket combination has also been the go to for my summer of alpine guiding. At times I add a softshell over top of the Simplicity Jacket. I like how it reflects my body heat back in towards the core. It has eliminated the requirement for heavier base layers.

 Brent higher on Aussi Beau

Brent and partner hiking up Boundary Glacier in the Black Spider Hoody, heading up to The Shield to gain access to A2, one of the satellite peaks of Mt Athabasca

Brent and partner hiking up Boundary Glacier in the Black Spider Hoody, heading up to The Shield to gain access to A2, one of the satellite peaks of Mt Athabasca

Cave Ice

This isn't something that you see everyday. Dustin Fric sent us this message and some sweet photos:

Basically the story is about ten years ago a farmer lost his cow and found this pit. The BLM sent a crew of cavers to check it out a while later. Then my friend who helps run this ALPINE KARST publication about caving took me there. He doesn't think more than four of us have ever been in it! Never a climber fo sho.

Rap in 240 feet to bottom pit, basically 3 or four pitches due to rope drag but they are all small.


More Alaska Range Sending from the Tribe

We just received these photos from Eric Dacus of his and Jon Jugenheimer's ascent of Freezy Nuts on London Tower in the Ruth Gorge. Eric says:

The salopette I bought last fall worked great. I was really impressed by how dry I stayed despite all the snow climbing we found. Also the chest pockets were placed well, and it was really easy to swap out my camera batteries to keep them warm enough to stay charged

Good work gentlemen!

Eric Halfway up Freezy Nuts

Jon on the last ice step, Freezy Nuts

Rappelling Freezy Nuts

Daniel Harro speeds through the Alaska Range

Ruth Gorge 2013, Mt. Wake “The Cook Inlet”  April 26th-28th, John Frieh & Daniel Harro.

Daniel Harro Mixed Climbs photo: John Frieh

Climbing in the alpine is all managing the many systems including ropes, cooking, sleeping, rack, and maybe the most important your clothing system.  A few weeks ago I had a “long weekend” trip into the Alaska Range with my good friend John Frieh who has mastered the art of the “Smash and Grab” style of alpine climbing. Alaska has had one of the coldest recorded springs in history so I threw in both my NW Alpine Fast & Light pants as well as my Salopette’s in case things were on the cold side of the spectrum.  John and I talked on Tuesday and purchased our tickets to Anchorage that morning.  Jonn saw a solid weather window and we both had air miles to burn so we decided to go for it.  

Thursday night we left PDX and headed north.  Our plan was to fly into the range Friday morning and fly out sometime Sunday since both John and I had to report back to our respective jobs at 8:00 Monday morning leaving just enough time to scout routes on Friday and climb on Saturday and get back to Anchorage by Sunday night.  Pretty much your standard long weekend warrior trip substituting airplanes for cars.

Thursday night to Friday morning: PDX -> ANC -> Talkeetna -> Ruth Glacier.  After skiing and scouting for about 4-5 hours Friday afternoon, John and I decided to head to Mt. Wake and see what it had to offer, unfortunately our line that we were looking at was not in so we ended up repeating a route called “The Cook Inlet” on Mt. Wake that John and Jess Roskelley put up last October.  It was an amazing summit and we were very lucky to have great clear warm weather to climb in.  It was nice reach a summit, not always easy in Alaska...

After a short stay on the summit and a few photos we headed down with little issues.  We reached our skis as the sun was setting and did the long slow ski back to base camp.  At some point The sun set and the wind picked up on the way back to camp  forcing us to throw on our belay parkas for the last hour or so, surprising us both how cold it was still getting at night.  One of the down falls of the “Smash and Grab” style is our lack of forethought into preparing good quality meals, with no cooking tent, tired bodies and frozen fingers we were forced to eat freeze dried food which in my opinion is not adequate after 20+ hrs on the go.  On the flip side we woke up the next morning around 0800 called Paul at Talkeetna Air Taxi from the satellite phone and said he would see us in 45 min, giving John and I just enough time to wake up throw everything into our duffels and drag our gear down to the airstrip.  After being in the Alaska Range for about 72hrs John and I awarded ourselves with larger than normal breakfast at the Roadhouse making up for meager rations the night before.

Summit shot! Photo: Daniel Harro

A huge thanks goes out to Bill Amos at NW Alpine for making some great quality clothing made right here in my back yard!  I can honestly say that my Fast and Light pants have more days of use than any other pant I have used in the alpine and are my go to pant for anything in the mountains.  

I want to also say thanks to John for the inspiration of a long weekend into the Alaska Range, and of course we could not have done a trip like this without the amazing support from our wonderful wives and family!

Jason Stuckey reports on his great Spring season in Alaska

It was a busy winter and spring in Alaska this year.  Several long high pressure systems provided good conditions and weather for climbing.  In March, my friends and I made our fourth trip into Mt. McGinnis, the eastern most peak in the Hayes Range.  A 14 mile approach brings you to the east face and easy access to a col on the northeast ridge, our objective. We gained the col, dug in for the night, and continued up in the morning.   After a few blocks of simul-climbing along the knife-edge ridge, Andy arrived at the belay and told me that he was feeling pretty worked.  I turned and looked at the long section of ridgeline we had remaining to get to the summit, almost a mile.  I know we could have made it to the summit, but it was descent back down the knife-edge ridge that I was worried about.  It was an easy decision, we went down.  

The Northwest Face of Peak 9400 Photo: Jason Stuckey

As we downclimbed under bluebird skies, I struggled with disappointment.  During all of my previous trips here the weather had been horrendous.  As we descended through the icefall a couloir on the northwest face of Peak 9400 caught my eye.  Chad and I decided to give it a go the next day while Andy rested in the tent.  We skied over and started up the couloir around 9am.  The snow was a bit deep at the bottom of the couloir where it pinched down, but conditions improved above.  The angle was around 45 degrees, steepening to 60 degrees on the upper part of the face.  Simul-soloing, we topped out 20 yards from the summit.  The face had been in the shade the entire morning, and a strong wind had begun to blow about halfway up.  But the summit was warm, sunny, and sheltered from the wind.  It was glorious.  I usually don't like to waste too much time on the summit, but we stayed for almost an hour.  The view was incredible.  We finally packed up and headed back down the face.  An hour and a half of downclimbing brought us to back to our skis.  We had dinner and slept, and the next day skied out to the car and headed back to Fairbanks. 

Clint on Pyramid Peak before Bailing Photo: Jason Stuckey

Descending Peak 9400 Photo: Jason Stuckey

A week after the trip I got a message on Facebook from Clint Helander, a climber down in Anchorage.  He and his partners had been waiting for almost 2 weeks to fly into the Revelations, the western most mountains in the Alaska Range.  His partners had to get back to work and school, but he still wanted to fly in and needed a partner.  I had never met Clint, but knew he had already made numerous trips into \the Revelations and had climbed several first ascents.  This was an opportunity I didn't want to miss.  Somehow I talked my boss into letting me take more time off, and a few days later I was on a flight to Anchorage.  Clint picked me up, and shortly after we loaded our gear and were on our way to the Revelations.  We landed on the Revelation Glacier, setup camp, and skied down to Pyramid Peak to look at a line Clint had seen the year before.   We couldn't see the upper part of the mountain due to clouds, but the lower half looked good.  We had a good dinner and went to bed early.  At 4am we were up, and after breakfast and coffee we were ascending the lower slopes below Pyramid.  From the ground, it looked like there was going to be steep steps of ice with lower angled sections in between.  But instead of ice we found overhanging waves of snow.  Scary, and not fun.  We climbed around them on mixed \terrain, but around every corner we came to another wave of snow.  After spending most of the day climbing six pitches we bailed.  

Apocalypse West Face with Route Marked

We spent the next day skiing around and looking at other objectives. Clint wanted to try a line on a peak towards the end of the glacier called The Apocalypse.  After a few minutes looking at the west face I was psyched.  A steep ice and snow couloir looked like it would take us to the upper snow slopes and the summit ridge.   We skied back to camp and packed.  Another early start and we were heading up the slopes below the first section of steep ice by mid-morning.  The first ice pitch was excellent and led to lower angled ice which we simul-climbed.  The ice ended and a long section of snow climbing brought us to another steep ice pitch.  After this more snow climbing with short sections of ice brought us to the base of a steep rock wall and the final section of ice before the upper snow slopes.  It was getting late so we built an anchor and chopped a ledge in the snow at the base of the wall.  After an hour, we had a ledge big enough for our tent.  We brewed up, ate, and slept.  

Clint Climbing on Apocalypse Photo: Jason Stuckey

Climbing on Apocalypse Photo: Jason Stuckey

The next morning we left most of our gear and went for the summit.  After the last bit of steep ice we reached the upper snow slopes, and simul-climbed up to the summit ridge.  As I reached what I thought was the highest point on the ridge,  I realized (to my great disappointment) that a point 300 yards across the ridge was actually about 20ft taller than where we stood.  We wanted to stand on the true summit, so we headed across the knife-edge ridge.  The climbing, although very exposed, went quickly and before long we were on the summit.  We took a few minutes to admire the view, snap some photos, and then began our descent.  Heading back across the summit ridge and down the upper slopes went smoothly and before long we were rappelling back down to our bivy.  Another brew, more food, and more sleep.  The next day we downclimbed and rappelled the rest of the route.  As we skied back to camp there was a brisk headwind and I realized how lucky we had been with the temperatures while on Apocalypse.  Our first night was pleasant, a bit colder the second night, but  when we arrived back in basecamp it was -20F.   We ate a huge dinner, made several hot water bottles, and went to bed.  When we got up the next morning the mercury in the thermometer had dropped below -25F.  Clint had wanted to stay longer and try a couple more objectives, but I was feeling pretty satisfied and concerned about the weather deteriorating and having a hard time flying out if we waited.  By chance, Paul Roderick with Talkeetna Air Taxi was flying a team of skiers in that afternoon and after a short discussion we decided to fly out with Paul.  We made breakfast, broke down our camp, and a few hours later were sitting in Talkeetna eating pizza and drinking beers.  It was magnificent.  

First ascent of the Northwest Face of Peak 9400 (60deg snow, 3,400')

First ascent of The Apocalypse, A Cold Day in Hell (AI5, 4,400')

Slow Fashion in a Fast Fashion World

A recent story I heard on NPR piqued my interest as it was about garment manufacturing, a subject I think about a lot. The story was about fast fashion and giant chain stores like Forever 21 and H&M. While these shops obviously don’t carry technical apparel, we can learn something from their production process. Fast fashion relies on extremely cheap labor, extremely fast and often sloppy work, along with the lowest common denominator materials. In the story they quote Simon Collins, the dean of fashion at Parsons as saying, “You see some products and it's just garbage. It's just crap, and you sort of fold it up and you think, yeah, you're going to wear it Saturday night to your party — and then it's literally going to fall apart.” These companies rely on selling massive amounts of clothing at an extremely cheap price, and they’ve made billions upon billions of dollars doing it. But what the customer ends up with is one-time-use clothing that falls apart as soon as it goes through a wash cycle. What you also end up with is an exploited labor force working on the other side of the world in abhorrent conditions. Conditions such as those at the Tazreen Fashions factory, where late last year 112 workers were killed in a fast moving fire. Or a fire in Pakistan a few months before that that was responsible for the deaths of over 300 people at the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Karachi. Both factories produced garments for major western brands.

Companies adopt “social responsibility” protocols and pay lip service to safety and labor concerns, but how much do they really achieve? I don’t blame large companies for off-shoring their production. It is an unfortunate byproduct of our model of capitalism that in order for companies to be competitive they feel they must chase the lowest cost labor, but ultimately it is a race to the bottom.

As the founder of NW Alpine, I like being able to drive a few minutes and visit our production facility. I like having a personal relationship with the folks that make our products. I like feeling connected to our products in a way that is only possible by producing locally in our community.

At NW Alpine we strive to be the antithesis of “fast fashion.” Every step in our design and production process is deliberate. We won’t release products unless they are up to our high standards, even if it means longer release times for our products. We don’t want to make clothing that is disposable and we want to know that our people (our employees, contractors and customers) are all well cared for. We strive to make all of these things a reality and we hope that you support our mission and feel part of the NW Alpine family.

-Bill Amos Founder/CEO