I obviously used a tonne of gear on this trip. But most of it was just my manky old gear that I bring on every trip (I think I bought my North Face down sleeping bag in the late nineties). Other than my skis and clothes, I don’t get freebees. And only a few things really stood out as must-haves. Here is a quick off-the-cuff review, without any pictures showing all the items organized neatly on my floor and Instagramed. You have permission to scream at me if I ever do that.
1) MSR Reactor stove (lent to me by my brother-in-law). I have no affiliation with these guys, and I’m sure the Jetboil equivalent works fine too. Maybe there is a new version as well.
This stove is a must for most winter trips. There were several times when Peter and I would set up camp in the fading light, exhausted and being battered by winds. We’d initially freak-out at how exposed we were and that it would take so much time to boil all our water for tea, dinner, breakfast, and the next days supply. But then you realize with the Reactor, that the whole mountain hydration game has literally changed. Snow is instantaneously turned to water, and is soon boiling. Give away your old whisperlite and buy a reactor.
2) Peter was sponsored by Hilleberg tents. We used the Akto 1-man tent. The thing was uber-light, and could survive the strongest winds, and actually, barely, sorta fit the two of us. If I was in the market for a new tent, I’d buy one of these for sure.
1) Dynafit Cho Oyu skis, 174cm. (124-88-110mm). An awesome mid-fat (on the thinner side) ski. This ski has Dynafit’s new carbon fiber stringers, which I know very little about. But the only important thing to know, is that these skis are LIGHT!! One of the best surface area-to-weight ratios in the industry. When your legs are destroyed (which is usually the case on expeditions and you’re climbing hard for days in a row), these skis will allow you to survive the up. They also ski well on the down. Certainly not a hauling ass type of ski (although I was on 174’s which are pretty short for a guy my size, I’m sure if I had the longer ski I could shred a lot harder). But these things proved their steep-skiing mettle on the Chatyn couloir. I was totally confident on the 55-60 degree icy hardpack. And that’s all I really care about in an expedition ski. This will probably be my go-to expedition ski for next year. The only improvement for these skis, is slightly less side cut. In breakable crust they do seem to hook up a bit.
2) Dynafit TLT6 boots. Size 27. If you’re a backcountry skier, you’ll probably hear a lot about these boots in the coming months. I’ve said it before, if the TLT5 was the revolution, than the TLT6 is the total refinement. It’s a more user-friendly boot than the 5. Better buckles, stiffer overall, stiffer tongues, wider toe-box, and beefier / warmer liners, all with minimal weight-gain. These boots have performed well all year for me, and exceled on Chatyn’s ultra-steep slopes.
If your TLT5’s are still in good shape, I wouldn’t necessarily feel the need to go out and fork over money for these. Also, I’ve heard some grumbling that all these boots did was add weight to a perfect boot (TLT5). But for me, the minor compromise in weight is easily outweighed by increased performance and warmth. If you want a paired down TLT5 for ultra-fast missions, I’d just switch to the DyNA Evo (Which I use) or the PDG (significantly cheaper).
So, if you’re a serious performance-oriented backcountry skier, who likes long days and committing descents (and you’re not sponsored by Scarpa), then you really have no choice but to ski these boots. Seriously. There is nothing out there that compares to these boots.
3) Arc’teryx Nozone 75L pack. Since we were doing all our missions in fast self-supported style (ie.no porters, donkeys, or helicopters). I needed a pack that could haul massive loads, and then strip down for ultra-light summit missions. This pack was near-perfect. It hauled everything I had in total comfort. We did some rather steep skiing with heavy loads, and this thing sucked to my pack and did not swing at all, making the skiing easy. All the materials used are extra light, making your overall load lighter, which I love. My only issue, was that the ice axe attachments prevent the compression straps from full constricting to carry skis well (A-frame) when the pack is almost empty. But in reality, this thing is a climbing pack, not a ski pack. So I can’t really complain. A truly worthy pack in any serious mountain goers arsenal.
4) Arc’teryx Venta MX Jacket (Hoody), Gamma SV pants, and Atom SV puffy. I’ll just lump them all into one category, because the words outerwear and Arc’teryx sort of speak for themselves.
The Venta is a badass Gore Windstopper jacket. Breathes incredibly well, and protects you from any wind and snow. It even did ok in the rain. The Venta and the Gamma, are both softshell products, which I love for dryer climates (Although Georgia proved to be a bit rainy this time). The Atom is a synthetic puffy, which I used in all situations. Since it’s synthetic, I don’t care if it’s raining, or if it’s under my shell and I’m sweating like mad. It’ll breathe well and keep me warm no matter what. With this combo, you can climb any of the world’s great medium altitude peaks, and probably some of the high ones too.
Stay tuned for a Georgian photo gallery from my ski partner and award winning photographer, Peter Schon.