(MountEverest.net/K2Climb.net) High altitude ski-mountaineering is blowing up. ExWeb checked in with three of the latest 8000er ski/board climbers - Italian Emilio, Swedish Fredrik and American Tyler - to get the scoop on their gear.
It's clear that God is in the details; stay warm and go light is the universal message and the guys use various tricks (some similar to unsupported polar skiers) to accomplish the weight mission.
The international list of specialized gear spans all kinds of brand names down to the basic plastic bags, duct tape, and repair glue.
Fredrik - skiing Dhaulagiri
Fredrik hit Himalaya in one of the most snow-packed seasons ever. There were few summits - none on Dhaulagiri - although Fred came pretty close. It took four days of climbing in deep snow until risk of avalanche aborted further progress at 7900 meters.
"It was more than 3000 vertical meters of skiing in mostly powder snow down to base camp. Another snowstorm had pulled in before I took of my skis that evening," he reported. "Fredrik skied down the hill, arrived successfully to BC and left. That was the last we saw of him," Kinga and Dodo testified. This was Fredrik's third 8000er ski descent, following the central summit of Shisha Pangma (8012 m) and Gasherbrum 2 (8035 m).
Fredriks gear list:
Skis: Dynastar Pro Rider 176 cm
Bindings: Dynafit Low Tech
Boots: Dynafit Zzero 4 boots
Heaters: Therm-Ic boot heater (Ed note: compare with HEAT at HumanEdgeTech.)
Poles: Grivel Condor poles (has and ice axe pick on the handle)
Goggles: Adidas Eyewear Burna
Helmet: Giro Omen helmet
Backpack: Osprey Talon 44 backpack
Clothing: Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero Parka, Haglöfs Roca Pants, Smartwool socks, Haglöfs gloves
Follow up questions
ExWeb: What are the Dynafit boots like to climb in? Compared with Millet One Sport - aren't the Dynafit too rigid?
Fredrik: "Yes the Dynafit's are much more rigid than climbing boots and not always so good to climb in. As long as it's steep and soft soft snow they are fine but on low angle slopes and flat glaciers with hard snow they are a bit uncomfortable. That's life. It's better than bringing two pairs of boots."
ExWeb: What brand crampons did you use?
Fredrik: "Grivel G12."
ExWeb: Did you use skins?
Fredrik: "No Skins."
ExWeb: Did you at any point use the skis on the ascent; or just for descent?
Fredrik: "Only descent."
ExWeb: When skiing down; did you bring a rope and/or other climbing gear?
Fredrik: "Yes I had a rope and a basic crevasse rescue kit."
ExWeb: It seems that skiers are less dependent on using the fixed ropes than climbers are - do you think that your skiing experience might have improved your ability to move about steep slopes?
Fredrik: "I'm sure that the experience I have from ski touring in the Alps helps me when I'm climbing. Skiing here in Chamonix often includes climbing up steep slopes and I think that is good training. It also gives me good confidence."
Emilio Previtali - snowboarding Shisha Pangma
On Shisha Pangma, the bad conditions turned also Emilio back short of summit. The Italian rider likes the challenge that the thin air affords him - when he looks at any mountain, he sees opportunities for epic descents. He has two rules for his climbing: without oxygen and he must ride down.
Stay tuned for Emilio's Shisha debrief, but till then here goes the Italian gear list for extreme rides:
"The boots and the board is the most important part of my gear," Emilio told ExplorersWeb last week. "First of all in Himalaya, you have to stay warm and dry. Then (and only then) you have to ride boards and boots with the right fit and stiffness for snowboarding."
"Any mountaineering- or high altitude boots work fine for snowboarding, but let's do some trick to make them useful.
Hard boots - for steep ice faces
Basically I have two snowboard kits, one of them uses soft bindings (the classic snowboard binding) and the other one uses hard boots (ski mountaineering boots + hard plates)."
"The hard boots allow me to ride really steep and ice faces, up to 55°, just like in the Alps. In this case I have to use overboots for the climb, because the ski-mountaineering boots are not warm enough; not even if I use the thermofit liner."
"My board is a custom made board, designed and produced by Sigi Grabner, 23 cm wide in the middle, 159 cm long. The shape
and the special bone of the board give me perfect maneuverability in any kind of snow (and on an 8000 m peak you will find any kind of snow, from powder to black ice) and has a perfect grip and stiffness on steep faces."
Soft boots - warmer
"The soft boots are warmer. With this board (K2 Zeppelin 158) and Scarpa Phantom boots, I'm able to ride in very cold conditions, but technically this set is a bit less useful on steep faces. I can also use this board with normal snowboard boots (K2 T1) and overboots. I climbed Pik Lenin (7134 m) with snowboard boots and overboots, and I had my best high mountain run ever."
"The most difficult thing in high camps is to stay dry. You can only be warm if you don't get wet. The *trick I do is to put some thin plastic bag over my socks. In this way my liner stay dry all the time I need to climb the mountain. I only change the socks when they get wet, when I'm in my sleeping bag. This is a great trick that I maybe should keep to myself!"
"The clothing is nothing special - I use the North Face Himalayan Suite like the other mountaineers. I use the Cebè Fenix 1550 goggles, because they are light and comfortable, never fog up, and take 5 seconds to change the lens."
(*Ed note: Plastic bags over thin synthetic socks are also used by unsupported polar skiers - who lack changes - to help keep the thicker, woolen over socks dry and the feet warm. The skiers usually use bags from the day's food rations and powder their feet to prevent rashes. The thin socks are dried every night inside the sleeping bag.)
The most important thing - go light!
"The most important thing I can say about snowboarding (or skiing) on high altitude is this: Go light!" Emilio ends.
"To try and ski/snowboard down an 8000m peak is a lot more difficult than to just climb the mountain. You have many kilos more to carry. Moreover, you walk with heavier boots not designed to dry fast or to use for many days in cold temperatures. Climbing the mountain with this gear is a different challenge, believe me. Everything you need must be super-light."
Alaska boys - Cho Oyu ski descent
Tyler Johnson, Rory Stark and Will Stark from Anchorage, Alaska summited Cho Oyu on October 3rd. Rory and Tyler skied from the summit to Camp 1 without removing their skis. They only used the fixed lines at a section between camp 1 and camp 2 in order to get through the icefall. While Cho Oyu was their first (but probably not last) 8000er ski-descent the skiers have also done a number of descents in Alaska.
Alaska Cho Oyu gear list:
Tyler's Gear: Fischer Big Stix Skis, Fritschi Free-Ride AT Bindings, Scarpa Laser Boots AT w/overboots, Smith Googles, Arcteryx SV Bibs, Marmot Shell, 8000 meter Marmot down jacket, Feathered Friends Down Pants, Arcteryx Alpine Pack.
Rory's Gear: Atomic X-10 Skis, Fritschi Free-Ride AT Bindings, Mega Ride Garmont AT Boots w/overboots, Patagonia Guide Pant, Arcteryx Alpha SV Shell, Marmot 8000 meter down jacket, Feathered Friends Down Pants, North Face Alpine Pack.
Will's Gear: No skis on descent, climbed with La Sportiva Olympus Mons Boots, Gregory Alpine Pack, Arcteryx Alpha SV Shell, Marmot 8000 meter down jacket, Feathered Friends Down Pants .
"As a group, we were using Patagonia products for our base layers," Tyler told ExplorersWeb. "The rest was a mish mash of rehabilitated and old gear that we threw together from other trips and friends (loaner gear!). We have the Alaska - dirt bag - climber - skier mentality so we aren't necessarily looking for style but just want it to work for what we are trying to do! Lots of duct tape, repair glue and sewing repair kits!"
Other tricks to stay warm
To stay warm, these guys offer another solution they sometimes apply back home in Alaska: "The picture attached is of a portable wood-stove heated hot tub that Rory and I built in 2005," Tyler ended his gear report.
"We usually pull it up to our favorite ski runs, fire it up in the morning and then let it warm up all day while we ski and then come down for a soak. The nice part is that people driving by will see us in the 'tub and stop for a soak! Pretty cool, maybe a little unsanitary from skier funk sometimes but that just means we have to add a little fresh water from the nearby river."
While Yuichiro Miura became internationally famous back in the 70s for screaming down Everests Lhotse Face on a pair of skis, with a parachute in tow to keep his speed in check, Himalaya 8000+ snowboarding and skiing really took off only in the new millennium.
Following Kammerlander in 1996 and Karnicar in 2000 (Everest), several teams attempted to ski/snowboard from 8000m peaks in the following years. Doug Stoup and Emilio Previtali both led expeditions going for snowboard descents of Cho Oyu a few years later.
A big tragedy struck when Marco Siffredi died while attempting his second descent from Everests summit. Some time later, snowboarder Stephen Koch appeared on, Late Night with Conan OBrien, a popular, late-night talk show in the US, with his quest to snowboard down all the seven summits which ended in a failed attempt on Everest Hornbein Couloir, the same descent line that took the life of Marco.
A few years later, Tomas Olsson died in the Everest Great couloir after reporting the hardest skiing conditions he had ever faced. He died when rappelling down a section of the unfamiliar route - with his skis still on.
There have been 20 partial ski descents from Everest (latest an American team skied parts of the mountain last fall), but only one has been complete - from summit to BC: On October 7, 2000 Davo Karnicar skied down from the summit on Everest south side. Hans Kammerlander skied down the north side in May 1996, but his descent was from 7800m and not complete.
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