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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Belaying Jess up Twin Runnels of the Moonflower, C.Pope photo


By Craig Pope

I burn though 3-5 pair of gloves a season climbing on ice alone. When u log a lot of rappels, mixed pitches, endless gear and  rope handling, gloves wear out.

There are three areas a glove has to excel:  warmth, dexterity, and weatherproof. Naturally, compromises in warmth/weatherproof facilitate the dexterity  used to climb M-hard, and visa versa.

When I'm out "cragging"  mixed rock and ice, I almost always pack around at least a few pair of gloves, and the one pair I always make sure to have  with me is the RAB Guide Glove.  One pair took a beating fora whole year, including 3 weeks in AK. 

With a warmer, more durable glove,  comes the price of reduced dexterity.  However, with the Guide Glove, the way RAB  joins the insulation/liner to the outer fabric/leather eliminates slippage of the liner material - unlike the majority of warmer, thicker gloves.  I hate pulling a glove off only to spend 5 minutes tucking the liner back into each individual finger. I climb PLENTY of hard, technical  ice routes with these gloves on colder days. What little the RAB Guide Glove lacks in dexterity, it makes up tenfold in waterproof, breathable Event,  a full leather palm and fingers for durability.   I rappelled at least 350 ice/mixed pitches in the one pair last year, and only at the beginning of this season did I finally have to retire them...almost. 

When climbing the Moonflower on the North Buttress of Mount Hunter last spring, I found myself wishing I had brought two pair of the Guide Gloves - especially when the other pair of gloves  eventually became nothing but weight in my pack.  From simul-ing lower angle terrain with knuckles constantly in the snow, to freeing M7 with a pack and managing gear, to being turned around by hours of mind numbing, hammering hands were sometimes cold, but dry and able to function on an 8 hr rappel in miserable conditions. All of my toes suffered frostbite - and I narrowly avoided amputation  (tight single boots and dehydration the culprits), but there was no harm to my fingers. 

When I can see the last dozen pitches in an Ice gloves future, it's always where the stitching of the grip material connects the sidewall construction, (generally fabric), And almost always on the last three fingers if not between the index and thumb... With the Rab Guide Glove, instead of stitching and sidewall construction, the pinky finger is wrapped on two sides with a continuous piece of reinforced leather - but, just the pinky finger is designed that way. I would love to c ALL fingers covered on three sides without stitching.  When I did burn through some stitching on the two middle fingers, and the "almost retirement" consisted of sewing it back up, and continue wearing em!

Leather stretches, and glove insulation gets packed out. I was glad I bought my pair with a relatively  tight fit.  If I am climbing a route that demands a thinner glove, The RAB Guide Glove is always
clipped to my harness or in my jacket for belays and rope handling.

Always on the Jenny Gaddy, at FA "licking Razorblades" banks last wk


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