San Juan Mountains Ice / Ski Conditions Report November 10, 2017

Every year the guides at Kling Mountain Guides are routinely the first ones out on the ice and snow. Here is a full conditions report from November 10, 2017.  This covers conditions in South Mineral Creek, Cement Creek, and the Eureka Valley.

South Mineral Creek:

The road down South Mineral Creek was mostly dry. There were a few snowy  spots in the shade where you have to slow down, but was otherwise dry to the campground.  North Facing climbs (DNF, Snowblind, and Campground Couloir, Cataract Creek) that have water flow were doing well.  They appeared wet from the road, but did have climbable lines (if done early in the day).  Cataract Creek and Snowblind appeared to be in the best condition. South facing/ sunny climbs such as Sundance still have a long way to go.

Campground 1st pitch Campground Couloir Upper Campground zoomed out Cataract Creek DNF Snowblind Sundance


Cement Creek:

This is the road that goes up to Velocity Basin and towards Silverton Mountain ski area.  While there is really popular ice in this valley, there is popular early season skiing in Velocity Basin.  The road up Cement Creek was similar to South Mineral Creek.  It was primarily dry except for a few snowy spots.  The final stretch of road actually into Velocity Basin was fully snow packed.   The road had anywhere from about 6 CM to drifting over 20 CM+ There were recent tire tracks from somebody driving all the way into Velocity Lake, but I elected to not drive further (due to time constraints).  Velocity Basin and the Grande couloir did appear to have enough snow to ski.  However the coverage looked spotty at best.  I would recommend some good evaluations and observations prior to skiing anything in there.Grande Couloir Velocity Basin



The road up to Eureka was dry the entire way. You can still drive most of the way to Animas Forks.  You can drive directly to the base of First and Second Gully, Stairway to Heaven, and the Fat City area.  Anything with sun was not in.   Stairway to Heaven was forming but has a long way to go.  The upper Pitches of Highway to Hell (climbers right of Stairway to Heaven) actually looked pretty good.  I spoke with some climbers that had just done the first pitch of Second Gully.  They said it was wet, thin, and not super worth it.  But it / they are forming quickly.   The Turkey Chute is not a Eureka climb, but rather an Arasta Gulch ski.  However, it is visible (barely) from the Eureka area.  It did have snow, but was hard to tell coverage given I was using a 20x zoom to get a close shot of it.  I suspect it to be similar to the Grande Couloir in Velocity Basin.  Both likely “skiable” depending on how much you like your bases and your femurs.

Goldrush highway to hell upper HIgway to Hell Second Gully Stairway 3rd pitch up Stairway to heaven lower Stairway to Heaven Sundance Turkey Chute


We’ll be posting more reports as we get out.  In the mean time, please let forming climbs form up so as not to ruin them for the season.  If you have other questions, comments, or concerns please do not hesitate to get in touch. KMG guides programs in all of these places.  Additionally, if you’re in the Front Range area on December 7th, come to Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden.  We’ll be doing a presentation on the Silverton Off Piste Ski Atlas that I co-authoered.  Free beer is going to be provided by New Belgium brewing and we’ll be doing a ski give away from Romp Skis.  We’ll be talking about how the first two editions came to be, some avalanche safety stuff and taking a sneak peak at what will be in the 3rd edition of the Atlas that will be coming out next fall.

In the mean time keep the waxy side down and the pump up!


Josh Kling, 

AMGA Certified Alpine and Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide,

Owner/ Lead Guide

Kling Mountain Guides

Posted in Alpine Climbing, Avalanche Courses, Mountaineering, Skiing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

San Juan Mountains Condition Report (Snake Couloir, Mt. Sneffels Ski Beta) May 27, 2017

The conditions in the San Juan Mountains and southwest CO are ripe right now! From skiing big lines to climbing fun and warm sandstone, there is something for everybody.

This past week I had the chance to ski the Snake Couloir, a classic line on Mt. Sneffels 14,150 ft.   There is still PLENTY of snow up high for weeks of great skiing.

Picture by Grady James.  Sven Brunso (up close in orange) and Josh Kling pictured.

Picture by Grady James. Sven Brunso (up close in orange) and Josh Kling pictured.

Camp athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the top of Lavender Col. Picture by Sven Brunso

Camp athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the top of Lavender Col. Picture by Sven Brunso

The approach to Mt. Sneffels and the Snake Couloir via Yankee Boy Basin. The approach in proved easy skiing on a supportable crust.

While we brought ski crampons they were never needed. Conditions allowed us to skin the entire way to the col and part way up the to the summit.

Camp Athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the summit of Mt. Sneffels. Picture by Sven Brunso

Camp Athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the summit of Mt. Sneffels. Picture by Sven Brunso

Do NOT climb all the way up the couloir to the col/ top of the couloir.  About 1/3 -1/2 way up the couloir you can exit on the climbers left side of the couloir on a snow ramp.  This puts you on a very mellow ridge the rest of the way to the summit.  By doing this you avoid the rock step at the top of the couloir.  It also gets you out quick, which lessons the chance of getting hit by rock fall from above.

Sven Brunso kicking steps towards the summit.  Picture by Grady James

Sven Brunso kicking steps towards the summit. Picture by Grady James

Skis were put on the packs for the final push to the summit. At high elevations and north aspects, the snow provided a great boot pen and easy step kicking.

The crew (L-R) Grady James, Josh Kling, and Sven Brunso on the summit of Mt. Sneffels just before  the rappel into the Snake Couloir.  picture by LEKI selfe stick ski pole.

The crew (L-R) Grady James, Josh Kling, and Sven Brunso on the summit of Mt. Sneffels just before the rappel into the Snake Couloir. picture by LEKI selfe stick ski pole.


The rap into the Snake

The rap into the Snake

There are two rappel options to get into the Snake. The common one is directly on the summit.  There is a buried picket and a bunch of tat.  If you rappel off the summit, you  will require a 60 M rope (for most skiers). If you are comfortable doing some legit scrambling it is doable with a 40 M.  You can also rappel in off a rock feature just prior/ east of the summit. You will need some nuts to leave in the rock. This rappel spot is great! You can rap from here with just a 20M rope! It also provides an easier egress back out of you get into the snake and decide it’s no good.  This makes the line substantially less committing (IMO).  This also means you can do the rappel into the ski the Snake Couloir with only a 20 M rope!  (I have done this and it will take you from the ridge all the way to snow with now scary scrambling).  IMO, a 30 M Rad line or something similar would be ideal.

Sven Brunso making it look good on the top 1/3 of the Snake Couloir.  Picture by Grady James

Sven Brunso making it look good on the top 1/3 of the Snake Couloir. Picture by Grady James


Skier: Sven Brunso, Location: Mt Sneffles (14,157' ), San Juan Mountains, CO

Sven Brunso making it look good on the top 1/3 of the Snake Couloir. Picture by Grady James

Skier: Sven Brunso, Location: Mt Sneffles (14,157' ), San Juan Mountains, CO

Sven Brunso making the bottom third of the Snake Couloir Look good just before the choke.Kling skin Blayne Basin

The downside of something like the Snake is that after the ski you have to skin an other couple thousand feet back up to Lavender Col to ski out. Here Camp athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide skinning towards Lavender Col one last time. Picture by Sven Brunso.

The quad anchor utilizing the CAMP USA 240  Dyneema sling, two CAMPS USA Photon wire gates, two CAMP HMS Compact carabiners , two CAMP USA HMS Nitro carabiners, CAMP USA OVO belay device

The quad anchor utilizing the CAMP USA 240 Dyneema sling, two CAMPS USA Photon wire gates, two CAMP HMS Compact carabiners , two CAMP USA HMS Nitro carabiners, CAMP USA OVO belay device

Down low though, summer is in full swing! It’s prime rock season back in Durango with temperatures in the 70’s. The quad style anchor with all Camp gear is my go to anchor setup for Durango guiding. The Camp 240 CM quad length dyneema runner, two photon non locking carabiners, two HMS Nitro carabiners, two HMS Compacts, and a Ovo belay device. From in town two pitch guiding to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, this is a great system and always on my harness.

A Boy Scout group from AZ enjoying rock climbing, rappelling, and our custom Tyrollean Traverse, all under the supervision of American Mountain Guides Association Certified Instructors and Guides.

A Boy Scout group from AZ enjoying rock climbing, rappelling, and our custom Tyrollean Traverse, all under the supervision of American Mountain Guides Association Certified Instructors and Guides.

Topping out Dogs of Doom (5.8) at East Animas climbing area in Durango.

Topping out Dogs of Doom (5.8) at East Animas climbing area in Durango.


A climber hanging around at the base of the Direct Start Travel’s With Charlie (5.9). East Animas Climbing Area, Durango, CO.

It’s also Black Canyon season! We’ve ran three trips in the past three weeks! The temperatures there have been perfect this week! So far this year KMG has ran trips on Maiden Voyage (5.9 6 pitches) King Me (5.10, 3 pitches), and the Russian Arete (5.9, 1800 ft).


The north rim and the SOB gully pictured on the left.   The north rim campground would be visible on the left if it were more zoomed in.


The top of the Russian Crete (5.9, 1800 ft, grade IV) Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Picture by AMGA Certified Rock guide Gary Newmeyer

The top of the Russian Crete (5.9, 1800 ft, grade IV) Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Picture by AMGA Certified Rock guide Gary Newmeyer

The Russian Arete (5.9 1800 ft grade IV) in the middle of the picture.

The Russian Arete (5.9 1800 ft grade IV) in the middle of the picture.

It’s a little early to get into the remote San Juan high country for peaks such as Jagged and Wham Ridge on Vestal however.

Mid June 2016 looking at Jagged Mountain from Jagged Pass

Mid June 2016 looking at Jagged Mountain from Jagged Pass

Jagged Mountain with the full route visible w/o snow from Sunlight Basin.

Jagged Mountain with the full route visible w/o snow from Sunlight Basin.

Overall it’s been a great spring though!  Never hesitate to get in touch with the the AMGA Certified Guides of KMG for up to date conditions and route beta.

Josh Kling

AMGA Certified Alpine & Rock Guide

Camp USA Athlete Ambassador

LEKI Ski Team Ambassador

Posted in Alpine Climbing, CAMP USA climbing, LEKI, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Skiing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Smith IO/7 Google Review

Skiing and snowboarding is possibly one of the moroe gear intensive outdoor activities, and the quality of certain pieces of gear can directly impact the quality of experience (for better or for worse).  Goggles are one of these items.  Having good clear vision with good depth perception can not only make a drastic difference to your comfort level (and therefore riding security and movement skills) it can also impact the amount of fun you have!  

Coming from CO and the sunny San Juan Mountains, I used to be a fan of skiing in sunglasses.  I have changed my tune.  I have been ski patrolling, ski guiding, and teaching avalanche courses using with the Smith IO/7 goggles with the ChromaPop lenses for two seasons now for a total of roughly 170 days combined.  These goggles stand out as exceptional eye wear for several reasons. 


    1. They’re LARGE!  I have an average size face/ head and am a big fan of big lenses.  Small goggles can inhibit your peripheral vision.  Peripheral vision is important in all aspects of skiing, but especially important when I’m ski patrolling and skiing inbounds.  I want to be able to the skiers and boarders that come flying from all directions.  The large lenses of the IO/7 are as large as comfortably possible without being too big.  IMG_6589
    2. The lenses are super easy to change.  Having a variety of lease options and being able to switch them is only a benefit if you actually change them. The IO/7 lenses are extremely easy to switch.  There is only one small flip tab (compared with several tabs on the IO/X).  Typically I have two lenses in my ski patrol pack.  A low light lense and a bright light lense. The dark lense I use is the ChromaPop Sun.  I ski in contacts and seem to be light sensitive, so I prefer an extra dark.  This lense has a 9% visible light transmission (VLT). The lense is a layered green mirror over a gray base.  This helps ease the harsh glare of high elevation sun.  For super flat light days and evening sweeps when patrolling I use the Red Sensor Mirrored lense. This lense is a 55% VLT, so the other end of the spectrum for light transmission. When I’m skiing down in the dark, which often happens ski patrolling, this is my lense of choice.  It still cuts down on glare while helping features stand out. This is what one wants when skiing in flat light and dark conditions.  The third lense I use, primarily for ski guiding on overnight hut trips where weight is an issue, is the Photochromic Red Sensor lense (20% – 50% VLT).  While these do not get as dark as I would prefer, carrying one lense is a great benefit.  It’s also a great benefit to not deal with switching the lenses out as the lighting conditions of the day change.
  • They don’t fog.  Goggles that fog are more of a hindrance than they are a help.  I still would not hike in these.  However, the IO/7 seem to fog less than comparable and less expensive goggles.  This goes for both hard skiing as well as when it’s snowing heavily.


Overall, these goggles are awesome!   I find the optics good enough that I have two pairs, a patrol pair that lives with my patrol gear at the resort and a guiding pair that stays with my guiding gear.  With all the storms and snow this winter in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, I’m psyched to have them and put another couple hundred days of use on them!

Happy pow pow!

-Josh Kling

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide
AMGA/ IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide 

Owner / Lead Guide
Kling Mountain Guides, LLC
Posted in Avalanche Courses, Skiing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Ice Condition Report, San Juan Mountains 11/15/16

Every year, KMG guides are routinely the first ones getting turns skiing and getting sticks ice climbing.  The San Juan Mountains are filled with some of the largest and best ice climbing in the lower 48 states.  Here is a conditions report form yesterday.  There is certainly ice out there to be climbed.  That being said, please refrain from climbing anything that is not ready yet.  This helps preserve it for the season.

The below pictures, while not designed to highlight ski conditions, can also give an idea of what snow (or lack there of) is available to ski right now.

Thanks and enjoy!

-Josh Kling

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide
AMGA/ IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide 

Owner / Lead Guide
Kling Mountain Guides, LLC

direct-north-face dnf-lower-pitches dnf-upper-pitches fat-city-area glazed-bullion gold-rush goofy highway-to-hell mickey-minnie mickey-mouse middle-minnie minnie-mouse-2 minnie-mouse second-gully stairway-to-heaven

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When you live in gloves, for both work and play, virtually seven days a week all winter long, you learn what you like and more importantly what works.  Last winter I had the chance to use, abuse, and review the LEKI Elements Krypton S Gloves.   They were used ski patrolling at Purgatory Mountain Resort, ski guiding on Red Mountain Pass and in Alaska, and leading Level 1 and Level 2 AIARE avalanche courses also on Red Mountain Pass.

Testing conditions:

  • 70+ days skiing
  • 60 days in a continental snow pack, primarily on Red Mountain Pass, CO
  • 10 days on Thompson Pass, Valdez, AK
  • 9,318 – 14,150 ft
  • Mix of ski patrolling, ski guiding, instructing AIARE avalanche courses, recreational skiing
AIARE Level 2 course leader and IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide Josh Kling discussing terrain options on Red Mountain Pass with an AIARE Level 2 avalanche course.

IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide Josh Kling pointing out terrain options on Red Mountain Pass with his LEKI Elements Krypton S gloves and LEKI Blue Bird Carbon poles

The Elements Krypton S is a great all around workhorse ski glove.  Typically when I’m working (patrolling/ guiding/ instructing avalanche courses) I always have at least two if not three pairs of gloves with me.  These were my mid-heavy weight  glove that were always with me.


Retail: $129.95

Series Unisex 
eleMents | Freeski 
Construction Trigger S 
Fit Cozy Fit 
Warmth Level Warm 
Main Material Softshell 87 
Premium Goatskin 
Palm Material Premium Goatskin 
Digital Nash 
Insulation Hyperloft 
Lining Makes Dry 
Length/Size 7.0 – 11.0


There are really only a few reasons to like (or dislike) any glove:

1) General construction:  These are a seam heavy glove.  IE lots of stitching.  While seams can be weak points they were not in these gloves.  The stitching allowed for an articulated curve manufactured into the glove.  This manufactured curve gives the glove and incredibly comfortable fit right out of the package.  Many less expensive leather gloves feel very stiff and tight until significantly broken in.  The Elements felt comfortable and broken in immediately.  IE there was no “wear in” period.   This made them warm immediately.  The same less expensive gloves that require a break in period, are often cold for the first significant period due to being very tight until broken in.

2)Warmth: If you are a skier or rider that runs cold, this could be a great glove for you.  I tend to run hot.  That meant these were my go gloves for days when; the mercury dipped below 20F / -6 C,  I was expecting a lot of standing around such as when instructing avalanche courses or digging snow pits, I was hauling a ski patrol toboggan which have metal handles and can get very cold.  I actually did not get quit as much use out of these gloves as I originally expected due to how warm they were.  They are not a Denali guide glove, but for lower 48 skiing, especially at Colorado’s high elevation, they are plenty warm.  Some of this warmth likely comes from the backside padding (pictured below)

The backside of the Elements’ fingers and back of the palm are padded.  I am not sure the original reasoning of the padding.  Regardless, this extra padding did add wartime to the glove.  Additionally, I use the back of gloved hand when working in snow pits to help clean up the observation wall and test wall of the pit.  This allows a better visual of the different layers in the snow.  If I can better see the layers in the snow, I can better understand what is going on with their bonding characteristics.  This padding added one more insulating layer between my digits and the snow.


The arrows highlighting the extra padding on the backside of the Elements Krypton S gloves.


The light shinning through the less dense layers of the San Juan sand which of a snowpack during an AIARE level 2 course.

In addition to the back of the fingers and palm being padded, the back of the thumb is soft as well.  This provides a great snot rag (yup booger covered thumbs) when out and about.  Anybody that has worn gloves even a little in the cold knows that a soft back to the thumb is essential and leads to a less runny nose.

I am normally not a big fan of cuffs or Velcro synch straps on my ski gloves.  This is due to me taking them on and off repeatedly.  The cuff on the Elements was not overbearing or a pain to deal with.  This helped with quick transitions on the when getting ready to ski down.  If a glove is a pain to put on I am less likely to want to switch from my skinning glove to my skiing glove.

IFMGA Guide Jed Porter highlighting terrain with IFMGA aspirant mountain guide Josh Kling

IFMGA Guide Jed Porter highlighting terrain with IFMGA aspirant mountain guide Josh Kling wearing the Elements Krypton S gloves and Blue Bird carbon poles.

For somebody that takes off and puts on gloves repeatedly, the glove lining must be stitched to the shell of the glove.  Anybody that has ever had glove lining turn inside-out knows exactly what I am talking about.  The lining of the Elements is stitched securely to the shell of the glove.  This means when I would pull my hand out, the lining of the glove would come with it.  Rather the lining of the glove would stay securely inside.  This makes it easier to pull my hand out as well as put it back in the glove.

Ok….the down side.  It seems as though there are two general limits of gloves these days.  Some that do ok with moist hands and some that do not.  The lining of the Elements is unfortunately the later of the two options.  If your hand is dry it will slide into the glove with ease and comfort.  However, if your hand is at all moist from the snow (as if you were just doing your hardness tests in a snow pit or taking somebody’s pulse lying in the snow on the ski hill) the lining material would tend to get stuck and “grab” at my hand, making it kind of tricky to get the glove on.  Additionally, this would lead to bunching of the lining material.  “Keep your hands dry” you say.  “Don’t stick them in the snow without gloves on” you add. Well, when working as a ski guide, ski patroller, and avalanche course instructor the gloves are off and on over and over.

Worth mentioning is the Trigger S system that LEKI uses in many of their gloves and poles.  The Trigger S in the Elements Krypton gloves works seamlessly with my LEKI Blue Bird Carbon S  Poles ( see attached review).  However, as I state in the pole review, I am not one that typically likes to attach myself to my poles regardless of the release mechanism.  This is because when skiing in the backcountry, being attached to poles can act like an anchor in the even of an avalanche.  That being said, there are times when being connected to the poles may be conducive.  IE skiing a steep couloir (such as the Turkey Chute or Elevator shaft – see the new Off Piste Ski Atlas Silverton edition for more details on both of those) where falling and tumbling down the couloir is actually the greater concern, not an avalanche.  That might be a good time to be connect to my poles so I can’t drop them.

Other the minor lining issue, these are great all around solid ski gloves for a continental snow climate.  And for most folks that put their gloves on and leave them on for the duration of the day, this is likely not going to be an issue.

Full disclosure, I am a LEKI athlete and did not pay for these gloves.  That being said, I would gladly pay the Elements Krypton S gloves as an addition to my guiding and patrolling kits.

Josh Kling, 
AMGA Certified Alpine Guide & Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide
AMGA/ IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide 
AIARE Level 1 & 2 Course Leader
Wilderness Medical Associates Instructor










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How to Sharpen Ice Tools

It is that time of year again. The Colorado Ice Conditions page on Facebook is a flurry with posts of who’s climbed Pikes Peak? Is Martha’s in yet?? Who knows where’s there is ice to climb!?!? By early November the Internet is a flurry and ice climbers are anxious, swinging their tools into the neighborhood hockey rink just to feel something. Typically by early November there is climbable ice if you know where to go. By the end of November certainly seasonal classics are in, and by early December it’s game on.

IFMGA ski and mountain guide Chris Marshal leading Stairway to Heaven, WI4 Grade IV, 1200 ft 7 pitches, Eureka, CO

This time of year the ice tools come out of the crawl space and get dusted off. I stare at the picks deciding if they are in need of replacement or can they make it a little bit longer with some love? These picks aren’t that bad I tell myself…. Until compared with a new set of picks is.

Version 2

Climbers beginning the early season climb Second Gully (WI3 800 ft 6 pitches) outside of Silverton, CO

A comparison of old used picks up top, brand new sharpened picks in the middle, and brand new picks on the bottom.

That being said, sharpening these old blunt picks can make them perform and hold on for a little bit longer.

A zoomed out view of the classic climb, Stairway to Heaven outside of Silverton, CO.

A zoomed out view of the classic climb, Stairway to Heaven outside of Silverton, CO.



  • The Pick: The pick has to be able to go into the ice, at the same time displacing or braking off as little as possible.
  • The Stick: The jagged teeth located on the underside of the ice pick keep the tool from popping out. These are what give you security. That being said, if the teeth are too pronounce, the tool will be hard to get out.
  • The Pull: Removing a toll from the ice is 50% skill and 50% having a good pick. The last thing you want is to either A) burn extra energy removing your tool. B) break a pick trying to remove it. C) have the pick pop out and whack you in the nose. A thin and sharp edge on top of the pick can help you dislodge it from sticky placements.

So how do we breath some life back into last seasons picks? You’ll need a plain old mill bastard file. Bastard files have a two way or cross pattern in the file. This allows you to file in any direction, where as a straight cut file only goes one way.

All picks need some consistent love and maintenance, even when brand new. While it is possible to use a bench grinder, the bastard file will do the trick and is typically preferred. A bench grinder can over heat a pick and ruin its temper.

A comparison of old used picks up top, brand new sharpened picks in the middle, and brand new picks on the bottom.

a comparison of a blunt pick, a sharpened pick nearing the end of it’s life, and a brand new pick

Step 1 The Pick: You will want to follow the general bevel of the manufacture. Do not just file back and forth. You will get a better file if you file and repeat in the same direction over and over. Make sure your strokes are ok either side of the picks tip. File until the beveled edge is as sharp as a knife.





Step 2 The Stick: The teeth of your pick are what give the pick bite and stick. This is what keeps you hanging on to steep ice. This is what keeps you from popping out of the ice and allows you to trust your placements. However, everything in moderation, including moderation. Too much bite and you will not be able to remove your picks from the ice.


Step 3 The Pull: Pulling out is always important. The last thing you want is an overly secure stick that you can’t remove from the ice just as you’re pumping out. A difficult pull can “pop” out, whacking you in the nose or cheek. Not ideal. Make sure to have a sharpened and beveled edge on the top of the pick.

So go sharpen those picks, get amped, spend some time on Google Earth and find that early season ice. It’s there.


Climbers enjoying some San Juan ice with sharp picks

Josh is the owner and lead guide for Kling Mountain Guides, a small ski and mountain guide service based in Durango, CO. He is a Camp-USA athlete, an AMGA certified alpine guide, rock guide, assistant ski guide, and IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide. His tools get their most use in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern CO.


Posted in Alpine Climbing, CAMP USA climbing, Mountaineering | Comments Off

LEKI Ski Pole Review – Micro Tourstick Vario Carbon, Blue Bird Carbon S, Aergonlite 2 Carbon

As winter begins to approach, I start to reorganize my different “kits,” seeing what gear needs to be replaced and what still works. This past season I had the opportunity to work and ski with three different sets of LEKI poles. These included the LEKI Blue Bird Carbon S (my all-time favorite poles to date), the LEKI Aergonlite 2 Carbon, and the Micro Tourstick Vario Carbon.  These three sets of poles would cover everything and anything you might ever need a trekking or ski pole for.

IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide and AIARE Level 2 course leader Josh Kling demonstrating how to take field weather observations during a hut based AIARE 2 on Red Mountain Pass, San Juan Mountains, CO.  Pic by IFMGA Guide Jed Porter.

IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide and AIARE Level 2 course leader Josh Kling demonstrating how to take field weather observations during a hut based AIARE 2 on Red Mountain Pass, San Juan Mountains, CO. Pic by IFMGA Guide Jed Porter.

LEKI Aergonlite 2 Carbon $159/ pair

  • Length/ Size                        110 – 145 Continuously adjustable
  • Adjustment area                 110 – 145 CM
  • Weight                                   16.9 oz


These are a great workhorse adjustable ski pole. This could be your single set of poles. LEKI’s version of the locking adjustment mechanism, what they call the Speed Lock 2, worked great. All season long the locking mechanism worked flawlessly regardless of conditions (variations in temperatures, wet or dry). The lever seemed to be larger than some of the comparable ski poles on the market from other companies.  This larger lever seemed to be easier to work with gloves on then others.  I also liked the huge head on the handle. This extra large head worked great for grabbing the tip of my tech bindings to lock them. Now the handle of the Aergonlite are definitely not designed for doing this.  I did eventually break the head of the handle after a full season of locking tech bindings.  However, I would assume that if I used the poles in the manor they were designed, this would not have happened.

Often times when guiding I will use my poles to whack snow off branches on the ski up so my clients do not get nailed with tree-bombs (client care “pass”). The Aergonlite worked well and held up to significant tree beatings. They also showed durability for whacking the snow off the top of my skis when it balled up.

These were my go to poles for many tours in the San Juan Mountains that involved long skate outs on road cuts and high millage tours in intermixed with big ski descents. Perfect examples of tours where they performed great would be the Kendal Mountain & Turkey Chute link up or the Grand Turk & Sultan link up. The huge adjustment made these poles perform the same on steep and deep as they did skating out of a tour as they did skiing low angle fun powder.  I chose to take off the ski strap, as skiing with a strap in avalanche terrain is typically not advised.  This was easy to do with just popping the connecting pin out. Overall I would give this pole a solid B.


The Kendal & Turkey Chute link up. Having an adjustable pole for a tour like this makes the approach and final exit more enjoyable.


Dropping into the Turkey Chute, an 1,800 ft couloir. The top 1,000 ft is in the chute, the bottom 800 feet opens to a great apron.

  • Plusses:
    • Performed great in all conditions.
    • Was durable for normal*  use. * I put ski poles through more use and abuse then a typically backcountry skier. If you are a 30-50 day a season backcountry skier, you should have no problem with these poles.
    • Huge adjustability for large variety of tours.
  • Minuses:
    • Broke tip of handle head off after using it repeatedly for locking tech bindings. While this is not at all what the handles are designed for, many backcountry skiers do use their poles to lock tech bindings. There is an other method of locking tech bindings with poles that does not use the head of the handle.
AMGA Certified Alpine and Rock guide Josh Kling discussing terrain options with Britt on Thompson Pass outside of Valdez, AK.

AMGA Certified Alpine and Rock guide Josh Kling discussing terrain options with Britt on Thompson Pass outside of Valdez, AK.

LEKI Blue Bird Carbon S $149.95

  • Length/ Size                                          110 – 135 CM in 5 CM steps
  • Weight                                                     17.6 oz at a length of 120 cm


Ok, so you ski in the backcountry, you hate lifts, your shred powder. You need an adjustable pole, right? WRONG. The past few years, more often than not I have found myself not adjusting my poles when touring.  I set the height I prefer, and pretty much stick with that length the entire tour.  The LEKI Blue Bird Carbon are my fixed pole of choice, and my favorite of the three poles I used.  If I do need to do any micro adjustment of the pole length, the 9” foam handle of the Blue Bird offers more than enough to keep me touring. What kept bringing me back to these tour after tour was actually that it did not adjust.  Less moving parts meant less to break.  The poles come with patented Triger S and Trigger S Vario straps.  These straps automatically release under enough pressure, as in an avalanche or when clipping a tree. However, I still prefer, and advocate, backcountry skiing without pole straps on.  This releasable strap did make it much easier to toss the straps in my pack and not use them VS other poles where the strap has to be unscrewed and disassembled.  So while I don’t use the Trigger S in the manner in which it was designed (go figure) I certainly loved the quick release.

Typically when I tour, I have two sets of gloves.  I skin in with a lightweight pair of leather gloves and then bring a heavier and warmer pair of gloves for the ski down. (Different blog post on the LEKI Elements Krypton S to come shortly).  The Blue Bird Carbon S poles have the Trigger S system as well. This allows for my LEKI gloves to lock into the poles, similar to the releasable straps.   Similar to the releasable Trigger S Vario Straps,  I typically do not use the locking mechanism.  However, at times it was a great addition that came at no additional cost.


IFMGA Ski and Mountain Guide Joey Thompson scoping out terrain with IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide Josh Kling during a hut based AIARE Level 2 avalanche course.

One could argue that a ski guides primary jobs is to risk management.  When ski guiding this often comes in the form of snow and terrain analysis.  A very effective and quick snow bonding test is the hand shear test (different blog post about on the fly tests).  This test involves using the handle end of the ski pole to isolate a small column of snow.  The low profile and sturdy one piece construction of the Blue Bird Carbon S do this flawlessly.  If the pole handle is too large or high profile, it makes column isolation in stiffer snow difficult. The one piece pole also whacks snow off branches better than a sectional pole, purely due to nothing to break and no moving parts.


AMGA certified Alpine and Rock Guide Josh Kling pointing to something somewhere. He likely saw some coffee and wanted to head that direction.

Overall I would give the LEKI Blue Bird Carbon S pole a solid an A.   Overall I had to hunt for things I did not like about this pole. In other words, this pole was a homerun for me. I’m psyched to ski with the same set again this year.

  • Plusses:
    • Performed great in all conditions.
    • Was durable for guiding Guiding typically puts more stress on gear than recreational use. This is both due to the significant more time the gear is used over recreational use as well as being used harder than a typical recreation. These poles held up great.
    • The Trigger S system straps come off easily allowing for me to tour without dangling straps while in the backcountry.
    • No moving parts means there is less to break.
    • The carbon provided a great light swing weight, making them a blast to ski and turn with (I’m a turner, not a straight-liner).
  • Minuses:
    • The Trigger S system releases very easily. This is ideal for being caught in an avalanche or clipping a tree.  However, they seemed to release more than preferred.  The release mechanism is a lever/ button on the top of the pole handle.  On numerous occasions I would bump this and release the strap.  If I had been wearing the strap, it would not have been an issue.  As I stated before though I tend to not tour with any straps on.  So when the strap would release unexpectedly, it would fall in the snow.  Not system critical, but kind of a pain. I just leave the straps at home meow.
    • The pole is not adjustable.  Yes, this is one of the plusses, but there were times I wished I had more adjustability in the pole.  This was more a problem of operator error.  On tours with either a long skate in or out such as the Sultan Mountain or North Twilight Peak, a pole with significant adjustment is preferred.  With proper prior planning though, I should have taken the Aergonlite poles, so not really a pole problem but rather a user planning issue.
Participants approaching their objective during an American Mountain Guides Association  Alpine Guide Exam.

Participants approaching their objective during an American Mountain Guides Association Alpine Guide Exam.


  • Length                        115 – 135 CM continuously adjustable
  • Adjustment area       115 – 135 CM
  • Weight                        8.9 oz/ pole    253 grams/ pole
  • Pack Size                    39 CM
LEKI Micro Tourstick Vario Carbon

LEKI Micro Tourstick Vario Carbon

The Micro Tourstick Vario Carbon became my absolute favorite for alpine approaches over the past couple seasons.  From approaching big ice climbs in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern, CO to alpine rock routes on Washington Pass, to glaciated ascents of Mt. Rainier, these poles rocked it.

My favorite feature of these poles was that they packed down tiny. This is critical for an alpine climbing.  I want a pole that can get small enough to fit in my pack, as opposed to strapped on the outside.  When I am alpine climbing I do not want anything dangling on the outside of the pack.  These attributes would also ring true for backcountry split boarding, and these poles would excel at that application.

Many tri-section poles do not have any adjustment once they are assembled.  The Micro Toursticks have 20 CM of adjustment (that’s 8” to us ‘Merican’s).  That’s more than enough of adjustment for virtually any approach.   This proved to be a huge plus in both soft snow where the pole penetrates the surface, as well as in talus fields where sometimes the pole goes between the rocks while you are actually standing on top of them.   I did end up breaking both poles eventually. However, this came from extended use and abuse in talus fields from CO to WA.

These poles were also extremely light weight for how durable they were.  They weigh in at 506 grams / pair. The equivalent pole from Black Diamond weighs in at 640 grams / pair. That makes the Black Diamond poles over 4 ounces or ¼ LBS heavier than the equivalent LEKI! For the weight weenies out there, that’s substantial!  Overall, I would give these poles an A without question.

Particpants on the approach to an objective in the North Cascades during and American Mountain Guides Association Alpine Guide Exam.  Having a tri- section pole, such as the LEKI Micro Tourstick Vario Carbon, that packs tiny is essential for travel in the alpine.

Particpants on the approach to an objective in the North Cascades during and American Mountain Guides Association Alpine Guide Exam. Having a tri- section pole, such as the LEKI Micro Tourstick Vario Carbon, that packs tiny is essential for travel in the alpine.

  • Plusses: Overal given their weight and versatility in length, there really is no reason not to bring them.
    • Performed great in all conditions (snow – dirt – talus).
    • Packed down super tiny. With a pole that packs down this tiny, there really is no reason to not bring them. The Micro Tourstick pack down to 39 CM while the equivalent pole from Black Diamond packs to 41.5 CM (close to an inch longer). While this does not seem like much, if you have ambitions of fitting your poles into your pack, this extra 3 CMs can make a huge difference.
    • Super light weight.
  • Minuses:
    • Everything light weight has it’s limitations, and I found the limitations of the Micro Toursticks. Similar to other items though, I used and abused these poles likely more than a standard recreationalist would.

Full disclousre, I am a LEKI athlete and did not pay for any of these poles.  That being said, I would gladly pay for any of the poles.  And yes, I do like to point things out.

Josh Kling, 
AMGA Certified Alpine Guide & Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide
AMGA/ IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide 
AIARE Level 1 & 2 Course Leader
Wilderness Medical Associates Instructor
Posted in Alpine Climbing, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Training, Avalanche Courses, LEKI, Mountaineering, Skiing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Backcountry Communication Devices; Satellite phones, VHF radios, & Cell Phones

Technology is a part of the backcountry these days, whether we like it or not.  Backcountry technology can be used heavily, or just for emergency situations.  Typically some form of backcountry communication device is considered standard practice these days, at least in an institutional setting (guide service, summer camp, collegiate outdoor rec program, etc.).  Over the past number of years I have seen communication devices from a multitude of different programs I have worked with and for.  These private guide services that I have worked for outside of Kling Mountain Guides (some of these being the larger ski & mountain guiding operations in the US), as well as American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) programs I have participated in, and numerous collegiate outdoor rec and education programs I have taught for throughout the western US.  These different programs have been domestically (CO, WA, UT, NV, OR, AK) as well as internationally in Russian, Africa, Argentina, and Mexico.

I am in no way a spokes person for the AMGA, these or any other guide services, Wilderness Medical Associates, WEA, or any collegiate program/Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education.  The following is also what we adhere to at KMG.


Paul (AMGA Certified Alpine & Rock Guide in the fore ground) & IFMGA Guide/ AMGA IT member Angela Hawse in the background @ Burgundy Col, Washington Pass, WA. Angela is communicating on a VHF radio to an other AMGA group close to 30 miles away.

  • Two Communication Devices:  Every trip/ program must have two forms of communication devices.  This can be a combination; cell phone, sat phone, VHF radio preprogrammed with local channels, and Spot/ Delorme device.  Most often it seems to be a sat phone and VHF radio.  However, there is never a never and never an always.  Depending on location this might also just be a cell phone.  IE if we are running front country rock climbing trips in Durango, CO then just a cell phone is fine.  As long as the carrier works.  Anybody that has spent time in CO knows that T Moble, Boost Moble, Cingular, etc do not work well, so any of these would not be considered a viable communicant device.
  • Iridium VS Global Star: I have owned and used both the Iridium 9505A phone as well as the Spot Global phone   Up until recently, the Iridium phone was by far the more popular one, reaching much further north and south on the globe then Spot/ Global Star.  I never really knew which one worked better though because I never had an Iridium and Spot phone with me on the same trip to compare them side by side for connectivity. This summer I had that opportunity.  I had my Spot phone and the program I was working for had an Iridium 9505A on the same trip.  My Spot Global phone connected better than the Iridium every time to the point where the program I was working for gave up on their Iridium phone and began to use mine.
  • Larger Programs:  On larger programs (IE there are 12 participants and 3 instructors, that might break into 3 smaller groups in the field) there needs to be one sat phone for the entire group and then each instructor has a VHF radio.  IE a program with three instructors and 12 students, operating at a 4:1 ratio. There should be at least one sat phone in the group total. Then each individual group would have one VHF radio (some mini groups had more than one VHF) to communicate with each other.  Different topic, but family radios such as Motorola Talk About radios are not considered a professional radio.
  • PLB VS Sat phone: I have seen programs/trips that operate with just a Spot/ Delorme.  These are great for calling out the calvary and initiating a rescue.  I have been on multiple searches and recoveries via my local SAR group that were initiated by these PLB style devices.  These are again, great for initiating a search.  However from what I have seen, these do not seem to be best industry practice as a professional level communication device for the following reasons:
    • Can not text a 911 center
    • Can not text a ranger center such as on Mt. Rainier, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, or the Grand Canyon.  Most National Parks emergency dispatch centers are not set up to receive texts directly. Only voice calls from a cell phone, satellite phone or VHF radio will go directly to the dispatch centre.
    • Spot devices go to a third party Emergency Communication Center (ECC) that then must get in touch with the contact list from the Spot’s owner, then to a federal/local dispatch center, etc. etc.   These are extra steps that can take extra time.  As we all know, sometimes these extra minutes make all the difference.
    • All two way texting conversations using a Delorme inReach device must be initiated from the user’s device. Most land agencies cannot initiate a text if they have not received a text from the InReach device first.
    • If I initiate a rescue with a Spot/ PLB, but then want to call it off I cannot do that. This happened to a buddy of mine guiding on Rainer a few years ago.  He had a client collapse on the trial to camp. P on AVPU.  Still had a pulse and respirations.  Long story short they initiated a rescue and asked for a helicopter.  He ended up coming back to A/0 x 3 (person, place, time) after about 15 minutes.  They still wanted a rescue, but changed the urgency to not wanting a helicopter.  They purely requested ground support and an ambulance at the trailhead.  They were able to change their requests because they had a sat phone. A Spot/PLB could not have done this.
    • I cannot “Spot” my medical advisor.  If I have medical concerns on a trip I want to be able to call and actually talk with my medical advisor.

KMG Operations Manager Bonnie making a phone call on an Iridium 9505A sat phone from the flanks for Kilimanjaro, Africa.


Global Star/ Spot phone is running a special right now that gives a free sat phone with subscription.  Details can be found here.  This was the deal I used and have been more than happy with it.

There is a great article on communication devices here.  While this article is based on Parks Canada, much of it is very similar to the US System.

So, my final verdict; two communicant devices, one being a sat phone is best industry practice these days.  If I am going to get rid of one device, I would purely carry the Sat phone.  It would seem that the larger US guide services, collegiate outdoor rec programs, as well as the AMGA, a Sat phone is the norm.  Two communication devices are preferred.  I think of it as the sat phone can call the helicopter and the VHF radio can help me land it and deal with the SAR team.

Hope this helps!

Josh Kling, 
AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide
IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide
AIARE Level 1 & Level 2 Course Leader
Wilderness Medical Associates Instructor 
Posted in Alpine Climbing, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Training, Avalanche Courses, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Skiing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Camp Flash Harness Review


Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY

Springsummernowfall in the Camp Flash Harness

Ohhhhh my, it’s been a good year. Early in the spring, I got a hold of the Camp Flash Harness and was able to get quite a bit of use out of it. The Flash Harness is designed for hard sport climbing and competition climbing. That’s because it’s so flippin’ light – at 8.3 oz! Now, I don’t climb super hard, but I did use this harness to push my personal limits of what hard is, and in the end, that’s all that matters. I also may have used it for what it wasn’t designed for (but really excels at)!





Early in the spring, I first used the harness to establish a first ascent at the local crag here in Durango, CO. The crag, East Animas  is literally right behind my house. I just walk out the front door with the dog and gf, and the trailhead is a two minute walk away. I scouted the line from a neighboring climb that it now shares anchors with. We top-roped it to see if it would go and if it was worth the investment. Turns out it wasn’t too bad, and is a worthy addition to the home crag.

Wearing the Camp Flash Harness on the FA of 3AM Handy, 5.11c. 4/2016

In June, I did another first ascent at one of our summertime crags around Durango – Lemon Reservoir  This crag sits at a higher elevation and is split by a perfect mountain river. My good friend Josh Armour was in town and put together a video of the process of establishing a new route. I cleaned and worked the route in the Camp Laser CR Harness (see that review here), and sent in the Flash.


Now it was alpine climbing season. I spent WAY more time in this harness alpine climbing than sporto climbing and I absolutely loved it! First of all, this harness packs up incredibly small. I can ball it up in my hands and it won’t be seen. I guided four, 3-day trips in the remote Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with this harness. We ticked off the classic Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak and climbed Jagged Mountain as well. I only brought a 30L pack and having the Flash Harness inside was crucial to packing light. While the fixed leg loops made it sort of tricky to put the harness on over my approach boots, once it’s on, it’s on. No real worries there. The one other thing I noticed with this harness was the sizing – I usually wear a medium. In the medium Flash Harness, I had it cinched all the way down. Next time, I’ll probably size down. I still believe this is the best alpine harness I’ve ever used.


Heading down after a successful summit climb of the classic Wham Ridge (5.4) on the sweeping north face of Vestal Peak (13,864’).

 Throughout the rest of the summer, I brought this harness with me on multiple trips. Most notably, the Wind River Range and the Grand Tetons. For me, this harness really excels in the alpine. Again, it is super packable and light and still has 4 gear loops. I’ve carried a double set of cams to #3 and a #4. I’ve off-width’d my way up Feather Buttress in the Cirque of the Towers, and traversed the Tetons for 14 hours.


Ridge-walking to the summit of Mt. Owen (12,927’) with the Grand Teton (13,776’) in the background.

The Flash Harness will remain an integral piece of my climbing repertoire. In the future, I could see more of an alpine style twist to this harness – with adjustable leg loops and ice clipper slots. I’m looking forward to seeing where this harness will take me this fall and winter.


The Grand Teton from the summit of Teewinot (12,326’). We traversed from Teewinot to Mt. Owen (pictured to the right of the Grand) and slept on the flat ledge on the right side of the Grand Teton. Climbed the Grand the next day.

Climb on!

Gary Newmeyer
AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor
AMGA Assistant Rock Guide
AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide


On the summit of Pingora Peak (11,883’) in the Wind River Range with my partner Mike.

sunsetSunset from Jackass Pass in the Wind River Range

Posted in Alpine Climbing, CAMP USA climbing, Rock Climbing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Multi-Pitch Rock Climbing Kit

As an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certified alpine and rock guide and provider of the AMGA’s Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) courses and exams I am often asked what’s in my climbing kit. Then more importantly I was asked “why?” My guide service office is inside a climbing shop in Durango, CO. The climbing gear section is immense. I get overwhelmed looking at the variety of carabineers and slings. Somebody with less training or a new climber just beginning their vertical career would certainly be overwhelmed. With so many options and climbing gear not being inexpensive, there better be a good reason for everything I bring.

So, let’s pick apart my kit, piece by piece. The kit listed below would be for a day multi-pitch climbing in a venue such as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The climbs we typically guide are grade II to IV, 5.8-5.10, anywhere from 600 to 1,800 ft, and typically 6-10 pitches.   These include classics such as:

Ground Control to Major Tom (Grade III, 5.8), Maiden Voyage (Grade, III 5.9) Escape Artist (Grade III, 5.10) Russian Arete (Grade IV, 5.9+) Journey Home (Grade IV, 5.10b)

  • Harness – Laser CR Harness: 1 per kit. During the summer months, I pretty much live in my harness. From single pitch trips around Durango to multi-pitch lines in the Black Canyon. I want a harness that can do it all. At $119 retail (no, I do not pay retail, but this is still a great reference point) the Laser is a higher priced harness built for all pursuits. The gear loops comfortably hold a full rack of cams climbing, but pack flat against the harness when I have a pack on an approach. The No-Twist belay loop is probably one of my favorite innovations on Camp harnesses. From a guiding perspective this feature is great. It gives me more security when short roping and short pitching clients such as on the final pitches of the Russian Arête. It also helps facilitate tying a carbineer on a rope. (you’ll have to hire us for a day to learn that one…) The laminate construction is extremely comfortable (or as comfortable as a harness can be after 1,600 + feet) but still packs down small. I like a harness that can roll up and fit inside my helmet for approaches and descents. If you have one harness that goes sport clipping today, multi pitching tomorrow, and will send San Juan ice this winter, the Laser is the harness for you.

Camp Laser CR harness


  • Belay carabiner – HMS compact: 1 per kit The name HMS or : ‘Halbmastwurfsicherung’ derives from the German term for half Clove hitch belay, or Munter hitch belay. This carabiner excels at the Munter. It is a round stock carabiner that will allow for rope to smoothly flow over it. I like to have one of these on my harness at all times. It works great for: a master point carabiner on an anchor, belaying with a munter hitch, belaying off the belay loop with a tube device, acting as the rope bearing carabiner when belaying with a Piu2 in guide mode or Ovo, and as the haul point in a mechanical advantage system. It’s a great all around carbineer and comes with me regardless of the climbing mission.
  • Carbines – large lockers – HMS nitro: 2 per kit Now this is my favorite At 55 grams it is an incredibly light-weight HMS carabiner. Similar to the HMS compact, but over 30 grams lighter this carabiner rocks. It will function flawlessly doing everything listed above at 34 grams less per carabiner. This carabiner also has a smaller nose profile than many comparable carabiners. Many climbers don’t consider the nose profile when purchasing a carabiner. A narrow nose profile carabiner will fit through smaller chain links.
  • Carabiners – small lockers Photon Locker: 2 per kit. A great all around locking carabiner with an extremely narrow nose profile. This is the carbineer I choose to use as the “hanger” carbineer when belaying with a plaquette/ guide style belay device or Ovo. This is a great carabiner for anchor attachments as well, again given the tiny nose profile it fits well in chain links, providing me more working space. I often use this for my personal tether attachment on multiple rappels. 
  • Camp Laser CR

    Sterling Nano rope, Camp Laser CR with HMS Nitro through the No-Twist belay loop, Sterling Hollow Block, Camp HMS Compact, Nut Tool, Camp OVO, several Camp Photon wire gate carabiners

  • Wire Carabiners – Photon wire straight gate. 1 per cam, color coded: These are my go-to wire carabiner. They are on all my cams, most of my slings, and anywhere else I need a wire-gate carbineer. These carbineers are the lightest full size carabiners on the market. They have an extremely narrow nose profile. It is also a great carbineer for use with a Garda Hitch/ the alpine clutch, used in a hauling scenario. This sometimes happens when somebody hs trouble pulling a crux move, such as the roof moves on Journey Home or Maiden Voyage. They don’t need to be hauled far, but just need a boost through a tricky few moves.
  • Belay device – Piu 2. 1 per kit: This is a great all around belay device. It is less expensive than either the Black Diamond ATC Guide or Petzl Reverso 4. It is heavier than the Reveroso 4, but lighter than the BD ATC Guide. The top hole, (the hole used to clip to the anchor when in plaquette/guide mode), is oriented in a manner that allows for cleaner ropes when compared to the Black Diamond ACT Guide (which is oriented the other direction). The Piu2 can be slightly “clutchy” when belaying with fatter ropes. That being said, I tend to avoid fat ropes these days, especially on multi-pitch climbs. Fat ropes are heavier, bulkier, and tire out the belayer & climber more due to added weight and friction.
  • Extra Belay Device – OVO: 1 per kit: The Ovo is the choice when belaying up a second. It has larger vertical slots than the Piu2, Reverso 4, or BD ATC Guide. This provides an easier pull and lessons the strain on my elbows. Many climbers end up with tendentious in their elbows due to pulling ropes with high friction through a plaquette or guide style device.
quad in action

The Camp 240 Dyneema sling clipped to two bolts with Photon non-lockers (a narrow nose profile carabiner). This is set up with the Cam OVO clipped with a Photon locker and an HMS Nitro as the rope carabiner. The guide is tethered in with a clove on the Sterling Nano rope to an HMS Nitro Carabiner. Using the quad anchor here with the 240 sling provides more freedom than a traditional pre-equalized anchor. This is a situational dependent anchor system and not always appropriate.

  • Rock Pro – Tri Cam evo, Dynema: 3-4 Tri-Cams per kit: These are classic and almost always come with me. I tend to take the three mid sizes, pink red, blue, brown. They are bomber, versatile, and light. What more could I ask for? Additionally, if we had to bail and leave some gear (there are no permanent anchors on any of the Black Canyon routes listed above) Tri-Cams tend to be more versatile than nuts alone. I prefer the dyneema over the normal nylon because they are lighter and I find they place better than the nylon.
  • Rock Pro – Nuts: A must on any multi-pitch climb. One set of the Camp Pro Nuts always goes with my kit. They tend to fit a similar range as other brands of nuts on the market with only seven, when other brands need nine.
Camp rack

Basic multi pitch rack. Black Diamond Camalots, Camp quick draws and slings, Red Chili Spirit VCR & La Sportive TC Pro shoes, basic First Aid Kit

  • Belay Gloves – Start Fingerless belay gloves: 1 pair per kit: What can I say? I like belying with belay gloves. Having a pair of gloves also gives me more control when short roping a client as well as more control when rappelling. Additionally, the Black Canyon is known for poison ivy. While I have never (knock on wood….) had an issue with it, I prefer to rappel the permanent fixed lines that the park puts in wearing gloves.
  • Helmet – Speed 2.0: 1 per kit: Super light, super comfortable CE rated helmet.   Some of the helmets on the market are centrally lighter, however I prefer a fully rated helmet. I could wear a blue napkin on my head and call it a helmet, but what good would it do? Given the nature of the Black Canyon (long routes, possible loose pegmatite rock, possible chos climbing) I prefer the Speed over lighter weight counter parts. In addition, when wearing a helmet all day, having something that is light weight strains my neck less and makes for a more comfortable day. Lastly, it is lower profile than many other models out there. If the wind picks up and I want to wear a hood, the Speed 2.0 fits under most hoods of wind jackets well.
  • Chalk bag: 1 per kit: Big routes require a chalk bag. Nothing super crazy or special about this.
  • Chalk ball. 1 per kit: Can’t have an empty chalk bag.
AMGA alpine exam

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Rock Guide Josh Kling wearing the Camp Speed 2.0, Black Diamond Alpine Start hoody, and Patagonia Ascension 25 pack. The Ascension packs down extremely small and is a great multi-pitching pack.

  • Quad length Dyneema sling – Express Dyneema 240. 2 per kit: This thing rocks. It is the perfect blend of light weight and small size. I have drifted from constructing anchors with cordoletes. While I still cary a chunk of cord, the 240 dyneema is my preferred method these days. It is lighter, packs smaller, has less stretch (IE, my master point stays where I want it even when weighted). I like the Camp version because it’s not quit as dental floss looking as some of the other manufactures versions out there. When clients get to anchor on a long multi-pitch route they want to see something that gives them the warm and fuzzies. Something confidence inspiring.   Just the slightly beefier prefer it over the skinnier versions some of the other seems to make clients more comfortable. In addition, the slightly larger size makes the knots easier to get undone than anything skinnier. See picture of quad attached.
  • Double length Dyneema sling – Express Dyneema 120: My go to if there are bolts. Smaller, faster, and more maneuverable. Just like the enemy migs….
AMGA alpine exam short pitching

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Rock Guide Josh Kling with the Camp Air CR harness, and a multitude of HMS Nitro carabiners and 120 & 240 Dyneema slings. The Camp 120 and 240 Dyneema are great for multi-pitch climbing. The 240 is ideal for virtually all anchor construction needs, whether bolted or gear.

  • Double Shoulder length nylon sling. Camp Express 120 CM: A plain old fashioned nylon double length runner is preferred for use as a personal tether given the properties of nylon VS dyneema. Nylon is more dynamic and therefore preferred when it is the main attachment point between the climber and the rope. The double length size works perfectly for rappel tethers.
  • Single Length Dyneema Slings – Mach Express 60: 10 per kit. I tend to rack my cams, nuts, and Tri-Cams on my harness with slings over my shoulder. I pull the Nano 22 off all but four slings and just leave the Photon. Since all my cams are racked and color coded with Photons I do not need the extra carabiners. However, I do need full “draws” for the nuts and Tri-Cams. 
Version 3

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Rock Guide Josh Kling during his AMGA alpine exam.

  • Quick Draws – Photon Mixed Express KS. 4 per kit: I like to have several quick draws on my when multi-pitch climbing. They are great for extending gear, and if there are bolts or some sort of bolt ladder, the nylon dogbone is easier for my second climber to grab than a dyneema alpine draw. The clipping action of the Photon goes without saying.AMGA Assistant Rock Guide & Apprentice Alpine Guide Gary Newmeyer standing on the top of the Black Canyon classic, Russian Arete (grade IV, 5.9+, 1,800 ft) in his Camp Speed 2.0 helmet and Camp Laser CR harness.
  • Prussic loop – Sterling Hollow Block:I’m typically not a fan of pre-swen slings, but the Sterling Hollow Block curshes. This little sling is awesome for my conditional belay or “third hand” when rappelling and the perfect size for hauling.
  • SLCDs (Cams) – Black Diamond Camalots: There are a multitude of companies on the marklet that make SLCD’s. I’m still a fan of the Black Diamond Camalots. They seem to the be the most universally used, which means the easiest to swap back and forth between leaders. I rack color coded and individually on the Photon carabiners.
    • 1 x green C3
    • 1 x red C3
    • 2 x .3 Camalot
    • 2 x .4 Camalot
    • 2 x .5 Camalot
    • 2 x .75 Camalot
    • 2 x 1 Camalot
    • 3 x 2 Camalot
    • 2 x 3 Camalot
    • 1 x 4 Camalot
    • 1 x 5 Camalot or #3 Big Bro
  • Nut tool: A must have for any multi-pitch climb. Great for cleaning stuck gear, cleaning cracks prior to placing gear, and for opening beers post climb.
AMGA alpine exam short pitching 2

The Camp 120 Dyneema sling & 240 Dyneema sling (white and silver) visible on Josh’s right hip. These slings pack smaller than cordelettes will and are less of a dingle berry when hanging on a harness.

  • Pack – Patagonia Ascension 25: 1 per kit: This is a great multi pitch pack for full days. It can easily fit everything inside on the approach. I am not a fan of dangling climbing shoes off my harness for the approach. I can think of multiple occasions where folks get to the bottom of a climb in the Black Canyon only to see that something critical (like climbing shoes) has fallen off a harness. If this were anywhere else like Castleton Tower in Castle Valley or Ancient Art in the Fisher Towers, one could just turn around and go back to the car. Unfortunately, with the Black Canyon your exit strategy is climbing the route out. You need all the gear to be with you when you get to the bottom. I know other folks who hike to the bottom of the Black Canyon in their climbing shoes. I’m not a facn of that either. I also like how tiny the pack can get once I pull out all the gear. The lack of zippers means less to break or blow out.
AMGA alpine exam Patagonia Ascension 25

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Certified Rock Guide Josh Kling during his AMGA alpine exam, pitches up on Washington Pass, Washing.

  • Climbing Shoes – Red Chili Spirit VCR or La Sportiva TC Pro: For all day climbing I need all day comfort. Both of these shoes climb at a high level, yet are still comfortable. A shoe only performs well if you are willing to wear it. Super tight sport shoes should stay home when you head to the Black Canyon. The TC Pro covers my ankle bone which as awesome when jamming my foot into cracks all day.
  • Headlamp – Black Diamond Spot: Good all use light weight headlamp that can be locked in the off position. That way it doesn’t turn on in my pack. I want a light weight headlamp that can still give me some ample light in case we end up climing in the dark. At 200 lumens, the Spot works great.
Black Canyon Russian Arete summit

Edward Epp sitting atop the Russian Arete (Grade IV, 5.9+ 1,800 ft) in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The Sterling Nano 9.0 x 60 M is the ideal rope for long multi-pitch climbs.

  • ROPE Sterling Nano 9.0 Bi-color 60 M: 1 per kit: Once you go bi-color, you’ll never go back. They rock. The Sterling Nano 9.0 is no exception. Ropes tend to be like cars. Ford VS Dodge? Toyota VS Honda? Everybody has their opinion. IMO, Sterling ropes handle better and are less cable like than many other brands on the market. They are supple, feed awesomely through belay devices, and with the 9.0 is lower bulk and weight while still being a full rated rope. I also don’t like to go under 9.0 for multi-pitch climbing. While there are certainly ropes that are skinner, on a long multi-pitch climb I prefer something 9.0 – 9.2. That seems to be the sweat spot for durability and weight. While some folks like a 70 M rope in order to link pitches, I prefer a 60. Lengthening pitches makes communication between belays that much more difficult. This can be a problem somewhere like the Black Canyon where the river is raging below you. A longer rope also is more difficult to deal with at belays, heavier, and can lead to more rope drag issues while leading. Most routes in the Black are very doable with standard 60 m pitches and a 60 m rope. Version 3
  • First Aid Kit: 1 per kit: This is an entirely other topic. Come take a wilderness medical course from one of our Paramedic or EMT instructors. If the lead climber takes a fall and hits his/ her head you need to know the seriousness of the situation. Could you determine the difference between a critical head injury with increased intracranial pressure (ICP) that requires an urgent evac and just a bump on the nogen? Could you stop a critical life threatening bleed? Could you tell if the bleed was in a critical location? If you are climbing anything without a single pitch gravity fed rescue solution, let’s hope you can determine the difference.
  • Emergency Communication Device:  This varies, but typically I cary a Spot Global Phone as well as a Yaesu VX-7R VHF radio. I need to be able to call the Black Canyon emergency services by sat phone and then communicate with them via radio. Again, if something critical happened half way up a route in the Black Canyon, even just a small fall that resulted in a blown out knee where climbing was no longer possible, how would you communicate with the climbing rangers and rescue services? Just yelling is not an acceptable answer commercially, or privately (IMO).
  • Food & Water: Have enough for the day. The North Rim routes, where the bulk of the popular climbing is can get very hot in the summer. I tend to carry 2 liters of water for the day as well s hydrating heavily before the climb. Bonking 4 pitches up the Russian Arête because I didn’t bring enough food and water don’t work. That being said, I do not like to bring much more than two liters of water. A liter weighs in at over 2lbs. I find that bringing more water just weighs me down, making me need to drink more. Two liters suffices. The MSR Two Liter Dromlite works great. It is durable but still packs down tiny. For food, I bring comfort food. I this tends to be a mix of bars, a sandwich, and some candy. Haribo Gold-Bears seem to be really good sending food…
  • iPhone: This is my camera, notebook, guidebook, and toons all in one. I download the Mountain Project route beta and pictures prior to the climb. A great light weight piece of gear that is super versatile. Make sure to get the LifeProof case for it though. I like the Apple Airdrop to share photos taken with my clients immediately when back at camp. No more emailing. If I have the opportunity to take a picture of the climb prior to getting started, IE like the Russian Arête is visible from the North Rim camp ground, I do that. It becomes my own little topo route and gives me the most up to-to-date beta.
  • Wind Shirt: 1 per kit: Some sort super light wind shirt/ jacket. This is likely going to stay in the bottom of my pack for the majority of the day. Therefor I want it to be low bulk, light weight, and free of bells and whistles. I don’t need extra pockets or zippers. The Camp Magic jacket fits this category. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody also fits into this category well.

Posted by: Josh Kling –

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide, & IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide


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