Petzl Irvis Hybrid Crampon Review

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Running out the rope between spike belays guiding Breche Tacul. Photo Sam Burrell

Petzl’s dedicated ski mountaineering crampons series have been around a couple of years now which is more than long enough to test new technology and its durability. Petzl took a new approach connecting the steel front and aluminium rear sections of the crampon with dyneema rope or Cord-Tec in Petzl speak. This not only reduces weight but its main advantage lies in the ability to fold the crampons in half and reduce the overall pack size. Getting everything to pack down smaller is the holy grail and means my 27-32 litre pack works for everything from technical Chamonix day hits to 6 days hut to jut touring through the Alps. A compact pack brings its centre of gravity close to my back. The closer its centre of gravity is to my own reduces the lever on my core muscles and helps me ski faster, longer, better.

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Compact Pack Size. Photo Petzl

The combinqtion of steel toe piece and lightweight heal piece is perfect for ski mountaineering where you might be climbing up a alpine face and encounter some hard black ice or need to negotiate some sections of rock scrambling. The spec weight is 570 g with the anti-snow plates fitted. They come with both a wire and universal front bail so fit boots in the B2 & B3 categories.

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Col de la Verte. Photo Koen Bakers

Out of the box I set my crampons up on my boots and went out ski touring in Arolla. We ended up climbing along a prolonged rocky ridge and after a while I noticed the toe piece had a tendency to yaw or skew to the side – something a traditional crampon can’t do due to the torsional rigidity of the bar. I then realised the dyneema had ‘bedded in’ to its working length and I just needed to adjust the tension up. You can do this at home with the crampons fresh out the box, putting them on and off the boot and tensioning using the dyneema hooks at first then micro adjusting by moving the heal bail a notch further forward.

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Ross Hewitt Climbing Col de la Verte. Photo Drew Tabke

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Ross Hewitt Skiing Col de la Verte. Photo Drew Tabke

So I’ve used these on everything from climbing the 700 m 50/55 degree Col de la Verte ice face, guiding Dent Blanche and the Matterhorn or climbing fast and light alpine routes like the Peigne, Pelerins, Deux Angle, Plan, Midi traverse. They are utterly brilliant and the dyneema stands up to all the abuse you can throw at it, being extremely abrasion resistant. After 2 years with around 400 days on the mountain, the aluminium heal has worn more than the dyneema so there are no worries about how robust these crampons are. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the steel and only recently sharpened them for the first time in preparation for skiing the North face of the Aiguille du Plan. In winter I used them on ski boots with the wire and in summer on the new fast and light Scarpa Ribelles with the universal bail. They are light enough so I only take the full aluminium Leopard crampons if I know I’m only going to travel over snow.

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Traversing Peigne, Pelerins, Deux Angles, Plan, Midi. Photo Andrew Wexler

Unlike most crampons which are asymmetric, these crampons are identical except for the position on the buckle which would conventionally be on the outside of your foot. However, for steep skiing I put this on the inside as the body doesn’t not bend that well to do up crampon straps on the outside while hanging onto steep faces!

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Ross Hewitt Guiding Dent Blanche. Photo Tim Neill

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Gear for glacier approaches to rock routes at Envers des Aiguilles

 

My 5 Favourite Places to Ski in the World – part 2 Patagonia and Chile

In the second week of this five part series we visit some of the finest spots of Patagonia and Chile.

This trip was ten years in the coming for me. Getting the right person, at the right time in the right place proved difficult. I was working on a large engineering project in Brazil that summer and travelled from there to meet Michelle in Bariloche. From there we followed the snow along with many other fellow skiers who we crossed paths with several times in both Argentina and Chile.

The light, wind, ruggedness, red wine, steaks, monkey puzzles and friendly people made this trip one that will guarantee I go back.  Everyone should ski a volcano at some point in their life and the fantastic Frey Refugio comes with its own reputation as a freeride destination.

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Michelle in the vapours and walking between the cauliflowers on Llaima volcano

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Dropping into another sweet run above the Frey hut amongst the granite spires of Patganonia with Bariloche’s lake Rio Negra in the distance

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The volcano Llaima and the beautiful characteristic Monley Puzzle or Auracaria trees

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Skiing on Llaima with moody afternoon light

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Wall art in Bariloche

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Tree warmers?

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Dropping off the back of Cerro Catedral en route to the Frey

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Ross enjoying a fast run into Frey

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Wall art in Pucon

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Quietly contented and very shy

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Villarica and plumes of volcanic vapours

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Summit selfie shot on Villarica

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Michelle on Villarica with an abundance of riming near the crater rim

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Good low angled skiing lower on Villarica with the deep contrast of the volcanic landscape

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Michelle on Llaima volcano and the surrounding landscape

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The Frey hut at sunset with its stunning backdrop

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The Frey hut is nestled below the rock spires with access to a group of valleys providing different skiing options. Its also low enough to escape the worst Patagonian wind which destroys the snow for skiing.

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Ross Hewitt on a line directly above the hut

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Cosy nights at the Frey for enjoying the pizza and wine

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Loads of variety between open slopes, faces and couloirs. We found the best snow at Frey

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Matt Livingstone shredding

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Me shredding

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The road to the Argentinian – Chilean border and the 3700 m volcan Lanin

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Lanin offers 2000 m of vert and has a 1000 m cosmique like couloir from the summit which we were aiming for

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The military concrete hut at 2800 m provides shelter for the night en route up the mountain splitting the climb into 2 days.

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We spent the night with fellow travellers Brodie Leven and Adam Clark who had a faulty gas cylinder and were happy to have our stove to use.  Michelle and myself had travelled to South America without sleeping bags and the ones we borrowed in San Martin were bigger that our packs and pretty cold.

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Dawn hit Lanin as we leave the hut

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Michelle just below the summit

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The stunning contrast between snowcapped peaks and the lakes

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Michelle and myself on the summit above the volcanic and lake district landscape of Chile

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Ross Hewitt skiing the north east couloir of Lanin

Home Sweet Home

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After nearly six months away from home this year its great to finally be home, wake up in the same bed, catch up with friends and enjoy the Fall in the Alps in the autumn. I love this time of year with the valley being quiet, temperatures better for riding, near perfect friction on the rock, early snows of the winter, first turns…the hardest thing can be deciding what to do! Its especially sweet that he hard work in Wales this summer paid off and past the British Mountains Guides’ summer rock test and will be going to Scotland for the winter test next. At the start of summer I had a bad bike crash when I dropped the front end off a jump a piled my neck into the ground.  There was a lot of heavy crunching in my back and while I spat out bits of broken teeth, my back muscles went into hard spasm stopping me from getting much air in my lungs. It was a pretty scary experience and with my back feeling weird I made a beeline for the emergency room. The doctor was pretty nonchalant about it, monitored my blood pressure for a few hours and released me armed with a paracetamol and the advice that I might be a little sore in the morning. Having played rugby and raced bike downhill for years I’m not unused to taking hard knocks but this was a new level.  A week of not being able to sleep and 3 weeks of complete inactivity had me thinking it was unlikely I’d get into shape for the guides exam. 3 months later and I was starting to move a bit better and not feel like I’d been hit in the back with a sledge hammer, but for a while there were some major doubts about getting over this injury in time! A big thanks goes to Martin Chester who spent a day giving me some great tips during my final preparation for the test. He’s a IFMGA mountain guide and a fantastic performance coach and all round nice guy so check him out at: martinchester.co.uk  Also a big thanks to John Whittaker for being the perfect mock client – hope to see you for some Scottish Winter action!

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Coaching how to fist jam. Photo Martin Chester

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Me leading Shadow Wall. Photo Martin Chester

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John Whittaker seconding. Photo Martin Chester

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Me on Western Rib, Dinas Mot. Photo Martin Chester

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Placing gear on The Chain, a quality crack pitch, Dinas Mot. Photo Martin Chester

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On The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

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John Whittaker belaying me on The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

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John getting the finger locks on The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

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John on the jugs. Photo Martin Chester

 

The following biking photos are from Merlet, my home run.

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And Gietroz with Enrico Mosetti and Beatrice Michelotti (photo credits)

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Then to the Gabarrou route on the triangle with Phil Brugger who is over from Innsbruck to train in the high mountain. Its ultra dry and the crux would be way easier in rock shoes but feels like M6+ right now. Short and sharp.

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And skiing on the normal route of Mont Blanc du Tacul.

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Finally a couple of scenic shots and Michelle at Elevation!

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A Photo Essay- 1st Descents Down Under

With it starting to feel autumnal here in North Wales and seeing all the ski porn flooding in from the southern hemisphere, I’ve started to dream about skiing again and am looking forward to some sensual turns in the powder. Here is a short photo essay about trip Tom Grant and myself did last October to New Zealand’s Southern Alps.  We skied 18 days out of a 25 day trip, losing 2 days to lost bags and 1 to a blown camper van engine. The highlights were skiing on the east face of Mt Cook and first descents on Elie de Beaumont’s west face and Darwin’s south face.

A big thanks to Evan and Mandy Cameron, Mel Cash & Stefan Austin, Shane Orchard, Cam Mulvey and Beau Fredlund for your hospitality, beta and good times.

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Mont Oreb North Face

Its been a while since I have skied on this face and last time I went we decided to climb it first and got a bit lost 2/3 of the way up trying to find the ‘exposed traverse’ to the summit ridge. This time Tom and myself wanted to ski top down onsite to avoid wading up chest deep pow. The cornice is similar to the one on Mt Buet and its tough to see into the face from above but eventually we committed to a traverse going in on the rope to test the snow stability.  The anchors are sparse a the top and the best I could manage was a no. 1 camelot and 2 ski anchors. Once Tom had found the snow was perfect we packed the ropes and got on with skiing this fantastic face.

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Pointe D’Orny

The autumn and pre Christmas period was a busy one for me with our trip to New Zealand, high pressure in the Alps and perfect stable snow conditions for exploring. That meant I only had a couple of rest days per month and by the end of the year I touched 180 ski days – hence the reason why my blog was somewhat neglected due to the ease of posting to instagram and facebook!

The day after the PLUM party Vivian Bruchez, Giulia Monego and Dave Searler headed to Pointe d”Orny to ski one of the couloirs. After climbing the couloir we sat and ate lunch in while soaking up the sun on the plateau and taking in the views of the Chardonnet and surrounding peaks. Once again we found a mixture of good cold snow varying from powder to chalk.

Preseason Powder Hunting

With the first snowfall of the season kicking things off in mid November its been a crazy busy period searching for powder stashes. The stable snow conditions have allowed me to go and explore some new areas and revisit some that were long forgotten years ago. The biggest challenge has been finding motivated partners and I’ve already racked up 50K vertical touring metres this autumn and 162 ski days for the year. Luckily I have a few trusted partners available on different days so I’m not always on my own. The highlight was finding 3 couloirs that don’t feature in any of my guidebooks which were filled with primo pow. I’ve also spotted a couple of cool lines which should be good to go once we get some more snow.
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