ALPINISM 2014

    Words: Andy Anderson

    Alpinism is a pursuit that is both highly inclusive—requiring a vast knowledge and competency across a variety of terrain, and highly exclusive—where taking the absolute minimum of equipment is often an integral part of style and success. For decades, the golden granite spires of Argentine Patagonia have served as a sort of alpine climbing laboratory, where the style is endlessly practiced, studied and refined.

    The Fitz Roy massif emerges briefly from the clouds.
    Photo: Andy Mann


    Known for its iconic granite towers and infamous for its long periods of extremely hostile weather, the Chaltén Massif magnetically draws climbers from around the world during the austral summer months. While bouldering, eating and socializing around town fill much of the long, stormy stretches, everything is scheduled around the next weather window and the time in the mountains that it will afford.

    Stay tuned to Black Diamond Experience for an extended feature version of The Window.

    Traversing the glacier toward Paso Superior.
    Photo: Keith Ladzinski


    Cautioned by stories of unfathomable wind and ferocious storms, yet lured by photos of singular, awe-inspiring summits, we all came willing to wait. Which is good, because after a handful of legendary seasons, the weather has been properly shitty, and wait we do. But we’ve trained, we’ve endlessly pored over books and topos, we’ve fussed over gear. We’ve worked to make this happen. Whether it’s one day of good weather or a month for a trip, when you have the chance you need to take it. None of us were about to pass this one up.

    Agujas De l’S, St. Exupéry, Rafael Juarez and Poincenot.
    Photo: Andy Mann


    Deployment Hoody - Spring 2014

    The essential comfort layer for around-town strolls and beta-swapping sessions at the empanada shop, the Deployment Hoody is made from a super-soft merino wool blend.

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    There are likely more amateur meteorologists within El Chaltén’s town limits than any other place on Earth. Getting the daily download via snail-speed Internet.
    Photo: Keith Ladzinski


    What to bring, what to leave behind? The meticulous process of fitting the most utility into the least amount of weight and volume consumes the day before departure. Crampons and tools in, all but one pair of rock shoes out. Can we share a puffy jacket? Ditch the #3. With only 24 hours of good weather forecasted, there isn’t time to carry anything extra—if we don’t have it, we won’t need it.

    Debating the intersection of light-and-fast and light duty.
    Photo: Keith Ladzinski

  • B.D.V. PANTS


    One pair of pants that can hike big loads out to the Torre Valley, frontpoint up the neve approach and jam golden splitters to the summit, the B.D.V. Pants are burly, do-it-all alpine pants built with Schoeller® softshell fabric.

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    It’s a long walk to get cold and scared. Humping big loads up the Fitz Roy Trail.
    Photo: Keith Ladzinski



    A highly packable, ultralight softshell that’s both durable and weather resistant, the Alpine Start Hoody is a primo outer layer for blustery forays into the mountains.

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    Luke Holloway savors a little trailside hydration courtesy of the crystal clear Rio Blanco.
    Photo: Keith Ladzinski



    A breathable insulating midlayer for moving fast in the Torres or a lightweight belay jacket for sunny cragging days around town—the Access Hybrid LT Hoody is as versatile as it is packable.

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    Basecamp strategy meeting on the rocky shores of Lago de los Tres.
    Photo: Andy Mann


    Speed 30 Pack

    Supportive and comfortable on the approach, yet fully strippable for pared-down, on-route performance, the Speed 30 Pack is built for steep, technical objectives in all conditions.

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    Rope and rack, in the pack.
    Photo: Andy Mann


    Though the mountains are still shrouded in clouds, we know our chance is coming. Bivied near the edge of the glacier, we’ve trimmed our huge basecamp loads down to small, essentials-only daypacks. It’s the height of the austral summer, but I’m wearing all five of my layers, shivering and wishing the hissing stove would hurry the hell up.

    Sam Piper contemplates a hot drink before a very cold day.
    Photo: Andy Mann


    Storm Headlamp

    With 160 lumens of power, the fully waterproof Storm is built for the alpine start and the all-night rappels that bookend a perfect day in the Chaltén massif.

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    Final systems check before initiating launch sequence.
    Photo: Andy Mann


    As the sun tears open the eastern sky above the endless Patagonian pampas, we know why we’ve come and why we’ve waited. The double-fall-line snow ramps that slash across Aguja Poincenot are bathed in orange, early-morning alpenglow, and the three of us move in unison, quickly simul-climbing the lower third of the route.

    Sunrise at the base of Aguja Poincenot.
    Photo: Sam Piper


    Vapor Helmet

    A low-profile, ultralight helmet that cuts grams from your kit without sacrificing protection, the Vapor has a comfortable, “barely there” fit with a Kevlar- and carbon-infused construction.

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    Trying to ignore the 2,000-foot wall lurking below, Luke Holloway traverses steep snow below Aguja Poincenot.
    Photo: Andy Anderson


    Cobra Ice Tool

    From brittle alpine ice to one-swing neve slopes, scratchy mixed encounters and pounding pins on the descent, the Cobra is the ultimate all-purpose alpine tool with an incredibly strong, shock-absorbing carbon-fiber shaft.
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    Looking out at the vast Patagonian Andes provides a brief respite from staring up at steep rock and ice.
    Photo: Andy Anderson


    Having dealt with the crux mixed pitch, we’re halfway up with only some meat-and-potatoes rock climbing to the top. But coming around the south side of the mountain, we trade warm sunshine for bone-chilling shade, 50-mph winds and verglas-coated everything. Cams stop retracting. Ropes turn to cable. Jesus, it’s cold. Despite bluebird skies, the fierce Patagonian wind is in full force, and we gaze upward at a visible jetstream of rime blasting hundreds of meters off the summit. It’s time to go down.

    “I think I see our tent.” Turn-around time on Poincenot.
    Photo: Andy Anderson


    Firstlight Tent

    A streamlined storm shelter for two (three if you’re desperate), the Firstlight is the tent of choice for high camps and exposed bivies thanks to its compact footprint and lightweight design.

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    Back on dry land, Andy Anderson cares for his collection of expensive Italian leather shoes.
    Photo: Keith Ladzinski


    B.D.V. Jacket - Spring 2014

    A super-durable softshell layer built to withstand grinder offwidths, frigid gusts and light precip, the B.D.V. Jacket is a second skin for the four-season alpinist.

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    Carne, jamon y queso or pollo? Serious decision-making continues long after hiking out of the mountains.
    Photo: Andy Mann


    Back in town, the sun still shines, but clouds have already engulfed the mountains as the next storm rolls in off the ice cap. We pass litros of Quilmes beer, commiserating about this season’s weather and trying to remain optimistic. Our Argentine friend Leo smirks and lets out a laugh through his scrappy goatee as we swig from the bottle. “This is Patagonia, no?”

    The tribe celebrating successes and contemplating near misses. 
    Photo: Andy Mann


    To see the rest of the Spring 2014 collection, check out the Apparel, Climbing and Hiking/Trekking sections of the Black Diamond website, and sign up for our HotWire newsletter for the latest gear, trip reports and special offers from Black Diamond Equipment.

    An Andean condor glides past a freshly rimed Cerro Fitz Roy.
    Photo: Keith Ladzinski

  • Foreign climbing excursions and limited pack space require a familiar, comfortable and highly versatile layer that covers all your active and casual needs. The Black Diamond Deployment Hoody is our go-to piece for life on the move. Built with a premium blended merino fabric and classic full-zip design, the Deployment handles transit snafus, morning crag approaches and urban rest days with ease.
    $199.00 $119.40 USD
    4.7/5 (10)

  • From single-push blitzes in the central Alaska Range to big Sierra ridge traverses, the Black Diamond Speed 30 is our streamlined, strippable climbing pack optimized for alpine-style ascents on rock or ice. Outfitted with our reACTIV suspension system and a removable hipbelt, lid and framesheet, the Speed offers a comfortable yet minimalist carry for your on-route essentials. Ice-tool attachments, a tuck-away rope strap and ladder-lock crampon straps secure all your technical gear on the approach.
    $149.95 USD
    4.8/5 (11)

  • Minimal bivy gear, skeleton rack, skinny rope—the only thing missing from your kit is the Black Diamond Speed 40. Our strippable, streamlined alpine pack ideal for fast-paced ice and rock missions, the Speed features our reACTIV suspension system and a removable hipbelt, lid and framesheet for a comfortable yet minimalist carry for your on-route essentials. Ice-tool attachments, a tuck-away rope strap and ladder-lock crampon straps secure all your technical gear on the approach.
    $169.95 USD
    4.3/5 (8)

  • Whether you're jamming splitter alpine granite in the Bugaboos, swinging tools outside North Conway or kicking up pre-dawn approach slopes in the Greater Ranges, the Black Diamond B.D.V. Pants are built and equipped for the full spectrum of mountain terrain. The B.D.V.'s internal ladder-lock waist sits flat under your harness, and the climbing-specific gusset and articulated knees offer total freedom of movement for kicking and high-stepping. The pants' Schoeller stretch-woven softshell fabric also features NanoSphere Technology for top-notch resistance against water, oil and dirt.
    $189.00 USD
    4.5/5 (26)

  • Equipped with a fully waterproof construction and an incredibly bright 160 lumens, the Black Diamond Storm is our powerful, all-conditions headlamp. Now featuring our PowerTap Technology, the Storm allows for quick, on-the-fly brightness adjustment with just a finger tap to the side of its touch-sensitive housing. The Storm features a bright, precise beam for after-dark route-finding, as well as proximity, strobe, dimming and red night vision modes to accommodate any lighting needs. An intuitive lock mode also keeps the light from accidentally turning on when stored in your pack or pocket.
    $49.95 USD
    4.6/5 (66)

  • Providing ultralight, low-profile protection, unparalleled ventilation and a secure and super-comfortable fit, the Black Diamond Vapor helmet is a go-anywhere cragging lid that proves helmets aren't just for multi-pitch trad climbs and big alpine faces. We engineered a sheet of Kevlar and a series of carbon rods in between co-molded EPS foam and a polycarbonate shell to keep the weight at a minimum while keeping you protected. The Vapor's ratcheting suspension tucks into the helmet for compact storage in your pack or haul bag, and removable headlamp clips secure your light on pre-dawn starts or when rapping after dark.
    $139.95 USD
    5.0/5 (34)

  • The ultimate carbon fiber tool for leashless mixed, ice and alpine climbing, the Black Diamond Cobra provides unparalleled performance from the crags to the Karakoram. The Cobra features a lightweight shaft that provides precise, technical swings and offers the most clearance of any of our tools-all without sacrificing balance or axis of rotation.
    $339.95 USD
    5.0/5 (14)

  • A compact two-person, four-season tent built for weight-conscious climbers, the Black Diamond Firstlight is based on the I-Tent’s expedition-specific design with steep walls and a simple floor shape to optimize living space and increase headroom. For durability, all seams are double sewn and the stress points are reinforced. With two equal length DAC Featherlite poles that fit inside the tent with hook-and-loop wraps, it’s easy to set up—even from inside. For cross ventilation, both the small rear window and the door are covered with no-see-um mesh. The canopy is contructed with water resistant, breathable NanoShield fabric. For interior organization, the Firstlight has two interior mesh pockets.
    $369.95 USD
    4.4/5 (11)