I have organized, and run in, 25 back-country Ultra's in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, anywhere from 26-65 miles. For years and years I have bitched and moaned about every "trail" shoe out there, spouting about how I would make a shoe if I had a company, about how they need this and that, all the while duct taping my current shoes back together in a field of talus. Well, last year I discovered the Raptor, and my dreams have come true. They grip like a climbing shoe, brake in loose dirt, lace up tight and pull your lateral foot into the center of the shoe so it doesn't roll off the edge when you are side-hilling through boulders for two miles. They are durable, have protection in all the right places, the uppers are soft and the position seems neutral to me. The flat laces lock together well, the tongues stay put, and the contoured heels have not broken down. In fact, I have purchased three additional pairs and placed them into storage, just in case Sportiva wants to screw with the formula. I can not say enough good things about this shoe. Next month I am trading out my current pair for another from the stash, just in time for the 25th year of the Ultra this July. Only downside I have - is that I'm not sponsored.
Why would anybody ski anything else but Hammerheads? I have had BD, Voile, and Karhus, but they all suck! The HHs are what everything else is measured by; the tension, the lateral stability, the forefoot power, the edge control, the on-hill adjustability and, if they ever create a fully releasable version - well my friend, it would be the convergence of everything great and beautiful in the universe. There would be rainbows, free tram rides, pit-deep pow, and brazen young ladies from adult films handing out beer at the bottom of each clean line. But until then, screw that NTN system, it's just a floppy acid-dropped cartridge changer on steroids, somewhere between a Bishop Bomber and a Hammerhead. I have had Hammerheads on four different skis, with Scarpa T1s, and it will take something extraordinary for me to switch back. Until then I will stay in the 5th hole and keep up on my monthly health insurance premiums - just in case my knee blows.
It looks like a Bibler I-Tent but weighs half as much, has fewer stake out points, has a more delicate feel, is half as expensive, and is probably just as good for most outings. Don't get me wrong, it is probably the perfect backpacking tent for the four season gram-aholic trekker, but if you're looking for a burly he-man alpine/expedition tent - this isn't it! The Bibler I-Tent will withstand three feet of snow a night and the equivalent gale-force wind of a C-130 at take-off, but this little waif of silky fabric is just that - a silky waif. After a few nights in a windy canyon near the Escalante River, the tiny Velcro patches that hold the poles inside the tent had eroded away at the gossamer fabric, rendering it into mere mosquito netting in two places. BD, however, quickly replaced the tent for me. The second model had slightly rounded corners on the Velcro. But it is again wearing away at the fabric. I wonder if the guys at BD have looked inside the Bibler to see that they do not use Velcro, but little twisty-tie sort of things instead. Don't they work at the same place now? Am I the only one that camps in the wind? Other than that, the tent is awesome, absolutely watertight floor (I have watched small streams flow under my tent without a drop of water inside), and it packs so small that you could almost stuff it in your pocket - almost. I take it out all the time. My only regret is the lack of an attached vestibule - I would rather sleep with my girlfriend than all of my climbing gear.
I miss the old green leather Trangos of the past. I had to finally give mine up when they failed at the soles somewhere in Nepal, but it took ten years of hard use to accomplish this. I replaced them with the new red Trango S EVO GTX (what the hell is with that name - have the guys in Italy completely lost their minds? Should they come up out of the boot cobbler's dungeon and get some fresh air?) and, I have to say, that I love them! They are super light (a future drawback that I will have to pay for I'm sure), have good support, and just fit like a glove. I am, and always will be, a Sportiva man. Whatever last they build shoes on seems to be the perfect fit for my hideously deformed foot and toes. But I know two other people that have them, taken them to the Alps and Tetons, and are also in love with them. I once wore them on a late fall climb up the Kautz headwall on Rainier, and other than cursing the lack of rigid crampons, they performed well - even with the foot of snow, the roaring wind, the whiteout, the descent into the abyss, becoming lost on the Nisqually Glacier, and the cold and rain - they did well. I can, however, see wear in them that is quite accelerated when compared to a full leather boot. I would guess that with heavy use these will see half the years of my old green Trangos, but they are so light.
So, I wanted something as warm as the traditional Sorrels, not as high cut as a mukluk, and without that industrial Canadian timber harvester look. I just got finished wearing these boots for 4 days in the sub-freezing, snowing, raining, red dirt hell that is the Southern Utah desert in winter - and my feet were as warm as if they were cradled in my girlfriend's cleavage. I loved the softer sole, as it didn't collect the mud in the treads that the regular meat-grinder pacs do. It was a delight not to have to drag twelve pounds of sticky red mud with each step, stop every five minutes to clean out the tread with a stick, and generally swear much more than usual.
I would recommend these to anyone looking for a non-traditional hipster winter casual boot that didn't need to occasionally strap on a crampon, wade through hip deep pow, or kick a wounded badger.
Alright, I don't own a brand new model; in fact, I have had my Alpha SV since 1999. It has been up peaks in Nepal three times, shipwrecked on an island in the Strait of Magellen in Patagonia, to Yosemite, Zion, Rainer, Hood, and all over the United States, climbing and hiking and getting abused. It has at least 400 ski days on it and has been stuffed and un-stuffed an incalculable number of times. The zippers are still fine and functional. All of the moving parts are fine and functional. The DWR finish has been touched up about once a year with that washing machine stuff that is so expensive, but it is still super waterproof. I have never owned a piece of clothing that was so tightly constructed - it is what converted me to Arcteryx, and what keeps me coming back. It is pricey, but I bought it nine years ago! If I had gone with a lesser brand I might have had to replace it twice by now. Do yourself a favor...work an extra shift or two, sell some plasma, forgo buying that boxed set of Madonna CDs -- buy this jacket!
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