Out of the Box – Petzl RAD System and IRVIS Crampons


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 29, 2016      
Petzl RAD System and Irvis crampons.

Petzl RAD System and Irvis crampons.

As spring rolls around, so do spring time ambitions for ski touring. With new missions comes new and different gear to test here at WildSnow. A couple of friends and I are heading up to the Coast Range of British Columbia for a ski traverse of a classic ice field. More on that later, for now here is a quick look at some Petzl ski mountaineering accouterments.

First off, the Petzl Irvis crampons seem like a good choice for an extended ice field traverse with the potential for a lot of peak bagging and variable terrain. Although they are steel, a thinner frame helps trim weight without sacrificing durability of an aluminum crampon. I’ll be using the Irvis Leverlock Universel FIL version (wire toe bail) with my Dynafit TLT6 hardboot setup.

Dynafit TLT6 in Petzl Irvis crampon.

Dynafit TLT6 in Petzl Irvis crampon.

Petzl Irvis crampon heel attachment.

Petzl Irvis crampon heel attachment.

Irvis comes with two toe pieces.  The plastic one shown here is for boots without front rims.

Irvis Leverlock Universal comes with two toe bail options. The plastic one shown here is for boots without front rims.

Irvis is available in two versions.

Irvis crampons are available in two versions: Flexlock (upper left) or Leverlock Universal (lower). The Leverlock Universal with the wire toe bail (lower right) works well with ski boots with a plastic toe rim.

Another piece of Petzl gear that will likely be accompanying me is the new RAD System. The RAD acronym stands for Rescue And Descent, and the kit is designed as a “compact ultra-light kit” for skiers traveling in crevassed terrain, or descending short steps of rock and ice.

This system has intrigued me since I first saw it as a kit last year at the Winter OR Show. Although seemingly nothing new about the individual components of the kit, the relative simplicity of the system seems like it could be a viable tool for the right terrain.

The RAD system includes a super low-stretch 6mm cord that is 30 meters in length (weighs 660g), 3 lightweight locking carabiners, 1 MICRO TRAXION pulley-ascender, 1 TIBLOC ascender, and a Dyneema sling for an anchor.

We’ll see how practical the kit is for travel through crevassed terrain and technical descents, and of course hope that we won’t have to put it to the test in an emergency situation.

WildSnow tech note: Static rope (cord) is dangerous. Normal climbing rope stretches under load, thus limiting the amount of force placed on anchors or your body during events such as falls or even rapid stops during rappels. “Static” low stretch cordage should only be used for specific situations and with expert knowledge of limits and dangers. We use such cord ourselves and are aware that cord such as 5mm Kevlar is used worldwide by alpinists seeking the ultimate in weight savings. Nonetheless, we have mixed feelings about the usefulness of this and keep going back to the fact that something along the lines of 8 mm dynamic “glacier” rope can be a much safer and more versatile choice with a small weight penalty. Example, check out this Beal Rando Glacier rope.

Petzl RAD System complete with a convenient carrying pouch.

Petzl RAD System complete with a convenient carrying pouch.

Petzl Cartoons – can you figure what to do and not to do?

Petzl cartoons – can you figure what to do and not to do?

Specs, Petzl Irvis Leverlock Universal Crampons
Weight per crampon with wire toe bail (Leverlock Universal FIL version): 368g
Weight per crampon with plastic toe bail (Leverlock Universal FILFLEX version): 384g
Number of points: 10
Fits boot sizes: 36-45
MSRP: $140

Specs, Petzl RAD System
30m of hyperstatic 6mm cord
3 carabiners
1 TIBLOC ascender
1 MICRO TRAXION pulley-ascender
1 Dyneema 120 cm sling
Storage bag
Weight: 1045g
MSRP: $400

Shop for Petzl crampons and RAD System.

Comments

31 Responses to “Out of the Box – Petzl RAD System and IRVIS Crampons”

  1. Voshnu Schist April 29th, 2016 8:27 am
  2. Shawtann April 29th, 2016 10:23 am

    How do you feel about the Bluewater Dynamic Prusik Cord as a substitute for protection? Seems like it could have a great use in skimo for protecting steep slides and for rapping…

  3. jamie may April 29th, 2016 10:53 am

    RAD is tested at 80kg?
    Interested on your thoughts using it, I think most users would be over that threshold with all their gear.

  4. Phil April 29th, 2016 11:29 am

    @voshnu: the Rad and Rescyou aren’t comparable. The Rescyou is a nice pulley system. A bit heavy but it simplifies hauling setup so it is good for some users. The RAD system is an ultralight glacier rope w traditional hardware for hauling/climbing out of a crevasse.

    I’m really drawn to the huge weight/volume saving of the Rad cord. Next year it will be available in longer lengths in North America…

    The sheath allows more standard hardware (e.g., microtraxion, tibloc) to be used – they won’t work on most other 5-6mm cord. (One could always use prussiks though).

    When only used for glacier travel, the only negative I see for the Rad is ensuring everyone in the group has gear that will work w the small cord. Thinner prussiks…(and another rap?).

    And cost…

    Are there any other negatives???

  5. Travis April 29th, 2016 1:44 pm

    Can you build petzl crampons a la carte? I want to get multiple to pieces to use with a leverlock heal piece.

  6. Hacksaw April 29th, 2016 3:14 pm

    With my Mammut RESCU system I rigged up a foot sling. Its a lot easier to use leg power than with just the hand pulling method.

    The RESCU system is a lot nicer than the older Jumar systems we used in Alaska in the 80’s.

  7. Coop April 29th, 2016 3:26 pm

    Thanks for the comments all. This post is purely a preview, and a more in depth follow up will be posted in a few weeks.

    I see a number of benefits of this system for the right application, and some potential drawbacks in terms of such a specific use.

    Here is a link that outlines some of the tests and limitations posted by Petzl.

    https://www.petzl.com/US/EN/Sport/RAD-LINE–small-diameter-hyperstatic-cord?ProductName=RAD-SYSTEM#.VyPOoedHanM

    The use of a dynamic Prussik cord is a great idea to add strength and energy absorption in the event of a fall.

    At this point I see this as a great tool for hauling, either in a rescue scenario or otherwise. I also see this great for rappels where little to no shock loading is introduced. We will be bringing this rope as a second rope for a group of 3 on a multi-week ice field traverse. Lightweight, pack able are definite benefits at this point.

    The sheath on the RAD line is also different than other similar size and style cords, more grippy and supple – thus making it better with knots and with a prussik hitch.

    Again, I’ll follow-up in the near future with notes from the field.

  8. zippy the pinhead April 29th, 2016 4:47 pm

    Travis,
    Petzl recently started front sections for three of their crampon lines: the the Sarken, Vasek, and Irvis. These front sections are said to be compatible with any Petzl crampon. https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Crampons#.VyPhzfkrLVQ

    Happy Trails,
    –Zippy

  9. zippy the pinhead April 29th, 2016 4:48 pm

    Should’ve been “Petzl recently started offering…”

  10. Andrew April 30th, 2016 12:14 am

    How does a rope plus a few simple pieces of aluminum come to $400? Is there a more value oriented alternative?

  11. Lou Dawson 2 April 30th, 2016 7:55 am

    Andrew, sure, as we stated in the post, just use a “glacier rope” and buy a few hardware items to go with it. Standard kit you can read up on in any ski touring how-to book or probably google if you’re careful.

    One reason we’ve not done a lot of posts about this is I feel strongly that what works best varies according to location and trip style. On some glaciers, the chances of falling into a hole are nearly nill (such as the ones in Europe you see people trail running on), other situations are such that the likelihood can go up to almost 100% probability, such as climbing Denali via Muldrow Glacier.

    Nonetheless, when my son Louie gets back from an icefield trip he’s currently doing, I hope to tease a blog post out of him about their glacier safety kit, of which the Petzl stuff is a component.

    Lou

  12. David Aldous April 30th, 2016 9:28 am

    Travis
    The bindings in the new crampons are also completely interchangeable now because none of the parts are riveted to the crampon like they used to. I’m not sure if they are selling all the parts to put together a crampon from just parts but if you get a crampon you can get different front parts, linking bars, and binding parts to suit different conditions.

  13. Bruno Schull May 1st, 2016 8:14 am

    I’ve been following this discussion of the Petzl crevasse rescue set up with interest. I do most of my climbing in the glaciated terrain around Mont Blanc, and crevasse danger is a constant danger.

    Some thoughts:

    I think a good starting point is considering common practice in the French alps, where this set up was designed. I often see people skiing with harnesses and crevasse rescue gear (ice screws, carabiners, and so on) but no rope. They are not really traversing glaciers, so much as skiing down glaciers. I always wondered what the plan was. Finally somebody explained the basic idea. Each person carries their personal gear as well as a light 30 meter rope in their pack. If they fall into a crevasse, and they are able, they anchor themselves to the wall with the gear on their harness. Their partner then sets up an anchor and haul system and pulls them out. In this context, the Petzl set up makes sense; it provides a nice light package to carry in your pack, and the thin static rope with a unique sheath is perfect. Readers might think this is a sensible or strange way to approach glacier skiing, but I would guess that’s the idea behind this package.

    Anytime you start roping up for glacier travel, or using a rope for simul-climbing or belayed ascent, it seems like just using a regular rope would make much more sense, as explained in the post.

    I do have some concerns:

    Much like buying an avalanche transceiver or an air bag, will buying a crevasse rescue kit, such as the Petzl or the Mammut, and throwing it in the pack make people feel safer, and therefore increase the risks that they take? I would say that setting up a snow anchor and a hauling system is fairly complicated, and that without a great deal of practice, the rope and hardware is essentially useless.

    There are so many ways to approach crevasse rescue and hauling systems. I am somewhat worried that selling stand-alone kits will encourage a “one size fits all” mentality, and prevent people from experimenting with different hauling systems and hardware.

    At the same time, anything that makes it easier to set up a hauling system (I’m not sure the Petzl or Mammut kit accomplishes this) would have to be viewed as a good thing.

    I’m curious to see how this system is used on the ice field traverse, and I look forward to learning about new ways that it can be employed, or how it proves useful in different circumstances.

    Last, I think it’s important to emphasize that the glaciers in many parts of the Alps, such as the Mont Blanc range, are very dangerous. People fall into crevasses and die every year in the range, in all seasons, often within meters of roped ski areas, huts, and established trails. I’ve punched through with my foot once, and with my leg up to my thigh once, which was frightening, despite the fact that I was roped. Last summer, my partner and I pulled a man out of a crevasse. If we had not responded, he would have died. In that situation, I was glad I had fifty meters of rope 🙂

  14. ffelix May 1st, 2016 5:23 pm

    I’ve been carrying something similar for alpine ski mountaineering for many years. I’m loving the vindication after so much stink-eye scepticism. Couple thoughts:

    – Tiblocs are scary because they shred rope sheaths. I prefer to use prussiks made from small diameter dinghy-racing cord made from Spectra or Dyneema: unlike same-sized accessory cord, it’s more than strong enough, and thin enough to grip on a 5 or 6mm “rope”. The Micro-Traxion provides backup to prevent dropping the load, in the unlikely event that a prussik should break or melt.

    – DMM Revolver carabiners work in a haul system like a pulley, and reduce drag compared to a standard carabiner.

    – 30-m is not long enough. With glacial retreat, you need 2 x 50-m to get off most of the classic cols around Chamonix now. A longer line also allows you enough length to set up mechanical advantage up to 6:1 (z-drag + pig rig, using one end of the same line).

    – If you just know better and can’t bring yourself to trust the system that Chamonix guides have been using for a decade, then you can always rig the Dyneema as a pull-cord and rap the big line. That way, only one partner has to carry a fatter, heavier, bulkier rope.

    – If you can’t find a small enough rap device (or drop yours), a munter hitch works just as well as it does on a fat rope, though it will definitely twist the cord.

  15. Kristian May 1st, 2016 6:29 pm

    Finally took an actual multi day crevasse rescue class last Spring.

    Surprisingly complex and difficult in steep terrain. Also great forces are required to haul up a person with gear directly up and over a crevasse edge.

    Setting up a 5 or 6 Z Haul works best. Many in the class had to practice repeatedly over multiple days to get it right. I doubt that few in the class could do it now after a year without review and practice.

    That’s why a pre-rigged system makes sense.

    And most importantly, you should be prepared to have gear at the ready to climb out yourself if at all possible – crampons and ice axe.

  16. Kristian May 1st, 2016 9:00 pm

    And prussic or ascenders for your harness and one foot to simply ascend the rope with your pack slung below you from your harness.

  17. Bruno Schull May 2nd, 2016 2:25 am

    @ffelix–I agree about Tiblocs. I don’t like them myself, but obviously they are often used in a variety of ways, so they make sense for some people in some situations. I also agree about the thin prusik cords–I have some. For my money, the best ratchet or rope capture device for this application is the Kong Duck–it’s a great little device, light, intuitive, works on narrow rope, even slings, and so on.

    I think reducing friction with something like the DMM revolver is also a good idea, as it reduces the force needed to haul, and the force on the anchor. That said, I’ve never bought the DMM revolver…it just seems like some extra gear that I would not be able to find when I really needed it (where’s that special carabiner?). Another option are those Petzl cheap plastic pulleys that rotate on regular carabiners–they are light and have the advantage of being highly visible (bright orange). I don’t know how they stand up to use/abuse.

    As to the length of rope required, I would say it’s completely dependent on what you doing. As you say, any time real climbing, rappelling, and so on, is involved, a 50, a 60, or two ropes, whatever, makes more sense. But imagine two partners skiing down the Valle Blanche unroped in winter/early spring. If each one carried something like the Petzl skinny rope (and knew how to use it) it would be add a nice margin of safety for little additional weight. That is the kind of limited application I think might be perfect for this set up.

    @Kritian. Indeed setting up anchors and hauling systems is rather difficult, and most people need regular practice. I try to practice every year, at least a little, and try to get my partners to do so as well, although this is sometimes difficult. I guess it’s like regular practice with avalanche beacons.

    I will say, you might want to be careful with statements like, “Setting up a 5 or 6 Z Haul works best.” There are many methods, and many different situations. What works best will be highly dependent on circumstances.

    For the same reason, I am not convinced that a pre-rigged system like the Mammut makes sense.

    For most glacier travel, I have moved strongly toward placing stopper knots on the rope between climbers, and hauling with a dropped loop or line. This system, like all systems, has various advantages and disadvantages. It makes the most sense to me, although I know not everybody shares this preference. There is a great treatment of this subject in Kathy Cosley and Mark Houston’s book. They also come out strongly in favor of stopper knots and dropped loops/lines.

    Last, regarding pre-placing prussiks on the rope for harness, feet, pack…I usually attach at least one prusik, but, again, it depends on the circumstances. I would say, whatever you do, have a plan, and practice.

  18. Lenka K. May 2nd, 2016 3:30 am

    We started using the new Beal Gully 7.3mm rope (double/twin) for European glacier travel this year. The 50m-rope weighs exactly 2000g and is only slightly more voluminous than 30m of the Beal Rando rope. It is a thin rope that requires careful handling, especially when rappelling, but the weight/volume savings compared to a standard double rope (eg. Beal Ice-line 8.1) are substantial, seeing that on well-trodden routes you end up carrying the rope in your pack most of the time.

    Furthermore, as Bruno has noted, many cols in the Alps now require rappels and the belays are often set for 50m-single ropes, so a 30m-rope wouldn’t do.

    Lenka K.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 May 2nd, 2016 6:48 am

    That sounds like a nice cord! Excellent point about the rappels required in Alps. Thanks Lenka.

    Bruno says have a plan and practice. That’s the key, but is not done near enough from what I’ve seen. It’s not that easy to set up real-life situations. If you do, you’ll discover that actually hauling a non helpful person up out of a hole is quite a challenge and can even be impossible without a rescue team. If the person can help, whole other story. They’re pretty much two entirely different situations that perhaps require different rescue setups, both of which should be practiced. Reminds me of beacon drills. Throw in a shoveling component for deeper burial, and it’s a whole other animal. Person buried under 12 inches of snow? Bam, there they are.

    Lou

  20. Lou Dawson 2 May 2nd, 2016 6:56 am

    Re hauling the person up over the crevasse lip. Incredibly challenging and difficult. More, I’ve heard of at least one instance where the injured victim was hauled to the lip with a group of bystanders providing mass power, then was further injured when hundreds of pound of pulling force was applied to their body trapped at the lip by the overly enthusiastic “rescue” team. Lou

  21. Paul S. May 2nd, 2016 12:38 pm

    What Lou just said. During my NOLS course, we were taught to always have someone (on anchor!) move close to the lip to check on the condition of the victim and clear a path for them to be pulled over the lip.

  22. Andrew McLean May 2nd, 2016 1:56 pm

    I have a Petzl RAD system and love it for a variety of reasons. First off, it is so tight and light that it’s very easy to justify carrying it at all times. Second, it works well as part of a system, where the main rope might be a 30m dynamic 8.8mm, but the RAD acts as a backup system. This works well for travel where the leader can ski with one rope and then its easy to give the second rope/RAD to another skier in case the first person goes in a hole. A big, long 60m rope isn’t going to do anyone any good if it goes in the hole with someone. Another advantage of the RAD is that it can be rigged and operated by a complete novice – the instructions for setting up a z-drag are right on the stuff sack – no prior knowledge needed. The RAD system is also very flexible – you can just take the rope and leave the hardware, or you can completely pre-rig the rope/hardware and give it to the tail gunner in case the lead person falls into a crevasse.

    As was mentioned, the RAD line is definitely an “expert” rope, meaning you really need to understand its applications before using it. With a running belay and cutting through a crevasse lip, glacier falls tend to be very dynamic, but if you mistakenly took the RAD line rock climbing and fell on it, it would be very unforgiving and potentially dangerous.

  23. Lou Dawson 2 May 2nd, 2016 3:07 pm

    Thanks for chiming in Andrew. I wish someone would develop a safe system of using the non-dynamic cord for a variety of climbing applications. But yeah that stuff can be dangerous, good way to fail rappel anchors, for example due to remarkably excessive loading. Lou

  24. Lou Dawson 2 May 2nd, 2016 3:25 pm

    If any of you noticed… we got rid of our old “Subscribe to Comments” option and installed something new. Doing so involved deleting all our prior subscriptions, many of which were either defunct emails or single subscriptions to older blog posts. But some of the subscriptions were obviously more current. If you are inconvenienced by this please accept our apologies, we could see no other way to move forward. Lou

  25. UpSki Kevin May 2nd, 2016 3:45 pm

    I agree with McClean.
    Carried & tested the Rad system the last few weeks in Chamonix. In the past we’ve just carried 30m x 8mm old stretchy beal & prussics. I was pushing for getting deeper out onto the glaciers and this was arguably a good robust addition to the kit… Bad weather left us with extra time to test stuff at the crag.

    Some conclusions: yes – it is notably static and WAY easier to haul with than the Beal. Using the micro-traxion on the Beal with the friction of a top anchor biner we stretched the rope significantly and made limited progress hauling. Using the Rad – it really easy. Having a 2nd line with prussic for the 2nd person to assist also makes things easier. carrying both 30m ropes felt like a very robust system, and did not add too much weight. About the rope: rated at only 8kN it can not possibly be Dynema core and is thus arguably overpriced – yes the pricetag is a shocker. (I think somewhere I saw Materials: Nylon ). Very soft hand. I hope that Petzl is making a smaller version of the triaxion for 5mm-8mm for use with the various 5-5.5mm dynema tech cords that have full 20kN strength.

  26. Lou Dawson 2 May 2nd, 2016 4:37 pm

    Hey Kevin, I didn’t catch that on the strength rating. Interesting!

  27. Joseph May 3rd, 2016 1:31 am

    I’ve been looking at the RAd for a while now, but don’t have any friends that use it yet. Interesting article and looking forward to the test!
    I just wish I could buy just the cord, I already have most other stuff in the kit and it’s pretty expensive.
    My main question is how do you rap with this cord? My 7.8mm feels right on the edge of what a suitable belay device can handle, so I’m assuming a Munter or double munter? I have a 5mm cord that’s too slick for even a double Munter so I’m interested in finding a replacement for that.

  28. Lorne May 3rd, 2016 9:56 am

    ^ Petzl has a page on the subject. Either a Munter on two lines, or a suitable belay device on two lines with a second carabiner.

    https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Additional-information-for-rappelling-on-RAD-LINE-cord?ProductName=RAD-SYSTEM&Familly=Ropes#.VyjIcHAq6iU

  29. UpSki Kevin May 3rd, 2016 3:05 pm

    The rad line felt good with a 3-4wrap biner wrap for rappel, (someone please tell me why this is a bad idea?)… felt good with a munter too, but won’t that wear out the rope?
    SMC, Bluewater, & Mammut all make miniture figure 8s, Edelrid makes an ATC equivelent that is designed for small ropes (had to investigate after I saw in a shop the new Edelrid flycatcher 6.9mm twin ropes… seriously the smallest climbing rope ever seen, and worthy of a review on an ice-climbing blog somewhere.)

    Lou maybe I can suck you in for some testing when I make it back to town. We just upgraded to the new load cell with the i-phone data display/collection app that I’ve been wishing into existence for years.

  30. Lou Dawson 2 May 3rd, 2016 3:20 pm

    Kevin, yeah, save me from buying that test gear!

    By “biner wrap” do you just mean taking one biner and “wrapping” a few loops of rope into it? I’ve used that for years for super short raps with safe landings, but it’s dangerous as it can easily open the carabiner gate or the wrap can go onto the gate and load it wrong. I’d never use it for anything “real” instead a munter is the best for simplicity, IMHO. Heat is an issue with all, when using HDPE type cord with low melting point. Pop!

    Lou

  31. Martin May 4th, 2016 5:33 pm

    Be sure to check your boot size if you’re thinking of buying the new Petzl crampons. If your boots are larger than Euro 45/US 11.5 the crampons won’t fit. You’ll have to spend an extra $20 on a longer linking bar.

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