By Joe Brannan
Editor’s note: There is an ongoing debate within the Denali crew about the usefulness of the Sabretooth’s toe bail strap anchor. A few have removed it, opting to secure the heel strap around the boot cuff instead. Much like the former Sabertooth design. There has also been some discussion about the durability of the heel clip. While we haven’t experienced any failures to date, the plastic is certainly less beefy than the former version. Evaluation of this will be ongoing. Meanwhile, Joe has really given the Sabretooths a good eval. Check it out.
As the four WildSnow drivers haul our 1,400 pounds of gear ever closer to Talkeetna, we thought we’d give them a break from blogging and file a few reports from those of us who will be flying up to Anchorage. Last winter I did a number of training trips that included pig haulage as well as stabbing ice with our Black Diamond Sabertooth spikes.
As the only Rront ranger on the Wildsnow Denali team, I have enlisted fellow flatlanders to join me on training trips into Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park. As a weekend warrior, I take what I can get. It seemed to set the hook when I mention I will be dragging all the camping gear in Lou’s black beast (an old Mountainsmith pulk he lent me). Getting three days in a row with the pig, on back-to-back weekends, is a big step toward getting my legs where they need to be to chase Jordan up the Kahiltna.
These trips have definitely been stress tests for the sled rig as well. Navigating tight stands while bushwhacking in isotherm snow probably won’t be encountered up on The Great One, but regardless I have managed to blow apart both shock absorbers on separate occasions. Perhaps we should have some extra hose along up in AK, eh guys?
The first weekend my best man and I set our sights on Lion Lakes and a scope out of the impressive east face of Mount Alice. Long story short, we ended up coming up a bit shy of our goal, but found a really unique area of giant pillowed boulders surrounded by old growth ponderosa pine. No one gets back here in the winter or even in early spring. It felt like a spiritual place. More conducive to the story line was our spotting of some inviting icefalls cross valley by Eagle Lake. My curiosity bone and new found affinity to climb ice conspired to set the next weekend’s schedule.
After another long week of work in the burbs, my sea level adapted South-Indian desert dweller turned mountain man, Prakash Manley, and I hauled camp seven miles up into North Saint Vrain Creek Valley. The following morning we went exploring for the falls. The climbing and skiing up here didn’t disappoint.
If you’re interested in checking out Eagle Lake Ice, I added the area and some routes to Mountain Project.
I love gearing up at the base with these babies:
Now I haven’t been an ice monkey for long, one season now, but I have had the chance to demo a number of crampon and tool combos. I can say the most memorable was the Sabretooth Pro with some old dull straight shafts on a WI5 pillar.
Anyway, the coupling of any tools with the Sabretooth Pro ‘pons has come through for me. Initially I was fooled into thinking I needed vertical oriented front points on ice, but now I know that is certainly not the case. In fact, for moderate ice I prefer the added stability and surface area you get with a pair of horizontal points, especially when they use a horizontal bevel for sharpening. As these have the horizontal points, you get the snow climbing package as well.
So with one set of spikes I get the best of both worlds, a preferred performance on pure ice and a snow crampon with the most well integrated anti-balling plates I have seen. When you’re out in the alpine you’re going to want solid performance for both situations as you always seem to find at least short snow slogs between ice pitches. If that’s not enough, remember the stainless steel requires less material for a given strength than carbon steel, stays sharper longer and doesn’t rust. The heel height adjustment is really easy to use and the toe bail has a nice long extension for the strap ring which makes use with ski boots that much easier. As with the old Sabretooth, you can choose from two locations to mount the front bail.