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 Post subject: Traversing the Alps - Stage 3 by Snowboard - kit to be used.
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:26 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:44 am
Posts: 7
Location: UK South Coast
Ok for you guys across the pond thought I'd share this with you - highlighting our next trip. Over the years have gradually been drawn towards the touring / alpine mountaineering side of snowboarding.

It started off doing 20 minute ridge hikes, then a couple of hours, then advancing to day tours by snowshoe, to three / four day trips staying in mountain refuges / huts again by snowshoe. Have also been fortunate to go to the Lyngen Alps in the Artic Circle staying on a boat, climbing up from a beach covered in snow, and then descending the other side where the boat had come round to - in fact repeating this again in May of this year with the wife.

I have used and experimented with various kit along with a couple of mates - all have their advantages and there is usually a compromise over different kit set-ups and what works best when climbing and / or descending. And now with many snowboarders in Europe looking the part whilst on the piste / in the bar thinking they are Mr Backcountry carrying shovels / probes etc etc and never really venturing out of sight of the resort.

Next week I'm doing the Haute Otzal route, basically touring from Obergurgl in Southern Tyrol (Austria) and hopefully ending up some 60 miles away in Ischgl (Austria) also dropping down a valley into Italy.

For this tour we're carrying our own kit for the week staying in mountain huts - although they are really large stone buildings that can quite often sleep up to 40 - 50 people in the summer months - you get dinner and breakfast, blankets etc quite civilised, all though there are unmanned huts where you have to do your own thing.

The huts on average are at an altitude of around 2000 mts (6,000ft) - each day we will be climbing from them and maybe tackling one or two summits at around 3,450 mts then descending back down to the next hut in our traverse across the Otzal Alps - majority of all the terrain above 2,800 is glacier.

The tour is part of a much bigger expedition, where a good friend / guide is traversing the Alps from Vienna to Nice over the course of two seasons - you can read his daily updates msot days at http://www.alptraverse.com/proj2006/ - which makes for a good read most days, subject to them being able to upload through the GPRS PDA's - majority of his "guests" are skiers, but we will be on boards next week (March 11th) - and we've been boarding / touring with him, mainly in and around La Grave in France (land of the Swell Panic Swallow Tail) for the past 10 years or so.

Weather currently is quite unsettled making for some demanding conditions and testing navigational skills to the limit - already in France this year alone there have been 44 deaths from avalanches!



As for what kit we will be using.

First off - NO SOFT BOOTS - for certain summts we will drop the boards off and make the final 200mts ridge hike with crampons / ice axe etc - so soft boots are a big NO / NO - soft boots are also useless on severe steep icy slopes where you might have to kick in - also soft boots are less waterproof than hard shell boots.

We use Alpine Ski Touring (DynaFit / Scarpa) boots which are very flexible and are extremley light - then a couple of us will be using a Burton and Voile split - however these are heavy - but at least when climbing up by skining up you will not be carrying your board - I use small approach skis that are 90cms long and quite wide - they are very light and have Dynafit lite touring bindings - the logic being that unlike a split, on the flat I can "skate" along - but again depends on snow conditions - the negative is that its hard work as they do not have enough surface area to make tracks in fresh powder - but hey the guide is usually in front making the tracks whilst skinning up!

As for snowshoes - yes they are ok - but in terms of effort over long climbs using skins is so much more energy efficient as we know!

And against a split when descending I can pack the skis on my pack with skins still attached, so if we have a series of flat sections I can change from board to skis quickly - but again, any decsent using the skis is damn difficult, falling headfirst using them with a snowboard attached to your backpack is highly amsuing to your mates as you try and get yourself out of the snow resembing a suspended snail!

With hard boost we use light race plate bindings which work very well and again are light. Poles are Blackdiamond expedition flip locks - there is another manufacturer who use fliplocks as well - but again from experience any other type of adjustable pole locking system such as twist lock is a waist of time.

As for other kiit crampons for the skis, boot crampons, harness, ice axe, shovel, probes, transceiver - guide will carry rope. Obviously we have to carry all our kit for the week in a rucksack - and that can be problematical as in what not to take - technical wear that is light and packs small is a "must".

However as a postscript to all the above - and just when you think you're little Mr Rad BackCountry snowboarder - when you do go away and stay in huts, remember people have been touring for years in this part of the world, pre the days of gortex / technical kit etc and they managed - and one other thing, don't be surprised by the age of people - touring tends to attract the type of people that are tired of resorts - very much a case of been there seen it done it............it never fails to surprise me as you come over a col to see a couple of sixty somethings having bread and cheese prior to their decent down.

Oh well - hope you're all having a good season!!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:50 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2004 11:42 am
Posts: 2387
Location: California
Thanks for the report and GOOD LUCK. Tear it up!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:49 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 4:18 pm
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Location: NW/BC/Montana
Sounds like a great trip..... looking forward to the pics!

Soft boots aren't that bad and can be used for quite a variety of conditions. However, as you mentioned they aren't as waterproof and probably not as durable for extended outings.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2006 2:47 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:46 am
Posts: 45
Hi GavinB

Good luck with the tour, sounds fun. I do a lot of similar tours here in Switzerland.

Couple of things - soft boots are fine in the Alps unless you're doing technical climbing (e.g grade 3 and above rock or steep snow or ice). They will also be more than warm enough at the altitude you will be at. You can fit Grivel G10 crampons to soft boots with no problems and the guide will be kicking or cutting steps for you (if necessary). Most tours in the Alps have a very well worn track in ascent and are technically very easy.

I don't understand why you think short skis will glide better than splits - I think a split would be better than skis (less weight on back). Personally I prefer snowshoes to splits or short skis as normally in Europe there is a well battered track which makes walking in snowshoes no problem.

Try and carry minimum gear - I have used a 27 litre rucksack for a 5 day tour (including rope) - it's tight, but forces you to carry the basics. You'll probably only be touring for 5 hours or so, so you don't need to carry much food - I just take carb gel sachets for the daytime and stock up with carbs and meat in the huts at night.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2006 7:14 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:44 am
Posts: 7
Location: UK South Coast
iw wrote:
Hi GavinB


I don't understand why you think short skis will glide better than splits - I think a split would be better than skis (less weight on back). .


Must be a misunderstanding. here...........I do not think short skis will be better than a spit - as I mentioned the lack of surface area on approach skis is a negative when in fresh powder making tracks, but hopefully the guide will be lating down tracks first.

I think that there are good and bad points about both setups - I did read, and do acknowledge the big negative about approach skis, in that if it is real windy and you're packing your board on your back that can make life really difficult!

There's a compromise over all kit including boots - it's just that twice now I have found myself in a position (very exposed) and was very glad that I did not have soft boots on!

Regards


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2006 8:31 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:46 am
Posts: 45
...it was more your comment:

"...the logic being that unlike a split, on the flat I can skate along".

I would not say the skating abilities of short skis are much better than a split. Also, I would have thought the skis weigh at least 3kgs and are not telescopic (unless you have the Austrian Climb Ascent System) - that's a lot to pack away for the descent.

Yep, soft boots can be a little tricky in hard snow - best to get the crampons sooner rather than later. The hard boot options look so complicated to me from what I've read on this site (...steep angles, different style of boarding, customised boots, cants etc...) when compared to the simplicity of soft boots.

Definitely loads of different equipment options, but the touring you're doing shouldn't be too difficult (it's still winter, still dodgy snow conditions so nothing too steep).

Good look and post your pics !


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 1:55 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 7
GavinB,
can you tell me what binding the person in your party with a Burton split board uses, with what hard boot? I have a Burton split and I'm having a very hard time finding a compatible binding/hardboot system that will work with it.

Thanks!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 9:50 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:44 am
Posts: 7
Location: UK South Coast
Collen

My mate is using Scarpa Matrix and some F2 bindings he bought off www.bluetomato.at - but have just looked on the site and can not see the bindings that he has - there were not "race" and were quite flat.

Where are you based - there is a shop in Briancon, France - Krakatoa that might be able to help - and I know they post aboad.

And re my Approach Skis - they are only 90cms and are very light and I use Dynafit Lite ski bindings on them that weigh 450gms - hence that are compatable with my boots.

And re Dynafit boots - they specialise in light weight Alpine Touring boots - my boots are marketed for the "older" ski tourer who is not so in to agreesive descent (stiff) and wants a boot that is more comfortable and flexible in walk mode - hence that's why I find it good for boarding!!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 5:19 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 7
GavinB,
thanks for all the gear info, very helpful. Bomberonline told us that F2 bindings didn't fit a Burton board - I guess they were wrong! Found some old Burton hard boot bindings on eBay but apparently they weigh about 2.5 kg which seems very heavy for backcountry use - am wondering if these are more like racing bindings. They would fit an AT/randonee boot though.

We are based in Denmark at the moment hence the difficulty finding gear :? and we want to do the Haute Route next month.
Have a great trip and do put out a TR!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 11:24 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:43 pm
Posts: 439
Location: Western Washington
Do a search on the forum here for binding mods. A few of us have taken the toe/heel bails off of the bindings and mounted them directly to the slider tracks for a substantial weight savings. Someone here has used the F2 this way, and they are supposed to mount w/o any hole drilling or elongating.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 8:55 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:44 am
Posts: 7
Location: UK South Coast
Collen - aaaahh Danish.........well we're together with a bunch of mad Swedes.....you know what they are like when it comes to mountains.

It's worth ringing up Blue Tomato to see what they have as they might have some old stock.

Will post pics etc on my return......just hope weather gets better as this week has not been to good with then stuck nearly all day in a hut with avalanches going off all around them!


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 Post subject: bindings for burton board
PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 7:53 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 7
Dan,
thanks for the suggestion - I think by "slider track" you're referring to the Voile interface though, right? My Burton board won't take a Voile interface...
however -
Gavin, I did call Blue Tomato and they were very helpful, didn't have any old Burton bindings but suggested I search Ebay and voila, there was a pair on there!

Now, I just need to find another pair for my husband :)

Colleen


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