Uniting Canada's Largest Climbing Community

Five Fall Climbing Essentials

Winter is here, and most of us are having a hard time getting out climbing. And depending on where you live, you may also be dealing with COVID lockdowns, travel restrictions and closed climbing gyms. So what’s an aspiring crusher going to do to maintain the hard-earned strength and fitness gains eked out from earlier this year?

In an ideal world, everyone would build a private heated and air-conditioned training space with multiple climbing walls peppered with thousands of holds. Unfortunately, the cost of building such a structure and procuring the necessary holds is beyond most climbers.

Rather than succumbing to the muscular atrophy that inevitably occurs when you stop training, consider these three affordable alternatives.
  •  Black Diamond ECO Gold Chalk

    Black Diamond ECO Gold Chalk

Black Diamond ECO Gold Chalk

Let’s start with the basics – chalk. While there are a lot of designer chalk brands on the market, I’ve always been a fan of basic chalk (magnesium carbonate) in a slightly chunky form, and Black Diamond’s new ECO Gold Chalk fits the bill perfectly. The texture is not too fine (and therefore not slippery like some chalk brands with a talcum-powder grind), and it does an excellent job of keeping your hands dry and grippy during redpoint burns. The chalk itself is the byproduct of a desalination process ensuring the Eco Gold’s purity and eco-friendliness (it’s not mined). Continuing with the eco-friendly theme, Black Diamond packages ECO Gold in a completely compostable bag that eliminates post-consumer waste. ECO Gold is available in 100 g, 200 g and 300 g bags as well as a 514 g (see what they did there?) Honnold Edition bag, where a percentage of the proceeds go to the Honnold Foundation to support solar energy. www.blackdiamondequipment.com/
  •  Outdoor Research Cirque Lite Pants

    Outdoor Research Cirque Lite Pants

Outdoor Research Cirque Lite Pants

The new Cirque Lite Pants have become my favourite pants for cool-weather cragging, backcountry climbing and new route development. They’ve managed to achieve this hallowed status by delivering an admirable level of durability in a surprisingly light and unrestrictive package. While much of this performance can be attributed to the OR’s fabric choice (a light, stretchy and highly breathable softshell material that sheds wind and light rain), it’s the small details that help the Cirque Lite Pants stand above similar outerwear. For example, the low-profile lined waistband sits comfortably under a harness and has a two-button fit adjustment. And the low-profile belt loops allow for a custom fit when physical proportions start fluctuating (it might be time to cut back on those craft beers). The addition of a thigh-positioned zipper pocket provides storage for small essentials that’s easy to access when wearing a harness. For climbers venturing into more alpine environments, OR has added a small inside-cuff scuff guard that protects against crampons and ski edges. Speaking of cuffs, OR also specs elasticized cuffs and a trim lower leg profile, ensuring the Cirque Lite Pants don’t get in your way when climbing routes requiring technical footwork. Just get a pair already. You won’t be disappointed. www.outdoorresearch.com
  •  Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass -9C Sleeping Bag

    Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass -9C Sleeping Bag

Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass -9C Sleeping Bag

If you have an old road-tripping sleeping bag that’s seen better days (what’s that weird-smelling stain?), you may want to check out the new Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass sleeping bag. Conceived as an all-around bag, the Bishop Pass delivers warmth, comfort and low weight at a very accessible price-point. The core of any sleeping bag is the insulation, and with the Bishop Pass series of bags, Mountain Hardwear uses high-quality, ethically sourced 650-fill down. The result is a warm bag with low weight and excellent compressibility without the stratospheric prices associated with higher lofting down. And for added efficiency when the temps drop, Mountain Hardware includes a full-length zipper draft tube, a draft collar and an adjustable face closure. With the function-specific details addressed, Mountain Hardwear turns its attention to the niceties that distinguish a great bag from an average sleeping bag. In this case, we’re talking about the addition of an internal stash pocket (ideal for storing a headlamp), a roomy contoured foot-box, and glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls. If there’s a fault with these bags, I can’t find it. If you’re in the market for a new sleeping bag, do yourself a favour and check out the Bishop Pass. www.mountainhardwear.com
  •  Mountain Hardwear Exposure 2 Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket

    Mountain Hardwear Exposure 2 Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Exposure 2 Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket

While no one wants to admit it, rain is a reality during almost any extended climbing trip. This brings us to the Mountain Hardwear Exposure 2 jacket. Built with Gore-Tex Paclite (still the gold standard for waterproof/breathable membranes), the Exposure 2 delivers proven weather protection in a light and easily packable package. The Exposure 2 eschews several features frequently found on more alpine-oriented shells (pit zips, helmet-compatible hood), but this allows the Exposure 2 to be lighter, less bulky and significantly less expensive than other Gore Paclite shells. And when used as a just-in-case-it-rains shell when cragging or during more urban-specific adventures, I never found myself missing these more “technical” features. In fact, I appreciated the Exposure 2’s trimmer and sleeker form, both in the field and in the city. And I especially enjoyed the more accessible price for a jacket with this level of waterproofness and breathability. If you are pursuing high-level alpine ascents, the Exposure 2 may not suit your needs, but for the rest of us, it’s an exceptionally versatile jacket and shockingly good value. www.mountainhardwear.com
  •  Gregory Arrio 18

    Gregory Arrio 18

Gregory Arrio 18

For decades, Gregory has been recognized as a leader for larger backpacking packs. What many climbers may not know, is that Gregory is also an innovator in the smaller, more specialized pack categories. Take, for example, the new Arrio 18. Designed with a highly ventilated back panel and shoulder straps, this small day pack is perfect for rest day adventures or for carrying essentials when scouting out new crags. A unique compression system serves double-duty by reducing the pack’s volume and keeping jackets strapped to the outside for quick deployment. Multiple pockets allow for gear organization, and the Arrio is obviously hydration bladder compatible. Look, I get it, this is not a climbing-specific pack, but I love its versatility for the applications I described earlier as well as for general urban use. This is a great addition to anyone's pack arsenal. www.gregorypacks.com/
Join the discussion of this and other climbing related stories at www.ontarioclimbing.com/forum/
Stacks Image 133191
Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 25 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid 80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.