All posts with the keyword ‘Climbing’

ABOUT THE SUBTLETIES OF THE CLIP STICK AND WHY IT REALLY MAKES SENSE

26. November 2020
Tips and Tricks

Is a clip stick a useful addition to your climbing equipment for ambitious rock climbers? Or is it more for indoor climbers, who find that the sometimes sparse protection on the rock makes them nervous?

Firstly, what is a clip stick anyway? Shrewd sport climbers will recognise it immediately, it’s a stick with which you can clip. Ideal for express slings with inserted wire rope in bolts. You can also choose to place only the rope in the hanging quickdraw. Sounds logical, but theoretically you can also do it without using your arms. A view on the sense and nonsense of a clip stick:

(more…)

DOWN IMPREGNATION – DOES IT WORK?

19. November 2020
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Down – a superhero of insulation materials! Synthetic fibres can’t compete. But like every superhero, down also has a nemesis. And in down’s case, this is moisture. Moisture is down’s kryptonite. It is precisely for this reason that impregnated down has been on a seemingly unstoppable advance in the outdoor sector for several years.

But how does it actually work? Can it even work? Let’s take a closer look! (more…)

VEGAN ON THE GO – ANIMAL-FREE PRODUCTS FOR OUTDOOR PEOPLE

5. November 2020
Equipment

It’s an unavoidable topic nowadays: the issue of sustainability dominates the outdoor market like no other. Manufacturers have put the concept of “social and ecological responsibility” on their agenda, obtaining certifications such as bluesign or developing their own. This is, of course, very welcome!

With this background, product lines for vegetarians and vegans are now also being developed. As this is becoming increasingly topical, every now and then a customer asks, “What vegan items do you have in your shop?” We wanted to explore this question…

Vegan for your feet – walking boots

One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about vegan outdoor equipment is probably shoes. Of course, leather is ubiquitous in trekking boots and walking shoes, so this is particularly problematic when looking for animal-free alternatives. However, its not just the material itself that can pose an issue. The devil is in the details and for example, the adhesive used on the shoe may contain animal protein.

Fortunately, there are companies that have recognised the need for vegan alternatives. LOWA, for example, is conquering the hearts of all wanderlust vegans with its own product line. A textile/synthetic material is used for the upper and the built-in GORE-TEX membrane makes the shoes waterproof. The Swiss outdoor company Mammut offers a very similar design with its T Aenergy models. The shaft is made of two differently structured polyamide yarns, which makes it abrasion and tear resistant. Gore-Tex ensures that the shoes remain waterproof. In the Approach footwear segment, the Vegan Award goes to Salewa, whose Wildfire series also manages without animal components. For climbing shoes, Red Chili also offers vegan versions with the Durango VCR and Durango Lace, and last but not least, the The One by SO ILL should also be mentioned.

And today, you don’t have to sacrifice good performance just because you wear synthetic shoes. Leather shoes are very durable, but the development of synthetic shoes has progressed so far that, with the right care, they too can be a faithful companion for a long time. Genuine leather adapts to the shape of the wearer’s foot but expands over time. This does not usually happen with synthetic leather or synthetic shoes. They retain their shape. Synthetic shoes are also particularly suitable for everyday use, as they are very easy to clean and do not require the intensive care of a leather shoe.

Vegan on top – what to look for in clothing

Vegan outdoor equipment does not stop at footwear, although this is probably the area where the issue is most relevant. There are also a few things to keep in mind when it comes to outdoor clothing.

The big elephant in the room is ‘down’. This comes from geese or ducks, so is not vegan. The alternative is synthetic fibre. This insulation technology based on polyester has now also progressed so far that there are numerous jackets and thermal layers that can keep up with their down counterparts and even surpass them in some areas. The key concept is ‘thermal performance with moisture’. Companies such as The North Face are trying to imitate the structure of down. In marketing speak, this is known as “Thermoball“.

Generally, you will be able to see in the attributes on our product page, whether animal components have been used. It will say “contains non-textile elements of animal origin”.

If you’re interested in the ecological production of clothing and the sustainable conservation of resources, you should look out for products made of recycled polyester. Production from melted PET bottles consumes between 50 and 70% less energy than the conventional production of a chemical fibre from crude oil. Some brands such as Bleed (which also explicitly offers vegan clothing), Klättermusen, Patagonia and Vaude already have such products in their range.

You should take a look at the label, which will explicitly state whether recycled content is used. The American outdoor outfitter Patagonia, which has long been a pioneer in the industry when it comes to environmental protection, has gone one better. Patagonia operates its own take-back system. This means that customers can bring their clothes back to the shop or send them to the factory and new clothes will be made from them again. Patagonia also offers to repair broken or damaged clothing to prevent products from ending up in the bin too soon. Pyua from Kiel has also specialised in this and takes back goods after use. This creates a cycle in which outdoor clothing made of synthetic fibres is always reworked into new garments after use.

Back to the Roots – Back to natural fibre

You can even go one step further and use natural fibres. I know what you’re thinking, “Do clothing made of natural fibres and sweat-inducing activities really go together?” At first glance, you might think that you’ll start to smell quickly, and for a long time the idea was considered unthinkable. Until now, base layers have been made of microfibres that had to be treated with nano-silver to prevent odour formation.

But it works. The Swedish company Fjällräven has used its reliable G-1000 material since its foundation. Today, although it is no longer 100% cotton, it is still one third cotton. The big problem – at least from an animal perspective: many Fjällräven models feature leather applications and the wax that makes the clothing weatherproof contains beeswax.

Lundhags, on the other hand, offer polycotton technology similar to Fjällräven, but models such as the Women’s Gliis Jacket and the Lomma Jacket forego leather appliques. However, this synthetic hardshell material is still not quite up to the job in terms of rain resistance. And you still need to check carefully here, as polycotton is occasionally offered in a waxed version.

Vegan food on tour

Of course, there is also the issue of nutrition. After all, what would a hike or trekking tour be without a snack to keep you going? Anyone who has been a vegan for a long time probably has a good idea of what works and what doesn’t in terms of nutrition anyway. But of course there are also companies who supply suitable trekking food, such as Adventure Menu, BLA BAND, Lyo Food, Innosnack and Chimpanzee –to name just a few.

In case of doubt, check the ingredients list, as this will tell you exactly which ingredients are in the product.

At the end of the day…

…whilst vegan clothing and outdoor equipment are not yet dominant in companies’ product lines, they have at least made it onto the radar in recent years. And fortunately, it’s even reached well-known companies who produce high-quality animal-free products. In light of the fact that more and more people are changing their lifestyles, this is certainly a welcome development.

You can find vegan products by searching for ‘vegan’ and then filtering. Or, simply follow the link below:

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STANDING FREELY WITH YOUR CAMPER VAN – A JOURNEY THROUGH THE (CONFUSING) LAWS OF EUROPE

19. October 2020
Tips and Tricks

Recently I had an idea: Why not just pack the camper and drive across Europe? Just travel and stay where I like or love it. The idea is generally not a bad one, but there are a few things to keep in mind, because you cannot simply park your camper or motorhome at the roadside or on the next best parking lot in Europe. In some European countries this is completely forbidden, in others there are strict rules and other countries have time or regional restrictions. So let’s bring a little light into the darkness and share Europe!

Before we start, one more remark: The regulations for camper parking spaces within Europe are sometimes very complex and confusing. This blog post only serves to give a rough overview of the individual countries. Often, however, regulations that only apply to a small region, a community or a specific season are also applicable. It should also be clear that we can only present the official rules and laws here. How they are implemented in the different countries and locations often depends on many factors that can only be summarized in a few cases. So don’t assume that this article is entirely accurate and complete and recheck the exact rules before starting your trip.

So, enough talking, here we go:

BAD NEWS FIRST – WILD CAMPING IS ALSO FORBIDDEN WITH THE MOTORHOME

In many European countries, free standing is unfortunately strictly prohibited. This has many different reasons, which are not always logical. In principle, however, one should stick to the prohibitions here, as otherwise (and especially in vacation regions) disregarding can lead to expensive fines. Furthermore, it probably does not help to relax if you are woken up by a police patrol in the middle of the night and are asked to drive on or to visit a camping site.

Nevertheless, in most countries there are good alternatives to conventional campsites. In many places, municipalities have designated camping sites. These are mostly conveniently located parking lots where standing is allowed for one night. However, if you want to spend the night on a pitch, you should inform yourself in advance what facilities (electricity, sanitary facilities, etc.) are available there and what the basic rules of conduct are. For example, it is often not allowed to put up chairs or extend the awning.

Another alternative in some countries may be standing on private ground. So if you don’t shy away from contact with the local population and have some diplomatic skills, you might have the chance to persuade a farmer or landowner to camp on his land. However, be careful, because in some countries even staying overnight in a camper van or motor home is not allowed.

Netherlands and Luxembourg

My first thought was: “That cannot be true!” I mean, the Netherlands are the camping country par excellence. But in reality it looks like the rules are very strict. In the Netherlands it is not uncommon to be punished with heavy penalties for standing freely. Luxembourg is no exception, so that in good conscience only the camping site or an officially designated pitch remains.

Switzerland

Also in Switzerland free standing is not allowed. Although there may be regional differences with regard to the exact legal situation and its enforcement, standing freely is and remains prohibited. In order to lend additional emphasis to this prohibition, there are signs on almost every parking lot that prohibit the parking of motor homes at night. There is, however, one ray of hope: Switzerland has numerous good parking spaces, which are not only beautifully located, but also surprisingly inexpensive in price.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Unfortunately, there is no precise legislation in the Czech Republic that regulates overnight stays in vehicles. In principle, camping is only allowed on designated campsites or pitches, which in turn prohibits wild camping (even though there is no specific legal text on this). This regulation also includes free standing with the motorhome.

Whoever is just passing through and would like to spend a night in the car (the smaller and more inconspicuous the Womo the better) can possibly get away with the legal grey area of “overtiredness” or “restoration of driving ability”. However, this should really only be seen as an emergency solution and is no guarantee that the police won’t drop by in the middle of the night and ask what’s going on.

IBERIAN PENINSULA

In Spain, wild camping or free standing with the motorhome is generally prohibited. However there is no nationwide regulation, which makes the exact legal situation very unclear. In some parts of the country even camping on private property is forbidden, even if one can prove the consent of the owner. In other parts of the country, the ban on wild camping is seen a little more relaxed. Basically, however, you should visit official camping sites in Spain. It is also important to pay attention to the current rules and regulations, because also here a violation can lead to penalties.

The situation in Portugal is similar to Spain. Standing freely is generally not allowed. Instead, you can fall back on a very good network of camping sites there.
An overview of the sites and their facilities can be found on the website of Turismo de Portugal.

The Balkans

Basically it can be said that free standing and wild camping of any kind is forbidden in the Balkans. Nevertheless, each country has its own laws, which in some places even differ from region to region. What applies where and how is often not clear to outsiders. In Greece, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Hungary you should look for a camping site or pitch. Otherwise, standing on private ground with the consent of the owner would also be an option.

If you already thought: “Damn, these are many countries with strict rules”, it could be even worse. In Bulgaria and Croatia not only the free standing is forbidden, also on private ground may not be spent the night in the camper, motor home or caravan. That is, even if you meet a hospitable population and for example a farmer gives you permission to stand on his meadow for one night, camping itself remains illegal and can lead to the fact that you are woken at night roughly by the police.

YES, NO, MAYBE – FREE STANDING IS POSSIBLE IN THESE COUNTRIES

There are countries in which free standing is neither really allowed nor really forbidden. Some countries allow free standing in principle, but then restrict it again strongly with regional or municipal bans. Others prohibit free standing by law, but do not prosecute it and thus tolerate the actually illegal behavior.

However, it is very important: If you want to stand freely in these countries, do it as unobtrusively as possible. I don’t mean hidden behind thick bushes, but rather that you behave impeccably. So don’t leave any garbage behind, don’t block a lot of parking spaces with your motorhome just because it’s more beautiful then and also hold back with loud music etc. Because one thing you should always keep in mind: One is often only tolerated here and a well-meant gesture quickly turns into the opposite if it is abused.

ICELAND

On Iceland, wild camping, as well as free standing with the camper is officially forbidden. However, this ban has often not been followed in the past, or in other words: free standing was tolerated for one night. In recent years, however, the volume of tourism on the island has increased significantly. This and the unfortunately not seldom inconsiderate behavior of some vacationers led however to the fact that the legal regulation was clearly intensified and is also implemented. In short: If you don’t want to get into trouble here, you should definitely go to a camping site.

FRANCE

Unfortunately, the legal situation in France is totally confusing. Here almost every place has its own regulations concerning wild camping or free standing. That means: First of all, wild camping is not forbidden in principle, but each community decides for itself how to deal with this issue. Each community can also designate special places, locations or areas where camping is allowed. Sometimes these are larger parking lots or the local Camping Municipal. However, camping is forbidden in nature reserves and in the immediate vicinity of springs, sights and monuments.

This does not mean that you cannot stand freely in France, you have to inform yourself on the spot.

A good alternative is also the “France Passion” system. This is a directory that lists over 2000 free parking spaces on private land throughout France. It is not uncommon to find farms or wineries that officially offer one night’s free parking for self-sufficient mobile homes.

GREAT BRITAIN

While free standing is possible in many places in Scotland, different regulations apply in England and Wales. So it is important to know the regional differences for Great Britain. In Scotland, if you keep a reasonable distance (of about 15-20 meters) from public roads, do not disturb or obstruct anyone and (if necessary) get the landowner’s OK, you are absolutely on the safe side.

In England and Wales the rules are much stricter. Nearly all parking spaces there have signs that explicitly prohibit standing overnight. Whoever stops here, however, must expect to be approached by the local law enforcement officers. But if you have the permission of the owner to camp on his private property, there should be no further problems.

AUSTRIA

Similar to France, municipalities and communities in Austria often cook their own little soup. Unfortunately, there is therefore no generally valid regulation. Depending on the area, standing for one night is tolerated. In the regions of Tyrol and Vienna, however, wild camping is prohibited throughout the country. How it behaves with the respective regulations exactly, one inquires best locally. In Austria there are also two large camping clubs, which can provide information.

YAY, THEY STILL EXIST! – THESE COUNTRIES ALLOW FREE STANDING

First of all: The fact that free standing is allowed or at least not prohibited does not mean that you can do whatever you want. Not breaking anything, not leaving any garbage behind, not disturbing anybody and behaving inconspicuously are only the basic rules, which one should actually always keep to anyway. In addition, many countries have additional regulations concerning free standing.

BELGIUM, ITALY, DENMARK AND GERMANY

In Germany you are allowed to stay with your motorhome for one night (and no longer) wherever it is not expressly forbidden. Whoever does this, however, should be aware of the exact legal situation, because this “interruption of the journey” officially only serves the “regeneration of fitness to drive“. Concretely: Whoever feels too tired to continue driving, no matter what time of day, should be allowed to stop in a suitable parking lot and rest until they can drive on again.

However, it is always difficult to define where “restoring fitness to drive” ends and where “camping” begins. If you make use of this regulation, you should never put out chairs, extend the awning, start a great barbecue or any similar activity. It is also recommended to “arrive” as late as possible and continue early the next day. As a rule, a standing time of no longer than 10 hours is assumed. So if you are passing through or want to spend one or two days in areas where the official campsites are clumsy, you will certainly get along well with this regulation.

This regulation applies in principle also to Belgium, Denmark and Italy. Unfortunately, in reality, many parking lots are equipped with prohibition signs. In Italy, this is especially the case in regions with a lot of tourism. It is also not uncommon for motor homes to be banned from entering these areas.

NORWAY AND SWEDEN

Also in Sweden and Norway, free standing is subject to certain conditions and should not be equated with the well-known ‘Everyman’s Right’. Staying overnight at a place outside an official camping or parking site is generally limited to one night. It is also not allowed to drive on forest roads, pathless terrain or nature reserves. In many places there are also regional regulations and bans. However, if you set up your caravan near the road away from populated areas in such a way that you do not obstruct anyone and do not damage the ground, you can easily camp here for one night with a motor home.

CONCLUSION

For many countries it is difficult to make clear and generally valid statements. If you are not sure which regulation applies to your vacation country or region, the tourism associations of the individual countries often help. The ADAC also provides a lot of useful information on this subject.

But no matter which local rules apply, one thing always applies in any case: Take your garbage with you and don’t bother or hinder anyone. After all, if you’re traveling in foreign countries, you’ll usually get more out of your vacation if you can make good time with the locals. And in this way it already worked sometimes that after a purchase of fruit, vegetable or wine from the regional producer, the camping permit on the property was given.

If travelling with a motorhome seems a bit too tricky to you and you are still considering switching to a tent, we will gladly forward you to the corresponding article about wild camping with a tent. In this sense “on the road again”…

Modal fabric: What is it?

12. October 2020
Equipment

In a nutshell, modal fabric is a mix of both synthetic and natural fibres.

But, let’s first take a look at how modal came about: It was created in the 60s during a search for new textile materials whose raw materials can be grown in central Europe.

For a long time, the textiles that emerged were used for specialty garments. However, ever since the interest in both an outdoor-lifestyle and sustainability grew, the demand of such fabrics (such as modal) has grown exponentially.

Synthetic or natural?

Modal is a fibre obtained by beech tree pulp, is chemically processed and is one of the nine regenerated fibres distributed in the world that consists of naturally renewable (“regenerated”) raw materials. Some other known regenerated fibres in the outdoor industry include viscose and Tencel. Plus, these fabrics are made of wood’s cellulose and are therefore called “chemical natural fibres” in contrast to pure natural fibres and synthetic fibres.

Modal is a “structurally-modified viscose with a higher degree of polymerisation (above 400 to 700) compared to normal viscose“. Due to this molecular “update”, modal obtains more functional advantages compared to viscose and is sometimes referred to as “the better viscose.” One of its advantages includes its amazing tensile strength when wet, which is especially useful for outdoor use. Also, modal is more durable, abrasion-resistant and is less prone to shrinkage compared to viscose.

In addition, two types of modal with slightly different functional emphases have been developed: a Polynosic (PN) type that can be optimally blended with cotton and a HWM (High Wet Modulus) type, which features a higher breaking strength and tensile strength. You can read more about this topic in the properties section.

How is it manufactured?

As already mention, modal consists of a raw material called beech wood. And, while viscose can be produced from various basic materials, beech wood is specifically used for modal. Now, let’s take a look at the production process: the wood is first debarked and chipped. Then, these chips are processed using a multi-stage chemical solution process and are then spun mechanically with a spinneret to form the fibres. As a result, cellulose fibres are produced.

Properties

Modal has the ability to combine the advantages of natural and synthetic fibres, without taking on any of their disadvantages. So, modal is a lot more durable than cotton, but still offers the equivalent amount of comfort. And, in comparison to other synthetic fibres, such as polyester, it provides just as much moisture management and feels even softer on the skin.

Both comfort and a pleasant microclimate are modal’s greatest advantages thanks to the fabric’s ability to absorb water and to quickly wick away moisture. Plus, modal absorbs 50% more moisture than cotton. Another advantage: the fabric is super breathable, which now brings us to modal’s amazing functionality. Here, many properties can be mentioned, for example, modal is very stretchy, durable, dimensionally stable, insensitive to heat and easy to care for. In other words, you can throw it into the washing machine and in the dryer without fear of damage, shrinkage or change of colour. And, no matter how many times the modal gets wet, it won’t affect its durability.

Up to now, modal has mainly been processed in fibre blends, where it often has a positive effect on the other fibres’ properties. For instance, cotton becomes softer, silk becomes more durable and linen becomes more stretchy.

Feel and comfort

When it comes to comfort, modal is super impressive. Its fibres’ smooth surface ensures not only softness but also comfort and a silky sheen. Speaking of silk, when touching modal, it’ll feel as if you’re touching silk.

So, it’s not surprising that modal is pleasant to the skin and great for both allergy sufferers and individuals with sensitive skin. As a result of its softness, you’ll mainly find modal in your underwear and other garments that are worn close to the skin. And, despite its softness, garments made of modal and modal blends don’t “sag”, but rather provide a great fit. This is due to the fact that the fabric is elastic, maintains its shape and remains comfortable even after several washes.

Modal for outdoor use

Modal is typically used to make underwear, shirts and long sleeves. And, its functionality really shines through with these garments.

Since modal is cooling rather than warming, it isn’t very windproof and weatherproof. So, modal will boast its amazing properties during strenuous activities and in hot temperatures. However, to create warm outdoor base layers, modal can be combined with merino wool to balance the temperature inside the garment (like an air conditioner).

Classification and comparisons

When comparing modal to natural fibres, such as cotton, or synthetic fibres, such as polyester, you’ll notice that modal stands-out in terms of functionality and eco-friendliness. Plus, in the field of synthetic/natural regenerated fibres, modal is a close-second to TENCEL Lyocell. However, the latter fabric is produced exclusively by the Austrian company called Lenzing AG. As a result, modal is likely to be more readily available in the long term and a tad cheaper. In addition to the TENCEL Lyocell, the company also produces a particularly eco-friendly modal fibre called “Modal Edelweiss”.

In terms of sustainability, the eco-friendly modal is better-than-average in terms of water consumption, energy consumption, land use, use of pesticides and pollutants and waste products compared to natural and synthetic fibres. And, unlike synthetic fibres, the production of modal doesn’t involve the use of fossil raw materials, such as petroleum and natural gas. It’s even more sustainable than natural materials, such as organic cotton, because less water and energy are needed to produce and process modal. As an example, the above-mentioned “Modal Edelweiss” from Lenzing was produced in a closed cycle, where 95% of the chemicals were recovered.

Care

As always, when buying a new garment made of modal, you should keep and read the instructions indicated on the care label. Plus, although modal is very easy to care for, you’ll get the most out of it with the right care. So, here are a few simple tips:

  • Washing the garment with the quick wash cycle prevents unnecessary stress.
  • Reducing the spin speed to a maximum of 600 rpm will also reduce stress.
  • Modal can also be ironed at a low or medium temperature. But luckily, ironing is usually not necessary, since the fabric doesn’t crease.

Altitude training – basics, tips and when it’s worth it

1. October 2020
Alpinetrek-Experts

If you’ve already conquered a mountain, then you’ve probably heard this sentence before: “Whew, the air is getting thin up here…” This isn’t noticeable on a classic hill walk or via ferrata but you’ll notice it whilst mountaineering at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,000 metres. But, the air isn’t necessarily getting “thin”, but the number of oxygen molecules per litre of air volume rather decreases with increasing height. So, there’s a decrease in atmospheric pressure. As a result, your body will want to fight this and you’ll notice that both your breathing speed and pulse have increased. So, if you want to prepare for mountaineering, an expedition or longer stays at high altitude, then altitude training is recommended. This training leads to an increase in the number of red (oxygen-transporting) blood cells in your body.

What is “altitude training”?

The definition goes as follows: “Altitude training is the targeted use of an undersupply of oxygen (hypoxia) to the organism as a stimulus to increase performance”.

When should you start your altitude training? And, when will you notice its effect?

Whether you plan on conquering the Kilimanjaro, Denali or Mount Everest in the Himalayas, a tour at high altitudes should always be carefully planned and prepared. And, both your equipment and physical fitness will play a major role in your success. So, to prepare your body for the special conditions at high altitudes, we recommend you follow an altitude training program before going on your tour. Plus, the effect of “thin air” is very diverse. For example, when it comes to endurance sports, altitude training has been known to increase performance. And, acclimatisation has long been used in mountaineering.

In addition, as of 2,000 m in altitude, the “thinner air“ begins to have an effect on the body. Here, both sensitive and previously ill persons will already experience their first symptoms of altitude sickness. And, the severity of the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS) depends on several factors, such as: How physically fit you are and how good your general health is. In addition, some individuals may acclimatise faster than others with the same physical fitness level simply based on their genetics. And, experience may also be a helpful factor. Also, whilst ascending a mountain or trekking at high altitudes, you should take into consideration both the speed of the ascent and possible additional acclimatisation days required.

Regardless of the altitude, the oxygen concentration in the air is at 20.9% all over the world. However, the atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing altitude and the partial pressure of oxygen simultaneously decreases. As a result, this effect leads to an undersupply of oxygen to the body (hypoxia). You can find all important information about altitude sickness in this article.

Does altitude training really improve performance?

Journeying at high altitudes leads to an adaptation process in the body due to the reduced supply of oxygen. This includes a sensitization of the breathing activity, i.e. ventilation, just like when the body is stressed. In addition, the release of the body’s own hormone erythropoietin (EPO) is also stimulated. EPO is produced in the kidneys and takes care of the formation of new red blood cells in the bone marrow. At the same time, the body increases the amount of haemoglobin available. Haemoglobin binds oxygen and has a positive effect on endurance by increasing the oxygen transport capacity in the arterial blood.

Plus, several studies have come to the conclusion that physical exertion under hypoxia leads to changes at the muscular level, such as the increased enzyme activity of the energy metabolism. And, an increase in the muscular oxygen storage, the myoglobin, was also observed.

So, altitude training is perfectly suited for performance-oriented athletes who want to improve their endurance under controlled conditions. In case you didn’t know, altitude training has already been included in the training plans of endurance sports, long-distance running, triathlon and cycling athletes. However, even ambitious mountaineers who want to prepare for a high mountain ascent can improve their performance through altitude training.

Which form of altitude training is the most effective and useful?

In order to achieve the positive effects of your training for improved endurance performance, it’s important that a training stimulus is set under the same altitude conditions. Because simply staying at a high altitude without a specific training stimulus does not bring any significant benefits to improve your performance. So, there’s no use spending a few days in a hut in the Alps and playing cards all day. Running, hill walking and climbing at high altitudes is therefore necessary to achieve your goal.

How long does altitude training take?

Many experts and physicians have different opinions on this topic. A minimum stay of one week to ten days (after sufficient adjustment) is required for maximum efficiency, i.e. to be able to carry out performance-enhancing training. However, stays of three to four weeks would be ideal. In addition, top athletes often attend altitude training camps several times a year. But, this isn’t practical or even necessary for an amateur athlete because it’s so time-consuming. And in general, targeted altitude training over seven to ten days can already lead to the aforementioned positive effects for many athletes. Also, there are even special providers who not only organise high altitude training camps but also provide medical care and give advice to the participants.

How long does the effect of altitude training last?

The duration of both the training’s effects and the adaptation effects remain controversial in the field of science. The first few days after a longer stay at high altitudes involves a regeneration phase, which means that you should reduce both the amount of trainings and the intensity. You may even notice a drop in your performance at first, so a short break can help you get back on your feet. Also, various studies have come to the conclusion that the effect of good altitude training lasts between three and five weeks and probably even longer. Plus, red blood cells (erythrocytes) only live in the body for a maximum of 120 days. As a result, the effects cannot last more than 4 months.

Training with an altitude mask and in an altitude tent

With technical aids, altitude training can be carried out without mountains, be it in the city or at home. There are several products on the market, such as masks or tents that can be used for training and simulate “artificial hypoxia”. For example, a person may ride a bicycle ergometer and breathe through a special mask to simulate reduced oxygen conditions. Plus, there are also tents that can be set up on your bed and will simulate sleeping in hypoxic conditions. Also, some cities now feature altitude training centres that provide special training rooms in hypoxic conditions and can therefore also simulate altitude training.

Since every person reacts differently to altitude and some people even suffer from “altitude sickness”, it makes sense to check your tolerance before going on your mountaineering adventure. Also, a medical check should be carried out before starting your long, high-altitude journey, as well as before a simulated altitude training. So, if you’re preparing for an expedition or high-altitude trek, training in special hypoxic chambers can be quite useful.

Is altitude training harmful? Is it doping?

A long stay at high altitudes always puts a physical strain on the body, unless you were born and raised in regions at an altitude of 4,000 metres and above. So, attending an altitude training camp is therefore recommended and should be planned carefully. Otherwise you may drain your body rather than increase your fitness level. In addition, altitude training is not considered doping and is allowed before competitions. In contrast to doping with drugs or forbidden substances, the athlete only utilizes the natural effects of altitude during altitude training. As a result, both the body’s own processes and adaptation are exerted without the use of substances.

Is altitude training also useful for recreational athletes?

A well-planned altitude training can be very useful for recreational athletes and hobby alpinists. So, it’s important to consolidate your own endurance performance and ensure that it’s at a good level beforehand. In other words, you should do sports, run and hill walk on a regular basis for a few years before considering an altitude training camp. Also, a good state of health along with some experience with training are necessary to achieve a positive effect.

For recreational athletes, we recommend not going too hard with the training right off the bat and not to work at maximum intensity straight away. Your own assessment will improve with time and your body will then be able to take on new training impulses.

A summary of altitude training

In conclusion, altitude training can also be used to improve performance in popular sports under certain conditions. On the other hand, on trekking tours to high altitudes on the Andes, mountains in the Himalayas or even on the 4,000 m peaks in the Alps, it makes a lot more sense to reduce the symptoms of acute mountain sickness or to possibly even eliminate them in advance. Lastly, your training goal should be specific and strategic; a simple stay at high altitudes is not enough to achieve meaningful adaptation effects.

Buying Advice Backpacks

10. September 2020
Buyer's guide, Equipment

If you want to buy a backpack nowadays, you are suddenly faced with a huge number of different models and applications. There are daypacks, travel backpacks, trekking and touring backpacks, extra ski touring and climbing backpacks.

However, what is hidden behind all these terms and what kind of backpack do I need for myself? We will try to answer these questions in the following article.

BASIC

No matter which backpack you choose, the most important thing is always that the backpack fits well and is comfortable to wear. Otherwise it can quickly lead to pain or tension.

To carry the backpack as comfortably as possible, it is important that it is adjusted correctly. It must sit close to the body and compact.

Due to the different anatomies of men and women, some manufacturers offer extra women’s backpacks. This makes sense and should be considered when buying.

But now to the backpacks:

DAYPACKS

We start small with the so-called “daypacks”. As the english name suggests, these are backpacks for day trips to carry food, drink and clothes for one day. So these backpacks are quite small. They settle between 10 and 30 liters pack volume.

You can find them in all price ranges from 20 Euro to 200 Euro and more. Carrying system and hip belt are recommended if you want to use the daypack also for hiking. This is not absolutely necessary for a gentle stroll through the city.

Many daypacks can be folded very small, so they are easy to transport or store. Especially when travelling, this is highly recommended, because you don’t have to carry around a big backpack all the time.

In summary, you can recommend daypacks to everyone, because it is always handy to have a small backpack at hand, which can be used in many different ways. Here is an overview of the types of use:

  • Everyday life
  • City stroll
  • Day hikes
  • Additional backpack for travelling

TRAVEL BAGS

Travel backpacks are characterized by large volume as well as compact and robust construction. Most travel backpacks have an adjustable back length in order to fit exactly to the carrier. However, some manufacturers also offer different fixed sizes to choose from. They are available in all sizes from 40 liters to 110 liters.

Compared to trekking backpacks, travel backpacks have a cut similar to a travel bag, i.e. they are wider rather than deeper.

The pocket-like design is reinforced by side openings. This type is especially recommended for long-term travelers, since you can quickly access the complete main compartment.

Due to the size of these backpacks, they are all equipped with a carrying system.

Some travel backpacks have a removable daypack backpack integrated in addition to the main compartment, which can be fixed to the large backpack. So you only carry one backpack instead of two. As an example there are the backpacks, “Overland” from Bach or the “Waypoint” from Osprey.

But there are also other types of travel backpacks. Vaude for example offers with the Tecorail 80 a special highlight. This backpack can be used as backpack or as trolley. It has an integrated roll system with an extendable handle – and is therefore a perfect mixture between trolley and backpack.

Intended use:

  • Travel
  • Trekking

TOURING BACKPACKS, TREKKING BACKPACKS

The difference between tour/trekking backpacks and travel backpacks is not too big. With many tour/trekking backpacks there is an additional rain cape for absolute waterproofness, so that you can be on the way even with long rain of dry backpacks.

An important question to ask yourself: what kind of tour do I want to do? For a multi day tour with food I need a backpack with at least 70l, but for hut tours 40l are already enough.

With the large backpacks (70l+) it is recommended to pay attention to a head recess, so that you can move your head freely even with a full backpack. Another special feature of some of these backpacks are divided main compartments to accommodate the sleeping bag or clothes in the lower part. This has advantages, you can divide your stuff into 2 parts and both are accessible from the outside. However, this makes the backpack a bit heavier.

The carrying system is adjustable. However, even more importance is attached to comfortable carrying, because they were designed for long hikes and heavy luggage. For this purpose, there are backpacks with flexible hip fins to distribute the force evenly evenly during heavy passages. These hip fins also consist of several layers of foam to adapt as anatomically as possible.

In order to avoid excessive sweating on the back, a system is built into the backpack which pumps air through the existing foam by the movement of the running person and thus ensures air balance.

Most trekking backpacks are compatible with a hydration system.

Use of tour/trekking backpacks:

  • Trekking
  • Multi-day hikes
  • Hut tours

SKI TOURING BACKPACKS

Ski touring backpacks are available in different versions. On the one hand, there are backpacks for high-altitude and multi-day tours, which have a large pack volume, up to 60 liters, and are equipped with many fastenings to attach helmet, skis, rope, ice axe and other things to the outside of the backpack.

The other big category are backpacks for day trips, which are smaller and can also be used for freeriding. Depending on the model, they are also available with many attachments for the above mentioned equipment. Many of these backpacks also have an integrated back protector to protect the back. They stand out due to their beautiful and stylish design with intelligent space allocation.

Almost all ski touring backpacks have a separate compartment to store shovel and probe. This compartment is easily accessible from the outside to have everything you need at hand in case of emergency.

As additional safety, both categories are available with avalanche airbags, such as Pieps’ Jetforce, as well as avalanche backpacks made by ABS and Mammut.

In cooperation with Ortovox, ABS has developed a clever system that allows you to carry the ABS airbag with you at all times. However, the size of the backpack can vary depending on the tour. For this possibility the ABS backpack must be equipped with the M.A.S.S. system. With this system, you can “zip on” the airbags with backpack pockets of different sizes. For example, the Ortovox Free Rider 24 ABS Avalanche Backpack can be used as a basic frame.

You can find more information about avalanche backpacks here.

Intended use:

  • Ski-/High tours
  • Freeriding

CLIMBING BACKPACKS

There are again several categories of climbing backpacks. It is important to consider what you want to use it for, whether for sport climbing or for multi-pitch climbing. Of course you can use any backpack for anything, but there are certain advantages and disadvantages.

Backpacks for sport and indoor climbing, like the Black Diamond Shot or the Mantle, are built like bags. They have a carrying system. However, they do not have a lid pocket and can be opened to their full length. This allows a good overview in the backpack. In addition, extra loops are sewn on the upper end to which the exes are attached so that they do not go around in the rucksack. The rope is tied to the outside of the rucksack.

There are also climbing backpacks like the Black Diamond Demon or the Edelrid Cragbag II, which are backpack and rope bag in one. Both have a tarpaulin for the rope attached to the backpack. So the only question is where to put warm clothes and food.

Haglöfs – Roc Rescue 40 – backpack
Climbing backpacks guarantee sufficient freedom of movement

Another category are multirope length backpacks. These backpacks are designed for maximum freedom of movement. The center of gravity is set so that it has as little influence as possible on the climber’s balance. For this reason, they are cut narrowly and fit tightly to the body. They also have removable hip fins, as these are often disturbing. The carrying system is flexibly constructed so that the rucksack can follow complex movements. Anatomically shaped shoulder straps also increase freedom of movement.

The pack volume varies between 12 and 35 liters. The small versions (12l) resemble light daypacks, the large versions are more like trekking backpacks.

The third category is the haulbags. They are for all those who want to make long tours in the wall or who have to climb technically and therefore have to pull material behind them. The Haulbags are like robust sailor bags, but they have a removable carrier system. This allows you to carry the Haulbag to the wall, and when the carrier system is removed, the Haulbag cannot get caught anywhere on the wall when pulling material behind it.

Intended use:

  • Sport Climbing
  • Indoor climbing
  • Multi pitch tours

TRINKING BAGS

Drinking backpacks are backpacks that are only designed to hold the hydration system and maybe a few bars. These backpacks are very popular with trail runners, because they are usually very, very light and are almost unnoticeable or annoying even when jogging.

The drinking backpacks are also available in versions with more packing volume. However, they can then be called daypacks, as there are no striking differences.

You can find more details in the Buying advice for a drinking backpack in our online store.

Intended use:

  • jogging/trail running
  • Everyday life
  • Hikes

If you still have questions, our customer service will be happy to help you. Daniel is our backpack expert here. You can reach him under the number +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by e-mail.

There is a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor sector. New products are invented, existing ones are revised or improved and we also learn a lot every day. And of course we want to pass on our knowledge to our customers. Therefore we regularly revise our articles in the base camp. So don’t be surprised if after a few months a few things are different. This article was last revised on 03.03.2016.

How to pack your rucksack

Flyweights for the back –  the world of ultra-light backpacks

17. August 2020
Equipment

Can you still remember your first trekking tour or multi-day hike? For me it was like this: I borrowed the backpack, and it was actually much too big for the tour I wanted to do. But since you famously can’t set off with your backpack only half full, I ended up managing to pack in a load of bits and pieces, so in the end the backpack was full to the brim. This of course had nothing to do with being ultra-light; in fact, it was ultra-heavy! This meant that the backpack – despite having a good carry system and many other comforts – became not just a burden, over time it became a real problem.

Anyone who has had a similar experience has surely sworn: “Next time I’m taking less and lighter equipment in my backpack!” How do you do this sensibly, though, if you don’t just want the contents to be lighter but to reduce the weight of the backpack itself? To answer this question, let’s dive down deeper into the world of (ultra-)light backpacks.

What makes a traditional backpack different from an ultra-light backpack?

The ultra-light class is characterized by one thing above all: minimal material usage. In the trekking field, for example, to make a backpack with approx. 70-litre capacity that weighs under a kilo, everything that isn’t absolutely necessary is discarded. This includes mainly the internal frame along with thick padding. Another important way of reducing weight is the materials used.

This is now starting to sound really crass and like a really crappy backpack that can’t do anything. But of course, this isn’t really true. So let’s take a look at where weight can be spared in backpacks, and what the details might look like.

The frame and the carry system

Backpacks from the ultra-light segment usually have no frame. The reason for this is remarkably simple: the less is in it, the lower the weight. Because of this, sophisticated frame designs and the carry systems that often go with them are intentionally forgone. To make sure it’s still comfortable to wear, it’s therefor important that the rest of the backpack isn’t loaded too heavily and, for good measure, that it’s packed perfectly. We’ve put together the most important dos and don’ts of packing a backpack in a separate article. But I’ll give a simple trick away right now:

Your sleeping mat (in the ultra-light world, foam mats are usually used) can be used to reinforce the back panel. Not only does this ensure the backpack is well stabilised, the mat is also stowed away neatly. Companies such as Exped also offer conventional backpacks, like for example the Mountain Pro 40, that can be slimmed down as required, and can be lightened by nearly a third of their own weight.

Compartments and pockets

It is indisputable that having several compartments in and on a backpack make it more organised. At the same time, though, the compartments themselves also add more weight and often cause the backpack to be packed according to its own organisational system rather than from a functional perspective. This is why the majority of ultra-light backpacks mostly do without extra compartments. This means that the backpacks often come with only one large main compartment and 1-2 smaller compartments or pockets. Many ultra-light backpacks also have a roll closure, so there’s no lid compartments or anything similar. Depending on the model, ultra-light backpacks may also have ways of attaching pieces of equipment to them. A holder for trekking poles or ice tools has practically become standard here. You won’t have to do without compression straps on most larger ultra-light backpacks, either. Especially in the region of volumes of around 45 litres, this is a time-proven construction. Backpacks of this size are usually also absolutely enough for multi-day touring.

Materials

It’s also possible to spare some weight when it comes to the materials. Lighter, which often also means thinner fabrics don’t always have to be worse than their heavier colleagues. Through the use of materials such as Dyneema, a good and, above all, durable result can also be achieved in the lightweight segment. It’s important here, though, that the backpack isn’t overfilled, but that would render the concept of the ultra-light backpack absurd, anyway. Sharp and pointy objects have no place in your backpack, either, and, unless they’re packed well enough, should be fastened to the outside of the pack. If you want to see a good example of a large-yet-light walking backpack that’s made to last, we recommend the Radical from Ferrino. With this large walking backpack, it’s not only that everything that adds extra weight has been discarded, lightweight materials such as Cubic-Tech and Dyneema have also been used, making the backpack robust and hardwearing despite its low weight.

Prejudices and misunderstandings

Sometimes it seems like the world has been divided into two camps: the ultra-light disciples and those who have a fetish for robustness. At least, when exchanging experiences with friends and acquaintances and also when researching this article, I keep coming across countless prejudices, half-truths and open questions. This is why I’ve presented three of the most frequent topics of discussion below. In doing so, I do not wish to take sides with either the “ultra-light” faction, nor the “ultra-heavy” club.

  • Prejudice 1: ultra-light = ultra-expensive

The short story: this isn’t true. The somewhat longer story: it’s not always true. In the ultra-light sector, there are of course pieces of equipment that, because of the materials, the design, or the innovative technologies, come with a heavier price tag – excuse the pun – than other comparable pieces of equipment. But this also happens in the realm of “standard weight” equipment. Especially with backpacks, though, because the design is usually rather simple (no elaborate carry system etc.), ultra-light backpacks come off well in terms of their price compared to their conventional counterparts.

  • Prejudice 2: ultra-light = ultra-flimsy

This prejudice must also be contradicted. But the following question also needs to be asked: what do you actually want from the backpack? If you’re looking for a super robust backpack for spelunking and chimney climbing, then, admittedly, it’s going to be difficult to find something in the ultra-light backpack range. Especially for (multi-)day hikes and trekking tours, though, there are many ultra-light backpack models that can compete with their heavier cousins when it comes to durability.

  • Prejudice 3: ultra-light = ultra-uncomfortable

Admittedly, adjusting from a backpack with a sophisticated carry system to one with a simple contact back was a bit strange at first for me, too. This was, however, also because I had always imagined that you had to carry a lot of weight. But this is not what ultra-light backpacks are designed for. It wouldn’t make any sense at all to first remove every possible gram of weight from the backpack itself, and then to carry a lot of weight on your shoulders anyway because of the heavy equipment you’re taking with you. You have to make a clear distinction. If you want to set out with lightweight and minimalistic gear, and if the planned tour allows for this, then an ultra-light backpack is definitely a good choice. But if your tour is such that, along with a considerable amount of equipment, you also need to take e.g. food and water (which is crazy heavy since unfortunately they haven’t managed to dehydrate it yet), a backpack designed to carry larger loads is definitely needed. In this case, it’s better to try to keep the weight of the contents to a minimum.

Conclusion

Ultra-light backpacks certainly have their place. Depending on what you’re using them for and what you put inside them, they can make a significant contribution to a carefree and successful tour. If you want to get into the ultra-light game, the backpack is certainly the piece of equipment where you can save the most weight. But it’s also important to make sure that the desired model is suitable for what you’ll be using it for and your own personal needs, too. So what are your experiences with lightweight backpacks? Are there any other misconceptions that you would like to clear up once and for all? Write a comment and let us know!

Climbing and bouldering in Scandinavia

Training tips for strong fingers

13. August 2020
Tips and Tricks

“How on earth are you supposed to hold on there?” This is a question I get asked sometimes, and that I ask myself much more often when I’m faced with routes that are clearly beyond my limits. I now know the answer: Amongst other things, it comes down to a good deal of finger strength combined with a really good climbing technique.

Without doubt, finger strength counts as one of the most dominant factors in being able to climb really difficult tours. This can also be seen if you take a look at elite climbers. As different as the physical appearance of these “super humans” may be, they all have one thing in common: They can grip quite small holds damned well, and have a lot of experience with this. But there is hope for us mere mortals. Even though genetic components play a major role in how strong and susceptible to injury our fingers are, with a little time and patience, they can become really well trained.

Perhaps I shouldn’t begin extra training yet?

Before we get started, a few words for beginners of our great sport. To you I would say that climbing is more than just pure strength. In the first few years, all aspects of climbing can be improved really well just by climbing. Targeted finger training is linked to a high risk of injury for beginners. So instead, it’s better for you to first concentrate on technique, tactics, getting a feel for the movements, your mental capacity etc.

Sound strength building requires a lot of time

Even if it may seem like the hand ends at the wrist, its extremely complex system extends through many joints right to the shoulder. It’s important to know that the hand’s musculoskeletal system is made up of a large number of complexly interconnected bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles.

The latter gives us the strength to grip small holds. They can be trained easily and make progress quickly. But it’s a different story when it comes to the tendons and ligaments in our hands and forearms. They require higher training stimuli and also a great deal longer to develop the same capacity. Finger tape doesn’t help with this either, only time does!

If we begin finger training at an early stage in our climbing careers, our muscle power develops too quickly and can lead to injuries when climbing. The injury process then happens as follows: The hand and arm muscles are trained and capable of gripping small holds, but the tendons and ligaments in the fingers are not yet tough enough. But with your new strength, you now embark on your long-term goal of finally reaching the top.

But suddenly, at the crux, your foot slips and you absorb the momentum with your upper body. Either you hear a “pop” straight away, and you’ve got acute trauma to one of your annular ligaments, or you repeat this scenario and cause chronic strain. Both cases are typical patterns of injury for climbers and increase the risk of injuring yourself again in the future.

It turns out that you should take a rather conservative approach to the subject of finger strength. Keep in mind that an injury will set you a long way back; the healing process for fingers can take six months or longer.

Reasons to strengthen your fingers

It makes sense that strong fingers can grip smaller holds. But finger strength has an additional benefit. You can hold on for longer. Why? The reason is maximal strength. This is the maximum force that you can initiate in a muscle through purely deliberate effort. Through good training, you can get your discretionary capacity closer to the limits of your emergency power reserves. This means that the muscle cells are supplied for longer and you can stay longer on the wall. Long story short: the stronger your fingers are, the smaller holds can be before the performance of your muscular system is reduced.

Start training right

For finger training to achieve its full effects, you must be well prepared. Part of this is a sufficiently long break between the finger training sessions. It’s recommended that you do finger training a maximum of twice per week. So, between the training sessions, you can take a 48-hour break and you still have time for climbing or bouldering.

On the training days, it’s especially important to do a proper warm up. It’s best to start with exercises such as jumping rope or doing jumping jacks to get your circulation going. Then you can dedicate yourself to your fingers, with repeated hangs on large holds and a little stretching (<10 second strain).

When you are hanging correctly, or training on a fingerboard, you put weight on both your fingers and your shoulders. This is why it’s important to hang onto the board with the right technique. You should therefore consider the following criteria:

  • Only hold the training board with open hand, or with the fingers in half crimp and not supported by the thumbs.
  • To stop your shoulders from getting overburdened, it’s important to tense your shoulder muscles. This is especially true for training with added weight!

Through the repeated hangs and stretches, you reduce the risk of injury and increase your capacity for the next training.

It is recommended that the following training programs be followed for four weeks each, and that you take a break for at least a week afterwards. Then you can either use the same programme and increase the intensity, or do one of the other two programmes. Of course, you can also get used to your new strength first and let a few weeks go by without any finger training. We’re not pros, and we don’t have to keep to perfect training regimes.

Training for maximal finger strength – you don’t always have to completely drain yourself

The following training methods are different in terms of length, intensity (hold size/added weight) and rest time. Each variation of these factors has a different training effect on the finger muscles, as well as on the tendons and ligaments.

To train your maximal strength, the training stimulus has to be very high intensity, which means the exercise can only be done for a short time. A longer rest is then necessary so that you can do the next round at full capacity again. After a training session like this, you’ll feel unexpectedly fit. But don’t be fooled, your body has done a lot and needs a break.

With these kinds of training routines, it’s above all your nervous system that gets a workout. The effect is ultimately that your body improves the activation of your muscular system. This can mean that more nerve impulses are sent to your muscular system, more muscle cells are activated at the same time, and more powerful types of muscle fibre are activated earlier. This neuromuscular adjustment is a qualitative feature of the performance capacity of the muscular system, and, in this case, of your grip strength.

Eva Lopez’ minimal board training

Eva Lopez researches training methods for climbing. Based on her studies, she has recommended the following training programme for maximal finger strength. For this, you need a large range of training boards. She uses, for example, the Progression training board. A little less choice isn’t bad, either. From amongst the holds, choose one that you can hang from for just 15 seconds at maximum effort. This is your training hold. It will be your friend for the next 4 weeks.

  • 12-second hang
  • 3-minute break
  • Repeat 4 times

Points 1 to 3 make up a set. After a 5-minute rest, you can do another set. Beginners should leave it at 2 sets. The advanced can do up to 5 sets using different holds.

Advanced climbers (UIAA 8 to 9) and boulderers (Fb 7a) can use this protocol as an introduction to fingerboard training and make significant progress.

Maximum strength training with added weight (after Eric Hörst)

After you have done the first programme over several training cycles, the holds that you can hang from will be very small, and at some point also very painful. Now if not before, it’s come to the time to choose bigger hold in the board again and to increase the training intensity through added weight (an extra 10 to 50 kg). When adding the extra weight, remember that this is supposed to be about sensible training and not about impressing anyone else. First choose a training board that you can hang from with the first phalanx. Add enough weight so that you can hang onto it for just 13 seconds.

Soon I’ll show you how to choose the right weight in a video on our YouTube channel. Using this board, you train with the weight as follows:

  • 10-second hang
  • 3-minute break
  • Repeat 4 times

Then rest for 5 minutes and do another set.

Keep the amount of added weight the same for at least 4 weeks; then you can check if you need to adjust it.

Strength endurance – when “getting drained” works

When you’re climbing, you don’t just want to be able to grip the smallest holds, you also want to get to the top of the route. For this, you need to repeatedly grip onto holds and let them go again. The longer the route, the more often we have to keep gripping. You feel your forearms getting tighter and tighter, and they begin to burn. The following programme will make it easier to tough this phase out.

Intermittent hanging (repeaters)

The Beastmaker (Ned Feehally) may well have made this training programme famous, or at least, I see a lot of people training using the Beastmaker app’s programme/intervals. A lot of people also talk about the good results that they’ve got with this method. Essentially, this programme is really good at training your fingers specifically for climbing, but it’s wrongly labelled finger strength training. Because of the high number of repetitions and the comparatively low intensity, it should be categorised as strength endurance training. This becomes particularly apparent from the physical reaction to the training.

The gripping and releasing corresponds to the pattern when you’re climbing, and “pumps” the forearm. It is precisely this pumping that shows that we’re in the realm of energy production through the “lactic anaerobic system”. This means that the muscle gets its energy primarily from partial glycolysis. It is partial because the energy needs to be available more quickly than the biochemical process can supply it.

This process is not a problem for the body. It just leaves a few things behind, including lactate. This lactate accumulates in the muscle, and can only be broken down again at a particular intensity. As soon as the intensity of the exercise exceeds this threshold, the muscle starts to burn. Above a certain lactate threshold, the muscle will ultimately fail.

Through the following programme, you train strength endurance by improving this break-down process and the muscle’s lactate tolerance. You have two options for doing the programme:

  • Option 1: Get yourself a Beastmaker and the app that goes with it (the intervals suggested are quite challenging, so they shouldn’t be integrated into a bouldering or climbing day).
  • Option 2: The Eva Lopez method. This can be integrated into a bouldering or climbing day.

For the training, choose a hold that means that you can only just grip it when you get to the last repeater of a set. This means that you need to do a session first to find out the right hold.

  • A repeater is a 10-second hang and a 5-second rest
  • You do this repeater four or five times in a row
  • Then you rest for a minute and repeat these actions three (not too bad) to five times (quite hard), depending on your training level.

Regardless of the training programme, please do remember: tendons and ligaments don’t adapt as quickly as muscles. This means that, when we’re climbing, we have the ability to grip smaller holds, but the load-bearing capacity of the finger is not necessarily guaranteed. This is why you should be particularly careful directly after a finger strength cycle so that you don’t hurt yourself while climbing or bouldering. It’s also important to strengthen the finger flexor muscles’ antagonist muscles. You can find out how this works by reading our article on antagonist training.

 

Walking, hiking, trekking…: the language confusion guide

8. June 2020
Alpinetrek-Experts

Hiking, mountaineering, long-distance walking, walking, trekking, hut trekking, speed hiking, backpacking, fastpacking, undertaking a pilgrimage: all terms that describe walking outdoors. Why are there so many words to describe such a simple and beautiful activity, which ultimately is just putting one put in front of the other? How do all these “disciplines” differ? Are there any significant differences at all? We’re going to take a closer look at these different terms to try and answer these questions. To make it a bit simpler, we’ll limit ourselves to moving at walking speed and without any equipment (like snowshoes or skis).

Walking is not just walking

An initial answer to this question could be: on-foot outdoor activities are becoming increasingly popular and therefore more diverse. The spectrum ranges from simple day trips around the Sauerland to trips lasting several weeks to Karakorum. The different disciplines differ in their duration, geographical location and in terms of effort and demands. Another distinguishing criterion for outdoor walking activities is in the equipment used. The reasons behind undertaking the activity can also be used to differentiate. For instance, some people are doing it for pleasure, others for sport and others have mental or religious reasons. Religious or spiritual motivations have also become a mass phenomenon with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Awkward German and cool anglicisms

The fact that nowadays every kind of walking in nature has its own name is probably related to the fact that we like to categorise people. Marketing departments in the tourism and outdoor industry certainly must take some of the blame, a wide range of different activities suits a wide range of different products. In Germany, many English terms have added to the naming confusion with their cool and sexy sounding names. Well, sexy at least in comparison to their German variants, which sound rather awkward. Speed hiking is certainly more appealing than “Hochgeschwindigkeitswandern” and fast packing much cooler than “Leichtgepäckschnellwandern”.

However, this language diversity has also created ambiguous terms that cannot always be translated one-to-one. If you do try, it’s easy to get confused. Both languages use hiking and trekking, but not always in the same manner – for instance, the English ‘hiking trousers’ is often translated into German as ‘Trekkinghose’. So, is trekking different to hiking? Yes, so it seems. But the translations are not always consistent…

And if all this confusion wasn’t enough, as well as trekking, hiking and walking, there’s now also backpacking and fastpacking. While the first three describe being on the move, the latter two refer to moving but with a backpack. But hold on, when you’re hiking, you’re still carrying a backpack. So, it’s all just rubbish? Not quite, it’s more a question of region- and country-specific uses of terms.

We’ve already established that hiking and walking are virtually synonymous, and are usually used interchangeably on tourism websites. According to Outdoor Magazine, both are “day trips that use a daypack with a volume of 20 to 30 litres”. Both are usually used when you’re returning to a fixed sleeping place in the evening. Touring when you’re staying over night (in huts) can also be described as hiking.

The many other terms for walking outdoors don’t overlap quite so much, but there’s not always clear differentiation. Maybe that’s why you shouldn’t compare so much, but simply explore all the terms one after the other and then the differences will become clear.

Hiking

If a walk lasts several hours, it can be called a hike. According the German Hiking Association, there is an arbitrary minimum of one hour. They also say that “hiking” should include “appropriate planning, the use of specific infrastructure (…) (and) suitable equipment”.

Hiking can be through forests and meadows, hills and mountains or along rivers, coasts and beaches. The degree of difficulty is limited, because “good, marked paths are used, which do not present any alpine difficulties”. The terrain can be walked without or with minimal aids such as a walking stick. However, a stick is not standard equipment, which is limited to robust, suitable footwear and clothing appropriate to the local climate.

There we go – a definition as simple as hiking itself.

Hillwalking

The definition is in the word: this refers to walking in hilly areas. Most of the time this is on marked or easily recognised paths, which can be walked without any climbing equipment. Exposed areas are often secured and there are only short sections without paths.

The boundaries between hiking and hillwalking are about as well defined as those between hillwalking and mountaineering. Attempts to define them according to individual criteria such as altitude and differences in altitude would be utter nonsense as they would never be able to do justice to the diversity of landscapes and tour possibilities. A wide range of criteria including equipment requirements, duration, planning effort and fitness demands, orientation ability, surefootedness and freedom from vertigo would also then have to be included and compared. It’s simpler just to say that the criteria are just ‘a bit higher’ than just walking.

Hillwalking covers a broad spectrum of activities, ranging from walking on wide forest paths to a managed alpine pasture to climbing an ice-free 3,000m peak in the main Alpine ridge. There are also many variations including high-altitude hiking, which covers hikes that take place at high altitude but don’t involve a great difference in altitude and traversing, which usually refers to travelling between mountain huts.

Trekking

The word “trek” refers to “march” or “hike” and various types of travel on foot. The word “trekking” is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as, “the activity of walking long distances on foot for pleasure.”

This gives it a very similar meaning to ‘hiking’ and even ‘walking’. So, it is all rubbish after all? No, of course not, usually trekking is used to refer to walking longer routes with more luggage. The difference is in the duration and the equipment. According to Trekkingguide.de there are also further differences in terms of movement and means of transport:

“Trekking for us is travelling over several days on foot or with simple, human-powered vehicles such as a canoe or bicycle, usually with luggage. You could of course also call it ‘multi-day hiking’, ‘multi-day water boating’ and ‘multi-day cycling’.”

The location can also be used to differentiate:

“Isolated, poorly developed areas with untouched nature and traditional culture are therefore the preferred destinations for trekking.”

This reflects the classic idea of trekking as a kind of preliminary expedition stage in remote and often culturally traditional areas. In addition to a sleeping place (in the form of the tent), a larger amount of provisions are also transported.

The well-respected Outdoor Magazine has its own opinion. They say,

If you stay overnight – whether in a hut, guesthouse or tent – it becomes ‘trekking’.

A somewhat exclusive viewpoint, but still pretty legitimate. We can agree that trekking often leads to countries far away from the Alps such as Nepal or Canada and takes place further away from “civilization” than classic hiking. Plus, you usually have more luggage and you might experience real wilderness.

Long distance walking

Long distance walking could mean covering long distances over several days or even weeks – and it’s another of these phenomena that come into the public eye like a pop-up window. If you take a look at social media and the blogosphere, the whole world seems to be crossing the Alps in some way. Why is everyone so keen to walk around for days and weeks on end? The Wandern.com portal might have an answer:

When you’ve walked a long way and have 30 or so kilometres behind you in a day, when you reach your hostel with burning feet and an aching back, and at the end of your energy, your soul rejoices and your heart sings. Your success – and the high oxygen levels in your blood – gives you a real rush of happiness.

Hostel is a key word here, because unlike trekking, with long distance walking you’re never discovering unexplored terrains. If a hiker reaches another hostel rather than returning to their starting point, they are named a long-distance walker.

The Alpine Clubs Trail Book differentiates long distance walking even further based on route length: “Fernwanderwege” are over 500 km long and go through at least three countries. “Weitwanderwege” are over 300 km long and go through at least three German states. Of course, these precise specifications do not prevent anyone from planning as many national and regional long-distance hiking trails as they like.

With their attachment to local resources and infrastructure, long-distance hikers are far more important economically than trekkers. Therefore, advertising often appeals to the former. This economic component is also one of the less romantic explanations for the long-distance walking boom. As part of this, more and more paths are being connected, marked, developed and marketed as long-distance hiking trails.

Pilgrims

“Long distance walks with spiritual motivation” – is one way of describing a pilgrimage. The Camino de Santiago in Spain, with its atmospheric landscapes and dense network of hostels, attracts long-distance hikers from all over the world. The most famous leads from the Pyrenees to the tomb of the apostle James in Santiago de Compostela.

Speed hiking

We recently devoted a whole article to this ‘ turbo-charged hiking’. This intensified type of hiking often goes through demanding terrain with strong poles and lightweight equipment. Poles are used to stabilise the body and strengthen the upper body muscles.

Initially, speed hiking was mainly practised as a compensatory sport or training method for other mountain sports such as ski touring and trail running. In recent years, it has become a discipline in its own right, which is great for conditioning and developing coordination skills. Speed hiking also fits into the current ultra-light trend. Of course there are now also competitions, with different distances and levels of difficulty for the growing number of athletes of different levels.

(Nordic) Walking

At first glance, this brisk walking with an accentuated use of poles seems to be the same as speed hiking, because the poles swing and it’s performed at high speed. However, Nordic Walking rarely involves altitude gains or particularly long distances. The terrain and speed are also more comfortable than they appear at first glance. Nordic Walking should be somewhere between walking, hiking and jogging.

Also known as power walking, this walking variant has, in contrast to speed hiking, a slightly more leisurely image, so you’ll rarely come across young (Nordic) walkers in the forests or fields. Nordic Walking doesn’t really count as a mountain sport. Its followers tend to focus more on the health aspects and the social side.

Fastpacking

Just like speed hiking, fast packing is part of the growing ultra-light movement. Fastpacking is a blend of (speed) hiking, trekking and trail running. It motto is “fast and long”. This means several days on foot through remote mountain terrain, over rugged peaks and unexplored mountain ranges. Ideally, you will stay overnight in a bivvy or just out in the open as nature intended.

Fastpacking is not for mountain novices, as the minimalism requires an advanced level of training and an experienced and creative handling of the equipment. The quick and easy flexibility of fast packing is based on the Alpine style of mountaineering. However, despite all the ambition, the aim is to minimise the overall effort without neglecting safety and comfort.

Creative and exotic disciplines

Geocaching is a scavenger hunt for the young and young-at-heart adventurers. The GPS device provides that little nudge to tempt even reluctant nature-lovers outside. The GPS device helps to locate the “caches”, which are now hidden all over the mountains. With geocaching, (hill) walking becomes less daunting for young walkers.

Barefoot walking doesn’t add anything to hiking rather it takes something away – shoes. What might seem like a nightmare to some, feels like total liberation to others. Beginners should start by walking short distances on suitable terrain (grass, sand or earth) and feel their way (quite literally) into it. Of course, you can always put your shoes back on if you don’t like it.

As you can see, the list of “walking activities” is getting longer and longer. And as we humans are forever inventing new outdoor activities, it will be fascinating to see what other disciplines will be added in the future. So, to be continued…

Flyweights for the back – the world of ultra-light backpacks

5. June 2020
Equipment

Can you still remember your first trekking tour or multi-day hike? I remember mine well, I had borrowed a backpack and it was far too big for the tour I was doing. Of course, it’s never possible to leave empty space in a backpack, so I managed to fill it with all sorts of odds and ends until the backpack was full to the brim. Of course, this was far from ultra-light; it was more ultra-heavy. This meant that, despite the backpack having a good carry system and numerous other features, it was not only heavy, but became a real problem.

Anyone who has had a similar experience will have surely proclaimed, “Next time, I’ll put less and lighter things in my backpack!” But what’s the best way to do this if you want to save weight in the backpack itself as well? Let’s go deeper into the world of (ultra) lightweight backpacks.

What makes a ultra-light backpack different from a traditional backpack?

The ultra-light class distinguishes itself above all by one thing: minimal material usage. In order to produce a backpack with a capacity of approx. 70 litres for trekking, that weighs less than one kilo, you have to do without anything non-essential. This includes things like an internal frame as well as thick padding. Another pretty significant way to save weight is in the materials that are used.

This sounds like it would produce a pretty crude, basic backpack. Obviously, this is not the case in practise. Let’s take a look at where weight can be saved on backpacks and some of the finer details:

 

frame and carry system

Ultra-light backpacks generally don’t have a frame. The reason for this is very simple: less inside means less weight. This is why elaborate frame constructions and the associated carry systems are deliberately omitted. In order to achieve good carrying comfort, it is important that the backpack is not too heavily loaded and is packed in the optimal manner. In another article, we have summarised the most important do’s and don’ts when packing a backpack. I’ll give you one simple trick here though:

Use a sleeping mat (in the ultra-light sector, these are usually made from foam) to stiffen the back panel. This not only ensures that the rucksack is stable, but also that the mat is neatly stowed away. Companies such as Exped also offer conventional backpacks, such as the Mountain Pro 40, which can be slimmed down as required, to reduce its weight by almost a third.

Compartments and Pockets

There is no question as to the practicality of compartments in a rucksack. However, these compartments also add extra weight and often result in the rucksack being packed according to organisation rather than functional benefits. That’s why most ultra-light rucksacks don’t have additional compartments. These backpacks often only come with a large main compartment and 1-2 smaller compartments or pockets. Many ultra-light rucksacks also have a roll-top closure, so there’s no lid compartment or similar. Depending on the model, ultra-light backpacks may also have attachment points for pieces of equipment. A holder for walking poles or ice tools is almost standard. Compression straps are crucial on most larger ultra-light rucksacks. They are particularly effective on bags larger than 45 litres. Backpacks of this size are usually completely sufficient even for multi-day tours.

Materials

It is also possible to save weight in the materials. Lighter and often thinner materials are not necessarily worse than their heavier counterparts. Materials such as Dyneema allow quality, durable products to be produced in the lightweight segment. It’s important that these materials  aren’t overloaded – but then that would kind of miss the point of an ultralight backpack.

Sharp and pointy objects shouldn’t be loose in the main backpack; they should either be packed carefully or attached to the outside of the bag. If you want to see a good example of a large yet lightweight and durable walking backpack, we recommend the Radical by Ferrino. This large walking backpack has removed everything that adds on extra weight. In addition, lightweight materials such as Cubic-Tech and Dyneema have been used, ensuring that the backpack is robust and resistant despite its low weight.

Preconceptions and misunderstandings

It sometimes feels like the world has split into two camps: the ultra-light enthusiasts and the durability fanatics. During discussions with friends and colleagues, and during the research for this article, I have come across several preconceptions, incorrect beliefs and unresolved questions. Therefore, I have once again listed three of the most frequent discussion points. I won’t take sides with either the ultra-light group or the ultra-heavy club.

  • Preconception 1: ultra-light = ultra expensive

In short, that’s not true. And in more detail – it’s not always true. Admittedly, in the ultra-light range there are pieces of equipment which, due to their material, design or innovative technologies, are considerably more expensive than other comparable pieces of equipment. However, this is also the case with “normal weight” equipment. Especially with backpacks, however, ultra-light backpacks, due to their mostly rather simple design (no elaborate carry system etc.), come off well in price compared to their conventional counterparts.

  • Preconception 2: Ultra-light = ultra sensitive

This preconception must also be challenged. However, the question also depends on what the backpack is actually supposed to do. If you are looking for a super robust backpack for spelunking and chimney climbing, then ultra-light backpacks might not be the right choice. But for (multi-)day hikes and trekking tours, there are numerous ultra-light backpack models that can easily keep up with their heavier counterparts in terms of durability.

  • Preconception 3: Ultra-light = ultra uncomfortable

Admittedly, changing from a backpack with a sophisticated carry system to one with a rather simple contact back was strange for me at first. But that was also because I was imagining carrying a heavy weight, and that’s not what ultra-light rucksacks are designed for. It wouldn’t make any sense to save all the grams possible on your backpack, only to then fill it with heavy equipment. A clear distinction must be made here. If I want to travel with lightweight, minimalistic luggage and the trip allows, then an ultra-light backpack is certainly a good choice. But if my tour requires me to carry a lot of equipment as well as food and water (which isn’t freeze-dried), I’ll need a backpack that is suitable for heavier loads. In this case, I should just try to reduce the weight of the contents to a minimum.

Conclusion

Ultra-light backpacks certainly have their place. Depending on their usage and contents, they can contribute to a successful and enjoyable tour. If you’re looking to join the ranks of the ultra-light, the backpack is certainly one of the pieces of equipment where you can save the most weight. However, it’s important to make sure that the model you want fits your usage and personal needs. What are your experiences with lightweight backpacks? Are there any other preconceptions you would like to dispel? Leave a comment!

Altitude sickness – prevention and treatment

7. May 2020
Tips and Tricks

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) can strike anyone, from professional to amateur mountaineer, and often hits quickly and unexpectedly. And you don’t have to be climbing an eight-thousander for it to strike. Athletes can be affected even on 3,000m peaks in the Alps or when cycling across mountain passes. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the symptoms as well as how to recognise and treat the condition.

Altitude sickness: the symptoms

A distinction is made between acute mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Below, you can find the main symptoms for each to differentiate the conditions.

However, all three conditions have common factors that significantly increase the risk:

  • the absolute altitude
  • the speed of ascent
  • insufficient acclimatisation
  • individual predisposition

When assessing the risk for one of the altitude diseases, it is important to consider the ascent profile (how many meters of altitude are to be covered), the sleeping height and past individual susceptibility.

Symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS)

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness

Symptoms of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE)

  • Significant loss of performance during ascent
  • Dry chesty cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cyanosis (blue colouration of mucous membranes and lips)
  • Crackling noise when breathing

Symptoms of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE)

  • Severe headache
  • Signs of paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness, up to coma

The most common form of altitude sickness is acute mountain sickness (AMS). The most common symptom is a headache. In addition, there are usually unspecific symptoms such as a general feeling of illness, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and insomnia. Acute mountain sickness manifests after min. 4 – 6 hours from an altitude of 2,000 to 2,500 m.

Acute mountain sickness is often most pronounced after the first night at high altitude. Intensive physical exertion such as long, technical ascents further intensify the symptoms. If the patient doesn’t ascend any higher and rests, symptoms generally disappear in 24 to 48 hours. However, the danger increases if they continue to ascend despite existing symptoms – and acute mountain sickness develops into high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Then, they must descend immediately.

It is important to listen to your body and pay attention to any changes. It is equally as important to observe your companions when you are not travelling alone. Is my long-time mountain buddy just tired? Or are they moving a lot slower than normal? A noticeable loss of performance at altitude and the first signs of acute mountain sickness are usually noticed more quickly by others in the group, so that countermeasures can be taken early on.

High-altitude pulmonary edema

An early symptom and warning sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is an excessive loss of performance during the ascent, often accompanied by shortness of breath and, initially, dry coughing. High-altitude pulmonary oedema develops after very rapid ascent to altitudes above 4,000m in a period of 2-3 days.

How can altitude sickness be prevented?

The most sensible way to reduce the risks of altitude sickness is a slow gain in altitude as well as being sufficiently physically fit for the tour. Sleeping lower than you have ascended during the day is also important for effective acclimatisation. If you know you are susceptible to mountain sickness, you should aim for no more than 500 m ascent per day above 2,500 m during trekking and (hut) hikes. If you have been susceptible on previous tours, you should also avoid ascending quickly (e.g. on a cable car) to heights above 3,000 m. Symptoms often only appear on arrival at the hut. Before undertaking a trekking tour in mountains such as the Himalayas or the Andes, it is also advisable to stay overnight in the Alps above 3,000 m.

How is altitude sickness treated? Are there medications?

The most effective treatment for the symptoms is to improve oxygen supply. This is most easily achieved by descending to lower altitudes. If there are indications of cerebral edema (HACE) or pulmonary edema (HAPE), you must descend immediately! In most cases, this requires a reduction in altitude of 1,000 metres in order to significantly alleviate symptoms. Mild symptoms of acute mountains sickness (AMS) often disappear within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of the disease, if you rest and undertake symptomatic treatment (drink lots of water!).

When staying at high altitudes, in areas with no infrastructure or in technically demanding terrain, it is often not possible to descend immediately. If necessary, the use of medication can temporarily relieve the symptoms and in the worst case even save lives. However, medication should only be administered by doctors or mountain guides trained in high altitude medicine! Therefore, this article will not go into any more detail about medication for altitude sickness.

Coca tea in the Andes

In the Andes, locals swear by coca tea. To make it, hot water is poured over the leaves of the coca plant. The mountainfolk in the Andes mix the plant with chalk or ashes as a to produce something between chewing tobacco and chewing gum and it is very popular. Firstly, because coca dispels hunger, fatigue, stomach-aches and headaches as well as the cold. But also because coca is effective against altitude sickness. In fact, the leaves seem to increase oxygen uptake in the blood. However, the plant is also used to produce cocaine, which is one of the reasons why the plant cannot be purchased in Germany.

Oxygen deficiency and the symptoms

Hypoxia is the medical term for lack of oxygen. Hypoxia specifically refers to the lack of oxygen in the body’s arterial blood. Characteristic symptoms of oxygen deficiency are changes in breathing, acceleration of pulse and/or chest pain. Mental symptoms such as spontaneous euphoria, delirium and feelings of lightness can also indicate a lack of oxygen. Dizziness, weakness and general discomfort are also among the most common symptoms when on the mountain.

If body tissue is undersupplied with oxygen for a longer period of time, it can lead to weakened circulation and ultimately, loss of consciousness. Another symptom is nausea without any actual digestive complaint. Manifestations of an oxygen deficiency can come to light in many different ways. Particularly deceptive: the typical complaints are usually unspecific symptoms, which can also be signs of numerous other diseases.

A few closing words…

In summary, altitude sickness can be an extremely life-threatening situation. For those who are susceptible and predisposed, the first symptoms can appear at an altitude of about 2,000 m. With slow acclimatisation and careful preparation, the occurrence and possible symptoms of the disease can often be alleviated, if not completely prevented. However, acclimatisation only works up to a certain point. That’s why you often hear about the so-called ‘death zones’ on the seven and eight-thousanders – areas on the mountain where the body literally begins to die and which no acclimatisation, no matter how perfect, can prevent. Specific preparation, physical fitness and a slow ascent remain the best measures for healthy trekking and mountaineering at high altitudes. The motto “climb high, sleep low” is the definitive mantra of all mountaineers who want to get up high.

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