Sunday, May 12, 2013

Trying Out the Trion Guide in the Central Alaskan Range


From the Moose's Tooth on the Ruth Glacier to The Throne in “Little Switzerland,” the Central Alaskan Range is peppered with prime alpine objectives, making it an excellent location for Rainier Mountaineering's first-ever AlaskanAlpine Seminar, and the perfect place to put Mammut's 45+ liter TrionGuide pack through the paces.
With the Trion Guide on Mt. Francis's ice pitches.
Our crew of climbers set up a base camp in the shadow of Denali's massive girth, training and testing skills on all of the alpine options that the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier offers. Not burdened by carrying around heavy loads, the Trion Guide was the perfect size for day-long alpine objectives in cold climates (daytime temps hovered in the teens and plunged below zero at night), amply accommodating climbing gear, first aid equipment, extra clothing, food and water, and spare rope when traveling on the glacier.


Our first objective was the East Ridge of Point 8670'. This peak is more commonly called the “Radio Control Tower,” probably due to the way it juts out of the glacier. Flanked on its western side by steep granite, the eastern side provides access via steep couloirs. In this more technical terrain, the Trion Guide moved well with my body and carried the load comfortably, and the pack design didn't inhibit head/helmet movement when scouting the route above.
The serpentine ridge on Pt 8670'
Our next objective was the East Ridge of Mt. Francis, a regal slice of snow and granite that stands over the Kahiltna base camp. Getting to the East Ridge required snowshoes, then transitioning to crampons, a transition made easy via the crampon-carrying front pocket's easy access. Ice on the ridge necessitates carrying two tools, and the smart design of the ice tool carriers securely holds modern tools in place, and the gear loop on the waist belt provided ample space for clipping draws, screws, and rock pro.
The opening "snice" pitch on Mt. Francis
Throughout the week, we traveled around the glacier, using it as our classroom for ice climbing, crevasse rescue, avalanche awareness, and other instruction—and throughout it all the Trion Guide proved the perfect pack. Anyone who wears a pack for large portions of their life inevitably develops some strong opinions about packs and pack features—I'd probably add a side pouch on at least on side of the pack to better accommodate pickets and I'd change the angle of the front pocket zipper, as the current angle impedes zipping a bit. Additionally, I've found that my needs are pretty minimal when it comes pack carriage systems, so after the ascent of Point 8670' I pulled out the Motion Butterfly stays, but I can imagine the innovative “body-movement-matching” design working well for those demanding a more sophisticated carriage system.
Refreshing on some crevasse rescue skills
Enjoying some ice pitches inside the Kahiltna glacier
Packs are a long-term and high-stakes relationship in the mountain world: With the exception of your boots, there is no other piece of equipment that makes or breaks a trip like a pack. Looking back over the course of my life in the mountains, I've had pack relationships come and go, some sweetly, others tumultuously. I can definitely say that the Mammut Trion Guide 45+ pack is now my long-term, committed alpine pack and I'm looking forward to our continued alpine adventures together later this summer in the North Cascades and the French Alps. Additionally, this pack is going to be in heavy rotation during my winter Northeastern ice guiding with Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+AlpineExperiences. Fortunately, the ripstop/ballistic nylon is suited for hard play!

In a few days, I'll be heading back into the Central Alaskan Range for a climb of Denali/Mt. McKinley and I'll be bringing along the Mammut Heron Pro. Based on my experience with the Trion Guide, I'm expecting great things and I'll let you know about it when I'm back down in the valley in early June. Wishing you the best of times and climbs 'til then!

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