Why hardshells ice climbing?


Original Post
Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 40

I see people asking about hardshell pants and jackets for ice climbing. I don't understand why. In my experience it's below freezing and there's no moisture to worry about. If it is close to freezing or above and the ice is dripping it's warm enough that the water doesn't penetrate my soft shell to make me cold. I'm wearing. I've postholed in deep snow, glissaded and been in storms but never felt like I needed hardshells.

All I can think about is baking like a turkey in a GoreTex kit. What am I missing?

christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 55

I think to a certain extent you are right,

but there are also a lot of trips that can require ice climbing, but are not ice cragging days.

GregMiller · · Louisville, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 0

I've been out ice cragging on 5 degree days where the water was still dripping (because physics?). Definitely glad to have my hardshell jacket on that day. However, yes, most of the time I'm quite happy in softshells.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 40
christoph benells wrote:I think to a certain extent you are right, but there are also a lot of trips that can require ice climbing, but are not ice cragging days.
I've never worn a hardshell kit in the alpine unless I was snowboarding. Even then I would pack the hardshell jacket wear the softshell underneath and unzip my pants while skinning up. I've packed a hardshell on a trip in case of being out in bad weather. The bad weather rolls in and the GoreTex stays in the pack.

One thought though. I could see busting a hardshell kit in bad weather when it's close to freezing. It's just every time I'm out and it's raging the temp's been way below 32.
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0

I think this might be the first thing you've ever posted that I agree with. I've climbed routes that were flowing with water plenty. It basically freezes onto your clothes and you shake it off later. You don't get wet.

My theory is the hardshell supporters are working off old info. It was once either a hardshell or fleece/pile. Now that we've got a great in between, it's unnecessary.

The time I had an opportunity to be above 6000m for extended periods of time, I did wear my goretex stuff.

James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 2,542

I actually like the hardshell pant/bib with a softshell jacket combo.

christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 55

i think it would dangerous to go anywhere 5+ hours away from shelter without waterproof clothing in a winter climbing environment.

Even if it stays in the pack, it is still something I would bring if I am going out for a big day, or even more so, for a big climb that requires more than a 20+ hour push.

what if you break your ankle? you're tellin me you would feel fine hanging there 1,000' feet up some mixed route in RMNP without waterproof layers while your buddy goes to get help?

wear softshell and layer gore tex on top if it is really needed.

if you keep gore clean it breathes exceptionally well, especially with a layer of good wicking material underneath.

But yes, i usually wear softshell pant, and a softshell or windbreaker type jacket.

Don Ferris · · Eldorado Springs · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 0

Kirby, how often do you reapply DWR to your softshell stuff?

TheIceManCometh · · Albany, NY · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 483

yes, I prefer my softshell for ice climbing when it's a nice day, but early/late season when it's likely to be above freezing I'm more likely to grab my hardshell.

Even when it's below freezing there are times you'll get lots of water. For example last season I was on Roaring Brook Falls in the Daks on New Year's Eve. It was very thin and had a huge amount of water coming down the falls (so much that it was hard to hear my partner 15' away). We got tons of spray as well. My jacket was completely coated, and I was glad to have my hardshell as my softshell would have been soaked through.

Same thing late season, you might be climbing a pillar right next to an active flow or punch through the ice and get drenched.

I've also climbed in hard rain. The ice was great, but the shell made a big difference.

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,115

Like others, I have been ice climbing when it is well below freezing and been on lines that are dripping. Sometimes it is not the actual line that is dripping but the falls next to it are running full on. With a bit of winds you get all misty. Having a hard shell especially when out for multiple days. A soft-shell is fine otherwise. It is really all about picking the right shell for the conditions.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 40

Yo High, say what? You've disagreed with stuff I posted. You're like the only one :)

Christoph, No doubt I would be fine without a hardshell. In fact I doubt I would have one in my pack in that situation. If I had to camp out for an extended period of time while my partner went for help I would try to slide in my SOL Bivy and put on my syntactic belay jacket. I might even put on belay pants if I packed them that day.

None of this means hard shells aren't useful just that I personally don't find a use for them.

Don, I wash my gear with that Tec wash stuff has DWR in it. I might wash my gear every year or two.. I mean when it stinks! :)

Iceman, that's crazy you were on RBF New Year's! So was I. What a crowd!! The first pitch was funky. The crux on the second wasn't as bad as people talked it up but man that first pitch.. Unusually yikes!

That said I really didn't get soaked. Now it was the only thing we did that day so maybe I would've felt it if we weren't headed to the New Year's party at the Bivy. Too bad that's no more..

christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 55
Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 40

Hey I like it! It's better than the usual fat jokes! Haha..

No hard feelings. That brings back memories. That was the first multi pitch route I led. Poor Scott (my mentor), he about had a heartattack because I didn't protect myself from a ground fall. We took so long to get back to the car that we almost missed our flight that night. I wore my helmet all the way back to the car and didn't realize my helmet was still on til I tried to get into the car.

Steven Kovalenko · · Calgary · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0

I only use softshells in the cold, dry Rockies for climbing. Polartec PowerShield Pro is a fantastic thing. I am loving my Patagonia Knifeblade jacket to death.

The only days I regret not bringing a traditional hardshell are the days where I had no business being out there in the first place (i.e. alpine climbing with a bushwhack approach in October with temperatures near freezing and nuking snow - a recipe for hypothermia).

That being said, I have a set of Neoshell pants for ski touring, and I sometimes take a light Goretex jacket which I only wear on the ski down. When it's puking snow, damp, and warm, or I am in Roger's Pass, those are awesome. I use beat-up hardshell pants at the resort.

Hardshells are overkill for climbing in cold and dry conditions.

Tom Stryker · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 245

Another vote for hardshell bottom, softshell top.

Michael C · · New Jersey · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 190

Patagonia Mixed Guide, Harshell/Softshell Combo. Hood, shoulders, chest are hardshell, lower half of body and sleeves are breathable but still pretty water resistant softshell. Best of both.

DRusso · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 230

The only time I think of hard-shell over soft-shell is on exposed windy climbs. As others have said Polartec Powershield Pro is the shit and can take on a ton of water for a soft-shell fabric, but if you are up on Mount Washington or in the alpine getting hammered by wind its nice to have a windproof hard-shell. I know Windstopper and other windproof soft-shell fabrics exist but when things are "getting real" I like to batten down the hatches with a bomber hard-shell.

Ray Pinpillage · · West Egg · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 0

Softshells do poorly in the wind and freezing rain. I've never been so cold as when I had a light mist blowing on me, completely soaked. For the most part I wear soft shells but I prefer a hybrid pant with a softshell jacket and rain shell in my pack. For over night ascents I take a waterproof shell only, especially since they typically weigh less than softshells.

Hiro Kurotsuchi · · Colorado · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 200

+1 Polartec PowerShield
+1 softshell most of the time top and bottom

I own a crazy hardshell and a M10. I bring the M10 sometimes, but try not to wear it. :)

christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 55
Ray Pinpillage wrote: especially since they typically weigh less than softshells.
this is a good point

i have been using a windbreaker instead of a soft shell for most of my trips recently

(ski touring the sierra nevada, cascade volcano ice and snow routes combined with snowboard descents down snowier terrain, multi pitch rock climbing from the sierra nevada to the white mountain in nh, alaska range technical climbs, denali ski descent)

weighs next to nothing and you can practically store it in your pants pocket, and does essentially the same job as a soft shell.

ice cragging though soft shell all the way
christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 55

does anyone know the difference between gore tex windstopper an the normal gore tex membrane?

i heard once that windstopper is just gore tex's old membrane

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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