My First Day on the RT Binding

Sunday, February 6, 2011

training ground for the day

top belay station

me ducking some spindrift

The weather put a damper on my weekend plans.  Not wanting to let a Saturday go to waste, Bart and I hooked up for some skillz training in the Triangle Couloir.  The Triangle Couloir is a ~2400 foot shot in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  While the Triangle isn't endowed with the height and beauty of its stepsister the Y Couloir, or the nobility of its westerly cousin, the Coalpit, the Triangle does have one allure: a 200 foot unskiable ice fall right at its midline.


With more equipment than we otherwise would have, we headed up Little Cottonwood trail.  We skinned through a boulder field, performed a minor brush-whack, and arrived at the base of the chute where we found some stiff bootable snow.  While some alder and I had an altercation, Bart took took off up the chute.


Spindrift poured down off the walls and sometimes a river of loose snow would flow down around our ankles.  The mountains had not received much new snow, so we weren't too concerned about avalanches.  But we nervously joked about what might happen if a snow cloud came ripping down the chute.


Soon we were at the base of the wall and switched to crampons and axes.  We freely climbed the first 100 feet of the wall.  As the pitch steepened, we decided that we'd better protect ourselves. Safety first, right?


Bart climbing the lower Triangle Wall with some sweet tools

In 125 feet or so, I ended up placing 4 screws (3.5 if you count the one that only went half way into the thin ice) and 2 cams, and at the top, I whacked in a piton next to an old rusty one to belay Bart.


Bart ascending the Triangle Wall



At the top, we clipped our climbing gear to a tree, and booted and skinned and scrambled another 1000 feet to the top.


With the day's technical bit of climbing, I thought it was fitting that I had my new La Sportiva RT Bindings along. La Sportiva has a long-standing tradition when it comes to vertical and the mountains and has the vision to see that the future of ski mountaineering is light.  The RT Binding is a cutting edge binding that uses the Dynafit-style attachment. The RT is fully releasable with adjustable release values (RV) on the front and the back.  And it only weighs 175 grams.  That's just a gel heavier than my race bindings!  The tall heel riser and RV settings only add an extra 30-40 grams, bringing it hundreds of grams less than other comparable tech bindings. Truly amazing.


After a sporty scramble to peek into the Coalpit, we transitioned for the downhill.  There was a stiff windboard that presented a slight avy concern, so we leapfrogged our way down the steep upper chute.  The RT Bindings performed nicely and although the snow was a bit variable, the descent was fun.


me skiing the Triangle Couloir


As we approached the wall, we choked up on our turns and then reverted to a controlled sideslip.  For the rappel, we brought an extra ~7mm rope to tie to our climbing rope, hoping to avoid a multi-pitch descent.  We threaded the ropes into an anchor left as an offering to the mountain by a predecessor -- two slings wrapped around two small trees growing out of the rock.  Bart and I double weighted it pretty hard, and it looked ok.  But it turns out that our skinny rope was only 100 feet, and we ended up having to do a two stage rappel.  That's what training days are for I guess.


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