Colin Haley Cliff Notes

Sunset on Mount Stuart

Colin Haley is one of the most accom­plished young alpine climbers. He grew up climb­ing the Cas­cades and since has moved to climb­ing moun­tains world­wide. If you are not famil­iar with him you can start by view­ing his blog and some videos of him on youtube.

Last night Colin Haley spoke about gear & win­ter travel at the Moun­taineers in Seat­tle. I cap­tured some notes and wanted to share them for those that didn’t attend.

Unfor­tu­nately Seat­tle traf­fic made me about 20 min­utes late to his talk, so I didn’t catch the begin­ning. When I saw Colin again, I chuck­led to myself. In true hard-man, dirt­bag style, he looked like he just pulled up from the moun­tain, and rolled out of his van with no time to take a shower. In any other talk, I might think … wow, what’s that about? But here, in a talk for climbers, if the guy didn’t look at least a lit­tle rugged I might think he spent too much time in civil­i­a­tion and not enough time out­doors. haha.

But I digress… Here are some notes I took. I expect some­one may have a writeup soon on cas­cade­climbers. If that hap­pens, I’ll link it here. You can also see old notes from last year.

  • Food
    • Colin focuses on carbs while mov­ing on route. He eats bars and gu. Bring a vari­ety. Colin thinks all bars are gen­er­ally good and made of good stuff. How­ever eat 100 of them and they will all be hard to choke down.
    • At the bivy,  Colin focuses on get­ting enough calo­ries via pro­tein and fat. He prefers nuts for weight-to-caloric density.
    • For din­ner, Colin eats freeze dried meals and rec­om­mends moun­tain house.
  • Hydra­tion
    • Prefers MSR drom bags with no tube. Plat­a­pus aren’t as durable. The tube gets in the way, freezes, etc.
    • He showed the red lite ver­sion with no bot­tom tube. Looked like a 4 or 6L. I couldn’t find the same ver­sion on MSR’s web­site, so I’m not sure if they make it anymore.
    • Colin uses elec­tro­lites in his water. He men­tioned Nuun due to it’s low sugar con­tent and there­fore low funk fac­tor in bladders.
    • Colin car­ries a vari­able amount of water depend­ing on the route & access to water. In the cas­cades dur­ing the sum­mer. He might carry .5 — 1 L know­ing he can fill up along the way. You will have to be con­science about this though. You don’t want to get too far up route and real­ize you have no more stream crossings.
  • Sleep sys­tem
    • Hav­ing a good thick pad for sleep­ing, is good. He car­ries a thick Zote­foam pad (sold by MEC) cut down to his torso size. He then uses a thin bivy pad for his lower body which also dou­bles as his back sup­port in his pack. I missed what bivy pad he was using,  but it was super thin and folded. Some­thing sim­i­lar to Zote­foam bivy pad. It was white and pretty stiff.
    • Colin uses no zip­per sleep­ing bags to cut weight. He men­tioned Feath­ered Friends will man­u­fac­ture any of their bags with­out zip­pers upon request. The obvi­ous down­side is the lack of vent­ing, but he just pulls it off his core.
    • Use syn­thetic on multi-day trips. 1 or 2 nights out he’ll use down
  • Bivy sacks are point­less. If you’re actu­ally bear­ing weather with them, it’s mis­er­able and not effective.
    • In the summer/fair weather Colin just sleeps out, bring­ing no tent. If a storm hap­pens, he just packs up and goes home.
    • Oth­er­wise bring a light­weight sin­gle wall tent. He uses the BD First Light. Will carry it up for him­self if going solo.
    • Tents are warmer and more com­fort­able to cook in. Vent your tent.
  • Stoves
    • Car­ries Jet­boil in sum­mer where water is flow­ing and eas­ily acces­si­ble (remem­ber he’s eat­ing mostly freeze dried meals).
    • He also might carry no stove if only going for a 1 day ven­ture in sum­mer. Eats cold food.
    • Car­ries MSR Reac­tor in win­ter with big­ger pot for melt­ing snow.
    • Doesn’t like white gas stoves. Harder to man­age cook­ing in the tent (must have level ground [e.g shovel or other plat­form], higher risk of fire inside tent). He will use white gas stoves at base camps where fly­ing in can­is­ters is not practical.
    • Did not have any notable strate­gies for man­ag­ing can­is­ters in cold, other than warm­ing with your hands or rig­ging a hang­ing sys­tem for the can­is­ter and plac­ing a small can­dle under­neath (there was a pic­ture of this in Alpin­ist recently)
  • Cloth­ing — He didn’t say much when I was there. I prob­a­bly missed that part. Look­ing at his gear it looks like he wears
    • Patag­o­nia soft­shell pants.
    • The Patag­o­nia DAS Parka.
    • A thin syn­thetic coat (sim­i­lar to mont­bell ther­mawrap, though I didn’t get the brand/model).
    • A thin wind­shirt (Patagonia)
    • Sug­gested a storm sock if a water bar­rier is needed.
    • Does not use gaiters. Puts thick stretchy cord on his pants to keep cuffs down and snug around his boot. When using cram­pons, keep it on the out­side of the cram­pon so you can adjust your boots with­out tak­ing cram­pons off.
    • Uses Adi­das Ter­rex Pro for eye­wear and highly rec­om­mended them. Switched sponors from Julbo to Adi­das just to get the glasses. They have dou­ble lenses and have a nose protector.
  • Cram­pons
    • Finds hori­zonal front points work the major­ity of the time.
    • On hard­ened ice (like in Alaska) ver­ti­cal front points are useful.
    • Doesn’t really like/use mono-points. Finds that he spends too much energy try­ing to bal­ance on that one point. Likes the sta­bil­ity of two.
    • If you have both alu­minum and steel cram­pons, you can save weight be attatch­ing your steel front points to your alu­minum back to save weight. Most of the time need­ing strong back points isn’t needed.
    • Colin believes every­one should have a fully strap-on cram­pon. Much more flex­i­ble on a vari­ety of footwear. The cram­pon com­pat­i­ble boots was more impor­tant when the cram­pons had poor strap­ing sys­tems (e.g. leather straps). Today’s cram­pons don’t have these issues.
  • Ropes
    • Which rope sys­tem depends on ter­rain, num­ber of peo­ple, etc. Also a con­sid­er­a­tion is how eas­ily the line can cut over sharp edges or loose rock chop­ing it.
    • Will bring a sin­gle line to address sce­nar­ios where cut­ting of the rope may happen.
    • Uses twin in ice climb­ing, where rope cut­ting is minimized.
    • Prefers two twin lines vs dou­bles for the cascades.
    • He thinks dou­bles may make sense in a place like the Dolomites, but in the Cas­cades the lines can get crossed and cre­ate more rope drag on wind­ing alpine routes.
    • Dou­bles are also use­ful when climb­ing with 3 peo­ple — the leader belays both lines simultaneously.
    • May bring 1 twin line for climb­ing and a 5mm or 6mm 60 meter tag line for rappel.
  • Axes
    • Hasn’t car­ried a clas­sic for some time.
    • Believes arrest­ing is good to prac­tice but is over empha­sized. The main point is don’t fall. Arrest­ing a team is scary, dan­ger­ous, and difficult.
    • Uses the BD Whip­pet which is a ski pole/ice axe hybrid. Finds it much eas­ier to use and more ver­sa­tile. As the ter­rain gets steeper, uses dag­ger posi­tion to self belay
    • Uses a tech­ni­cal ice tool for more tech­ni­cal ter­rain. No longer uses an adze. Has two tech­ni­cal tools with ham­mers. Uses the ham­mers for pitons. Feels the pick is nearly as good as the adze for chip­ping any­thing out. With two ham­mers, you never have to worry about which side the ham­mer is on.
    • Does not use leashes, finds you will get pumped way to quickly because you can’t shake out. Uses Umbil­li­cal cords to make sure you don’t lose your axes.
    • Advo­cates the use of a 3rd tool, though most US com­pa­nies have stopped mak­ing them. For some alpine or mixed climbs, that’s all he will use (aside from the whip­pet I assume). Colin sug­gests look­ing at Simond. He brought a tool which looked sim­i­lar to the fox rock.
  • Other Strate­gies
    • Uses the EDK for rap­pels for sim­plic­ity and speed. Suf­fi­cient tail and prop­erly dressed/tight knot is key. If really wor­ried, do two EDKs. Doesn’t use fish­er­mans or figure-8 follow-through. Make sure you using rings or a biner which the knot can­not slide through.
    • When using a tag line, pull the skinny line
    • Doesn’t use GPS or per­sonal loca­tion bea­cons — he doesn’t have one. Does bring pictures/beta of the moun­tain beyond the route they are plan­ning incase they need to exit another way.
    • Pitons are very use­ful on lesser trav­elled alpine routes. Advo­cates more peo­ple know how to place and work with them. Carry at least 2 knife blade pitons. Attach to your har­ness with a 3mm acces­sory cord which is tied in a loop to the piton.
    • The best train­ing for climb­ing is climb­ing. Climb or run hills. Cross-fit, weights, etc aren’t as use­ful. Expe­ri­ence in the moun­tains wins.
    • The climb­ing gym is use­ful as the vol­ume of steep ter­rain you can get in a 3 hour ses­sions is way more than you can get at the crag or in the alpine. If you improve your climb­ing in the gym, it will trans­late to out­doors. You’ll be more com­fort­able on route and expend less energy.

I remem­ber I saw Colin a few years ago speak to a very small audi­ence at Feath­ered Friends. He was up and com­ing at that time and just a young kid. My favorite ques­tion from that talk was “Who sponors you?” and his response was “My parents!”

Colin started climb­ing in the Cas­cades at age 10 or 11. He was in his late teens or early 20’s and already climb­ing stuff I only dreamed of. Now at 25, Colin Haley is cer­tainly an accom­plished alpin­ist who doesn’t seem like he’ll be stop­ping any time soon.

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