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A sad (semi-)retirement

February 12, 2009

A sorrowful moment is upon me.  I’ve finally (sort of) retired a favorite pack that’s long been in need of replacement.  Finally buying it’s replacement had a sense of finality about it.  I know it’s only gear, but…

I don’t frequently become too attached to my gear (partly because I destroy it too quickly), but I’ve become particularly attached to my two main packs. I really love gear that lasts and is utterly dependable, especially since it leaves more money for other gear or, most importantly, road trips and plane tickets.

One is an old, lime-green Lowe Alpine Attack 40 (aka “Greeny”) that I’ve beat up for well over a decade now, and it’s been on my back for a great many of my grandest adventures, including my first ice routes, first alpine routes, and first bivies in the alpine (okay, it was under my butt or over my feet then, but you get the idea). I positively LOVE this pack, and I think most of the newer packs on the market are hard-pressed to beat it in terms of design and usefulness. And they’ve changed up the newer models, so it’s pretty much irreplaceable. Best pack ever. EVER.

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Greeny at work

Excessive use and age has finally taken it’s toll though, and I’ve finally had to retire it from the regular rotation, somewhat tearfully (it’s still going to come out occasionally though). I compensated for the fabric losing it’s water resistance by lining it with a garbage bag on occasion, and patched it more than once, but finally had to admit defeat when crucial items like ice screws starting escaping from the bottom during approaches (a result of one too many butt slides), and the very rare occasions where it was just a tiny bit too small to take on an overnight route (that I didn’t want to suffer on too much). My denial was further highlighted when a partner pointed out that even the black fabric was fading (it looks red now).

My other tired warrior pack has been a first-generation BD Shadow 55L. This has been my main cragging, water ice, and bigger alpine workhorse for the past 5 or 6 years or so now, and it’s still ticking but it’s days are starting to be numbered too. It’s been great, swallowing a set of double ropes and a big trad mixed rack, photo gear, winter gear, and all kinds of food for attempts on big routes – the great “pack full of courage” when I try to scare myself. Again, I’ve been hard-pressed to find a suitable replacement. It’s made of a lighter fabric and is now full of holes and looks like something the cat dragged in. It’s not even remotely waterproof anymore, and more often than not my gear is wet after just the approach to an ice climb. It’s also the most comfortable pack I’ve ever carried, even with 60 lbs. of gear in it.

Though I will never part with either of these packs, after much agonizing, testing, deliberating and general indecision, I’ve tentatively found what I hope will be a single pack that will cover both niches and become my new baby. But not until it survives several years of abuse and earns its place in my gear room (and saves my butt a few times). Time will tell if it works out!

(Sorry for the lame post about gear, but it’s been raining all week making climbing hard to do!).

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