How good are La Sportiva G2 SM climbing boots?

Although I have climbed a few mountains, I still feel a tad wary of describing myself as a “mountaineer”.  So this review of my new La Sportiva G2 SM climbing boots might not be full of pukka technical terms, but it most definitely comes from the heart.

By way of background, I started climbing very late in life, and most of my recent climbs have been in the 6000m+ range, and all of them in the Himalayas in India (where I live), and they have all brought me huge joy.

With one caveat.

The only blot on my climbing horizon had been using hired climbing boots, which are usually heavy to carry and to wear, and exhausting to lace up, especially on summit night, when fingers inextricably turn to thumbs, and nerves are at their most tightly-wound.

As a not too experienced climber, I came to dread putting on and lacing up the double boots I would rent.

So in April this year I invested in a pair of La Sportive G2 SM boots and my life has changed for ever.

They are THE most wonderful boots ever.

I am beyond in love with them.

If the truth be told, I fell in love with them the moment I unboxed them.

But there was that $64,000 question – did these beauties need breaking in?

I imagined they did, BUT I had less than a month between purchase and leaving to climb Banderpoonch, a mountain in Uttarakhand in India.

I live in Delhi, where May temperatures are in the upper 30sC/low 40sC, so there was no way I was going to go for a walk in my boots, to break them in.  I’d probably have passed out from the heat.  So I wore them a couple of times inside the house, clumping round inelegantly in shorts against the heat, and wearing my boots.

And then off I went to climb, secretly wondering if I was being foolish & was going to suffer from blisters or other aches and pains, having not worn my boots enough.

No need to worry at all.

These beauties were like slippers from Day One.

I wore them on an acclimatisation hike up from our Base Camp to Camp One, and the boots were fabulous from the word go.  This was the only time I wore them before we hit the snow and the proper climbing started.

     

Comfortable, super easy to put on, and oh-so-blissfully easy to lace up.

I was in heaven.

I never had one moment’s discomfort or stress in these boots.  Not one.

They were easy to put on, requiring none of the contortions I remember from the hired double boots.

The inner is super easy to put on, and fastens with Velcro, and so is easily and painlessly adjustable.  They weigh next to nothing, and each night I’d pop them inside my sleeping bag and we were all as warm as toast.

The outer boot…what total and utter bliss the La Sportiva G2 SM Boa lacing system is.

It is so easy and simple, and is perfect for folks like me, who get slightly stressed on summit night.  On earlier climbs, I remember beginning to hyperventilate as I tried to bend over and lace up first the inner and then the outer boots, with all my layers of clothes on, in the cold, and inevitably in the middle of the night.

No such stress this time round:

1.Velcro the inner boot.

2.Snap the outer boot tight – the Boa lacing system is super easy to use, with 2 dials allowing you to adjust the tightness of your upper and lower feet.

3.Zip up the incorporated gaiters and you’re A for Away.

Here is the one and only Simone Moro (the SM of the name) talking about these boots.

They were light to wear, and so (obviously) light to carry.

They were blissfully comfortable and stress-free to put on.And – call me shallow – I think they are pretty cool looking.

I bought the boots myself, and neither the supplier nor La Sportiva knows that I blog and review.

So, to answer the question I posed in the title of this review – how good are these boots?

They are wonderful. Totally, 100% recommended.

Reviewing the Newton Motion IV Running Shoes

Exactly 3 months ago today, on 1 April, I won a pair of Newton Motion IV running shoes in a lucky draw in New Delhi, India, where I live. (SO not an April Fool, then!).

As my lovely shoes turn 3 months old today, and have probably racked up some 200km since, it’s time to share my thoughts on these beauties.

Because, let’s not fool ourselves, these shoes are beauties.

They are a fab colour, and there are so many cool design features –  yes, I know they are also super technical and functional features, obviously, but there are details which are stylish as well.

Like so:

The shoe felt instantly comfortable from Day One.  There was not one second of “new shoes” feeling.

The sole is super cushioned, with the lugs that are a hallmark of Newton shoes:

The lugs really do make a difference – I feel lighter when I run in these shoes. I know that’s a horribly untechnical expression, but it’s truly the way I feel – lighter and bouncier.

Here’s the technical low-down from Newton:

Another great feature of these shoes is the heel cushioning.  It’s also super stylish, in keeping with the whole look of these shoes.

And here’s Newton’s own info:

There is also excellent sole cushioning:

I do not use these shoes every day, but alternate with the other shoes in my cupboard, but when I return to my Motion IVs, I definitely feel as though my feet are more protected and “surrounded” –  does that make any sense?

In the 3 months I have owned these shoes, I have run in them many times in Delhi, where I live, and up in the Himalayas, running up and down damp trails in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.  I have run in the rain, in the blistering heat, on grass, in slush, on roads, on trail runs…and these shoes have not given me a moment’s discomfort.  Nor do they show any evidence of wear and tear.  They’ve been washed a few times, after a particularly muddy trail run, and they always come out looking as good as new:

Super happy with them.

Though I won these shoes, neither Newton nor the organisers of the lucky draw asked me to write anything, and I came under no pressure whatsoever to review them.

Will I buy Newton in the future?

Definitely.

And happy 3 month anniversary to us!  

Testing the SEATOSUMMIT dry sack

Last year, prior to a diving trip to Borneo, we bought a Seatosummit lightweight dry sack from a dive shop in KL.

8 litre capacity and weighing in at only a spectacular 58 grams.

I have just taken my lovely bright yellow dry bag with me on its first “summit” outing – a 2 week trek in the Himalayas in late Jan-early Feb.  The trek, on a frozen river, provided extreme weather day in, day out.  Cold, snow, sleet, and the possibility of having to ford glacial rivers (the latter didn’t happen, thank goodness).  I used the bag inside my daypack, to keep my camera, batteries, spare socks and spare gloves dry.

Perfect.

Everything dry, despite the fact we walked for hours in the snow.

Here’s the link to the Seatosummit website for these dry sacks.

It’s now been used on dive boats in Borneo and up in the harsh Himalayas, and has passed with flying colours.

Personally recommended.

I bought the bag, didn’t tell the shop nor the company that I blog.

Travels with my coffee mug

If you are a coffee-holic & a bit of a coffee snob to boot, then this review is tailor made for you.  Especially if you travel/hike/climb/trek.  And even more so if you can’t stand instant coffee.

Wearied by frankly revolting coffee in so many (otherwise amazing) places, uncaffeineated at the start of days in (otherwise amazing) remote parts of the globe, this gift, below, from a fellow coffee-holic & trekking friend was beyond perfect.

Kathmandu_3333

It’s a thermal portable coffee plunger mug from Kathmandu – the company, not the city.

So all you need to do is pack a bag of ground coffee, get boiling water from your hotel/camp cook/boil it yourself (hey, you can figure this bit out, right?) and Bob’s your uncle.

The only teensy flaw in this jug is that when your pour out the coffee, it leaks a little from the top, but that is such a small price to pay for having one’s morning caffeine fix that it hardly counts.  I checked the website just now, when sharing the link with you and, guess what I found?

  • Lid is not completely spill proof

There you are, then.

In the 3 years I have had this mug, it has travelled all over the place with me, since it weighs virtually nothing and saves my life every morning.  It’s tough, and in 3 years in backpacks it has precisely one scratch, and I’m still trying to puzzle out where it came from.

Together, we have been up to the Himalayas (I live in India), we have been climbing in Ladakh, to Africa (where we used to live) to Myanmar, Sri Lanka.

Kathmandu mug_4029

Kathmandu mug_3715

IMG_0784

IMG_0182

Have Kathmandu coffee mug, will travel is now my new mantra.

How good is the Anker Solar Charger?

It’s very good, to answer my own question.

I have nothing but praise for the Anker portable solar charger.

I bought it before I went climbing in the Himalayas 2 summers ago, and it worked brilliantly, charging mobile phones mainly, both mine and my fellow team member’s.  Even though there was no connectivity for most of the climb in Ladakh, it meant I could use my phone to record video clips.

Some days, I attached the charger to my daypack (as in the photo below, which is not mine.  It’s from the internet) & I even charged my phone on the go.  Initially I did worry about the charger getting scratched on boulders (it didn’t, of course).

download (8)

Once we arrived in camp in the afternoons, out would come my charger and it would sit quietly there, as we all unpacked and set up camp.

images (2)

Super impressed and it is now a regular on all outdoors-y type trips, where power could be a problem.

Here are the charger’s vital stats:

anker-solar-charger-14w-2

It has 2 USB charging points.

download (6)

download (7)

It weighs in at 14.7oz / 417g so isn’t a liability in your day pack.

Totally recommended.

No one at Anker knows that I blog.

I paid for the charger myself, and bought it online.  As you can do now:

All the photos are from the internet.

AND…as I was looking for photos online to illustrate this review, I found this one, and learned a useful tip, which will be put to good use later this summer, when I’m back in Himalayas – hurray!

Anker-14W-Dual-Port-Solar-Charger-with-PowerIQ-Technology-0-2

“The High”. A documentary by Barry Walton

If you love an exciting tale of extraordinary people doing even more extraordinary things and doing them in extraordinary scenery to boot –  then get yourself a copy of “The High”, a documentary about the toughest race on earth.  Settle down and prepare to be blown away by the crazy dreams and the lovely, crazy people you will meet.

I say this advisedly, since Dr. Rajat Chauhan, the man who dreamed up the idea and is the race director, is my running guru and a friend, so I can take liberties and describe him as a crazy dreamer and I know he will smile and say his trademark “Awesome ma’am.”

A few years ago, Doc Chauhan had a decidedly crazy idea.  How about organising a race high up in the Himalayas, one that would take in the highest motorable pass in the world?

Why ever not?

And actually why not make the race a nice jazzy length of 111km?  (Inevitably a second race of 222km was added.  And, yes, how did you guess, as of last year, there’s now a 333km…)

Altitude-Map-2015-e1413863252367 (1)

Crazy.

I told you so.download

Everyone said it couldn’t be done, including the army, who pretty much run things up in Ladakh, a high altitude sensitive border area, but Doc was having none of it.

The first edition of Ultra the High in 2010 had 3 runners and only one finisher, and this is their story.  And it is a gripping tale of huge physical effort, commitment, and –  yes, let’s not deny it –  physical danger.

I already knew quite a bit about this extraordinary high altitude ultra marathon, having spent time with the 2014 team up in Leh.  Several girls from my running group were crewing for the race last year, and since I was up there acclimatising before attempting a 6300m peak, we all hung out.

So I knew the background and some of the players in this amazing story, and yet, even so, I was gripped watching Barry Walton’s documentary.  Just seeing the struggles and the pushing through the mental and physical barriers of these ultra runners is so exciting.

The runners, the organisers, the crew –  everyone is so committed, so laid back, and so low-key about their achievements.

Ladakh looks as stupendously gorgeous as it is.

A great way to share in the drama of what is, after just 6 editions, already known as the toughest race on earth.  Well, the 6th edition is still on as I write, but you know what I mean.

Awesome.

To buy the DVD, follow the instructions on the website.

To run in this race…ah well, now, that’s a different matter altogether…

Where to stay between Kargil & Leh?

The road journey to Leh high up in the Indian Himalayas is a spectacular but oftentimes difficult one.

The terrain is unforgiving, the road can be blocked by sudden landslides, but oh those views…and those colours that look as though they have been overexposed, so bright are they.

Last year we drove from Gulmarg to Leh, and one of the issues was where to stay for the night en route. No-one expects luxury at altitude, but a clean, hygienic overnight stop was a must.

And the little tented camp called Nun Kun did not disappoint.  It is about 25 km beyond Kargil, surrounded by mountains and makes a good overnight stop.  The camp describes itself as “luxury” and I know most of my party was underwhelmed by the camp, but quite frankly, to find a clean loo, a bed groaning under the weight of so many quilts and hot food was luxury enough for me.

 

India_Nun Kun Camp_P1030772

 

India_Nun Kun Camp_P1030774

India_Nun Kun Camp_7304

 

The bathrooms are simple but functional, which is all one needs and expects at 3660+ metres.  To find western flush toilets was more than I had expected, to be honest.

India_Nun Kun Camp_7348

 

 

Recommended, though I think one night is all you need there, to break the journey.  There was a French couple staying there for a couple of days when we were there, but I’m not sure what you would do during the long hot days – walk and explore the surrounding peaks, I guess.

 

Nun Kun Camp is popular with biker groups – as is much of Ladakh.

India_Nun Kun Camp_7309

 

Not the camp’s fault, but perhaps they need to explain to men like these that:

(a) they have their own bathrooms for a reason, so there is no need to brush their teeth in the middle of the camp, spitting toothpaste everywhere with gay abandon.  Manners, guys, manners…

and

(b) you don’t walk around camp in your thermal long johns.  Once again, manners, guys, manners…

Perhaps the charming, unfailingly polite Ladakhis need to be a little stricter with these groups…they mainly are from Maharashtra, which is neither here nor there, I realise.

 

 

For information about rates and to book, you can contact the camp via this website.

I didn’t tell them that I write or blog and we obviously paid for our own stay.