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Himalaya Ice Climbing

HMG Customer and Friend Bud Martin reports back on his 2014 Nepalese Ice Climbing Trip


It started something like this: I was lounging on a rainy day in Yosemite about a year ago when I somewhat sarcastically said to my buddy Nick, “Hey, we should go ice climbing in Nepal someday.” His response took me off guard as he immediately responded with, “Sounds great! How about next January?” And that’s how it began. We saved some cash, bought two plane tickets and gathered up our gear.

We flew into Kathmandu and neither of us had any experience with the logistics or the planning pertaining to climbing in such a remote place for an extended period of time, but we figured we’d just wing it. We didn’t bring enough food. We got off the bus in the wrong city (along with our 330 pounds of equipment). And for the first week, nothing went as planned. But as is often the case when traveling in this part of the world, it wasn’t so bad as you remember to forget the expectations and just go with the flow. Next thing we knew we were in a Nepalese valley full of frozen waterfalls capped with big peaks. Yippie…we arrived and we were ready for some Himalaya ice climbing!

Bud Martin Nepal 2Processed

One of the routes we climbed we named “Paul Revere” (III WI4 500’) as it was the first big chunk of ice we saw on our trek into the village with our porters. And quickly upon arrival, Nick and I decided we needed to walk back down valley and hop on it. On the approach we saw locals with their baby goats, found a key bridge, and bushwhacked through some bamboo. Yes, bamboo on an approach to ice climb…unbelievable! There were two routes right next to each other and we chose the left side because it looked a little more engaging. We soloed up some mellow approach ice and geared up at the base of a stunning 40’ curtain. Nick took the reigns on the first pitch and cruised up the brittle curtain and continued up a ways to a belay. I then led another rope length through some bulges and brought Nick up. We were nearly at the top and a narrow choke of ice guarded the finish. Nick made quick work of the choke which turned out to be awesome climbing. Next thing I knew we had run out of ice and began our rappels. We were pulling the ropes on the last rappel and as the rope was about to pull through the v-thread, it hung up. Damn! I immediately thought we forgot to untie a stopper knot but then remembered that wasn’t possible as we had just doubled checked the ends of the ropes before pulling. The easiest option was to re-lead the pitch on one rope and I was lucky enough to get the lead. At the spot where the rope had hung up, I realized that rope had a mind of its own. It had “crawled” pretty deep in a depression where the rock met the ice, found the only icicle in a fifty foot radius and neatly “tied” itself around it. “Nice work rope”, I thought. Then I went to bashing out all the ice in the depression to combat future issues. I rapped. We pulled the ropes, high-fived, and we walked back to our “house”.

Bud Martin Nepal 4Processed

We were in Nepal for a total of 35 days, climbed some incredible frozen water among some amazing landscapes, and met many of the very few local residents (we were staying in a ‘spring/fall’ village in the middle of winter when most residents were down valley for milder temperatures). And when not on the ice, I think we figured out nearly every way to prepare rice and lentils while we played cards and rationed Starburst.

During a little over a month of Himalaya ice climbing, we hit routes varying in difficulty from WI3 to WI5 and 200’ to over 1000’. Sometimes we were basking in the warm sun and other times we were dealing with the screaming barfies. But overall, it was an epic journey!

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Are HMG Packs 100% Waterproof?

HMG CFO Tries Packrafting and Discusses Waterproofness of HMG Packs

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“Are HMG Packs 100% waterproof?  We are often asked if HMG packs are 100% waterproof and after packrafting for the first time a month ago and flipping my boat too many times, I’d like to comment on the waterproof characteristics of HMG Packs.

While Cuben fiber is 100% waterproof, we never say HMG Packs are 100% waterproof – although they are very highly waterproof.  Approximately 90% of seams are sealed, but there are two seams with technically different structures that cannot be sealed.  One is where the bottom of the pack meets the body of the pack and the other is where the shoulder straps are sewn into the top of the back panel.  After a hard rain or soaking a pack while packrafting, a user might experience a few tablespoons of water inside the pack.  I find that some users are not accustomed to seeing this because traditional packs will absorb water and not be noticeable inside the pack.  Since Cuben fiber does not absorb water, any small amount that does get inside the pack will noticeably remain at the bottom until the pack is emptied or the water drains.

Some users experience no water at all in their packs and many users, including ourselves (HMG staff), will leave their packs outside of their tents overnight, even if it is raining.  And personally, I don’t mind at all if their are a few tablespoons of water at the bottom of my pack because the pack is not absorbing water and it is not getting heavier from absorption.  The pack material does not stay wet and therefore transfer moisture to my other gear over an extended period of time, and even after being submerged from the various times I flipped my boat, the pack dries very quickly.  And the reason I don’t mind at all if there are small amounts of water in my pack is that my essentials that cannot get wet are packed in Cuben fiber drawstring stuff sacks, which totally prevents a few tablespoons of water that might get inside my pack from wetting my clothes or sleeping bag.

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From my own direct experience and the experience of many HMG customers, the solution for keeping crucial gear (sleeping bag, clothes and food) 100% dry in a Cuben fiber backpack is to use Cuben fiber Stuff Sacks.  Cuben Stuff Sacks are virtually weightless, and coupled with an HMG Pack, will provide that watertight system everyone seeks.  Cuben Stuff Sacks provide the gear compartmentalization I need, are more efficient than lining a traditional pack with a garbage bag, and they kept all my gear dry while my overturned boat repeatedly floated downstream ahead of me!”

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HMG CFO, Dan St. Pierre, tries packrafting for the first time.  “Directly after the August Summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Mike (HMG CEO) and I headed up to Wyoming to paddle the Grey’s River with a couple of HMG Ambassadors.  Despite some Class 3 swimming, it was a great trip and a lot of fun and I highly recommend giving this burgeoning sport a try!”

Lightweight Hiking with Andrew Altepeter #2

I had a blast this summer working with some skilled and wonderful co-instructors and some great student groups.  On our twenty-eight day mountaineering course in the Wind River Range we experienced a spectrum of weather catching wintery conditions early in the summer that eventually transitioned into some sunny days.  After working hard to push through snow and rain storms for most of the first half of the course we were blessed with a weather window and climbed Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest at just over 13,800’.  Then after a fun time in the Wind Rivers and just a few days in town it was off to the Beartooth Mountains in Montana to instruct a leadership training for midshipmen at the USNA.  On this course we experienced the opposite weather progression…clear skies trending to days of very early build-up and thunderstorms.  Our technical focus on this expedition was off trail travel and we managed to get many solid fishing days in as well.

Beartooth Mountains Tenkara

In addition to being a fun and adventurous summer it was also very rewarding as an educator.  While we have core technical and leadership curriculum that we deliver on our courses, no experience is ever the same.  To be involved with a group where individuals come together as a team to accomplish big challenges is a magical thing.  A couple of my highlights include coaching a student as she confidently led our rope team to the summit of Gannett Peak and working with the midshipmen as they developed and implemented interpersonal skills when their team faced adversity.

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All the while we had a good time talking about lightweight hiking and lightweight backcountry systems.  Early on in the courses my students chuckled as they noticed that some of my methods were humorously more minimalist than theirs.  I ate from my 500ml titanium mug pot with mini titanium spork, carried just enough toothpaste for each ration period in a ¼ oz Nalgene container, brought just enough dental floss in pre-cut strips, carried a simple Tenkara fly rod for fishing, used a small Thermarest Xlite pad in combination with the 4400 Ice Pack to sleep on…OK I guess it’s a bit weird to be that attentive to gear choices, but after a few long days in the mountains the chuckles turned into curiosity and students were looking for ways to ditch weight and bulk from their systems.  At re-supplies it was fun to see them modifying and sending gear out, breaking their toothbrushes in half (you don’t need the last couple of inches on that handle!), ditching their dental floss containers (you just need the inner contents!), throwing away extra toiletries, etc.

Taking a critical look at all parts of your backcountry system can lead to great rewards not only in weight reduction but bulk reduction.   As I have learned where to get rid of bulk in my systems, I now require less volume in a backpack, which allowed me to carry a smaller and lighter backpack this summer (70 liter 4400 Ice Pack at 2.55lb) than is typical for a month long expedition (80+ liter pack at 4+lb).  This of course is one area where the greatest weight savings can be made as the backpack, sleep system and shelter are collectively known as the “big three”.  Including one liter of fuel, one liter of water and eleven days of food, I still managed to weigh in under 60 pounds for total pack weight as I left town for the mountaineering course and it was very straightforward to pack. I had options for carrying more if a team member needed help, and I found that the pack still carried well.  And as food and fuel were consumed over a ration period, the pay-off for a detailed approach to gear selection became more and more evident.

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As far as the HMG 4400 Ice Pack, I found the simple and streamlined crampon and ice axe attachments to work very well for mountaineering and the bungee for the crampons was simple to remove to streamline the pack for backpacking in the Beartooths.  I greatly appreciated the detachable hip belt as removing it made for a light and nimble summit pack on Gannett Peak and other day trips.  In the Beartooths I often wore the hip belt by itself as a tactical fishing hip pack since I had the optional hip belt pockets.  I am looking forward to a full fall schedule including working mountaineering and rock climbing courses in the Pacific Northwest and eventually a skiing course in Wyoming.  The learning and honing of lightweight hiking and lightweight outdoor systems continues!

- Andrew Altepeter is an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

Climbing Mt. Hayes in Alaska with Angela VanWiemeersch

Mount Hayes is the highest mountain in the eastern Alaska Range. Despite not being a 14,000 footer, it is one of the largest peaks in the U.S. in terms of its rise above the local terrain. As an example, the Northeast Face rises 8,000 feet in approximately 2 miles.  Mount Hayes was first climbed in 1941 but it is not very frequently climbed due to its remoteness and the resulting difficulty of accessing the mountain.  Below is Part of HMG Ambassador Angela Van Wiemeersch’s trip report where she and her two climbing partners summited the mountain in 72 hrs while also setting some never yet attempted routes.


“One, two, three in a row. Jason Stuckey, John Giraldo and I stood at the base of Mt Hayes with our chins high in the air, staring at the northeast face. We passed the binoculars back and forth discussing how to best approach this beast. I remember feeling like we were the three Musketeers, getting ready to embark on an epic battle. However, I later realized that we were more like the three Ninja Turtles avoiding a run-in with their archenemy Shredder.


The Northeast Face of Mt. Hayes is an object of intimidation and inspiration.  Its poor quality rock face has many runnels, prows and snow slopes; a marvelous set of features to climb. The only catch was that nearly every line was threatened by seracs (blocks or columns of glacial ice), including our originally planned line. So down went the cards and we folded. It wasn’t worth it. We decided to try and climb the line on the far left with the least amount of overhead hazards. Moms and Dads, from Alaska to Michigan, would be psyched.

Night passed, morning came, and we soon ditched our skis and headed up and over the bershrund. John blasted up the first block of steep “snice,” placing gear in small rock outcrops when he could. Our gear was always in places that were sketchier to get to than the actual climbing. So on cruiser-terrain we didn’t worry that much about the gear and kept pushing upward. We swapped leads in blocks while simul-climbing just about everything until the top 1,200 feet of the face.


We then started pitching things out here and there when the climbing got trickier. We experienced icy snowfields, super fun rock moves, and calf-burning pitches of glacial ice. From there we thought it was a straight shot until I led a mixed pitch to the edge of a cliff. I traversed out left and set up a belay in hopes that the terrain above didn’t cliff out as well. As I handed the rack to John, I suddenly realized which Ninja Turtle he was. As he flew out of the belay and styled the exposed crux I had no doubt in my mind he was Raphael. No, he did not talk with a Brooklyn accent but he had that fiery, strong-willed, go-for-it attitude. Not to mention a witty comment here and there to keep me giggling all the way up the route.

Jason led us up some steeper ice pitches to a knife ridge as the sun went down. We were psyched to have finished the face. The cold temperatures settled in and we were getting sleepy. Our current location didn’t provide for a good bivy. John cruised up high on the ridge looking for a place to dig, but it was too steep and all ice. He eventually struck gold and found us the most amazing snowy cornice to sleep beneath. It was such a lucky find, really the only thing around. We dug out a trench as much as we could, but it was still only wide enough for one grown man to sleep comfortably. So there we were, three smelly alpine climbers playing Tetris with body limbs and sleeping mats. We made it work and we were stoked.”


To be continued soon…

Lightweight Hiking with Andrew Altepeter

My name is Andrew Altepeter and for the last five years I have been working as an instructor of hiking, lightweight hiking, climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and skiing courses in and around the American West for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).  The courses that I instruct range from one to four weeks in length with pack weights ranging from 30 – 65 lbs depending on the skill type, environment, and number of days between resupplies.  I have experimented with a variety of ultralight packs over the years and spent time modifying, stitch ripping, and chopping various bells and whistles to create simple, lightweight, and functional packs for work…and play!  I have also significantly downsized from the 90+ liter sized packs that are standard for our long expeditions by making deliberate gear choices appropriate for the given environment and gaining better understanding of how to plan and pack just what I need to have a successful backcountry experience.


In Spring 2011, I discovered what HMG was making and my eyes lit up!  I saw that the 4400 Porter Pack could be the solution to all of the modifications and an answer to the desires that I was trying to satisfy by modifying other packs.  I was skeptical at first about whether the lightweight Porter pack would carry loads comfortably due to a lack of classically designed load lifters on the shoulder straps, as well as the minimalist design of the back panel and aluminum stays, but I took the plunge, bought one, and started taking the 4400 Porter Pack on my NOLS courses and personal outings.  I am happy to report how pleasantly surprised I was at how well the pack carries loads.  For instance, on some travel days in the desert we carry up to ten liters of water (on top of the 35-45 lb pack weight) knowing that our camping destination for the day is dry.  I found the pack to be just as comfortable, if not more so, than the complex, bulky, and heavy packs I had used in the past.  With a little care, the pack has been appropriately durable as well.  When lowering fully loaded packs down sandstone slabs in Southeast Utah the Porter Pack took some abuse but was not worse off than other thick nylon canvas packs I’ve used.  I believe HMG has hit the mark for me with their high-end minimalist design aesthetic that accomplishes a lot without extraneous features.  HMG has stripped away all that is unnecessary and incorporates exactly what is needed in a pack design to make sure it is functional and carries well.  For this I am grateful!


It is going to be another busy summer in the mountains with a month long Wind River Mountaineering course starting soon followed by a lightweight hiking course in the Winds that is nearly as long.  I will be taking a 4400 Ice Pack for this mountaineering course as we’ll need personal and group technical gear like crampons, ice axes, climbing ropes, and snow protection, plus course paperwork, communication devices and educational tools/resources, which all add to the challenge of a sub 60 lb pack.  But I’m looking forward to meeting the group, getting geared up (as light as makes sense), and heading off into the mountains.  And I’m also eager to share the experience and what I learn about going even lighter on institutional expeditions when I get back in a month.




Trail Days in Damascus, VA – May 15th to 18th, 2014

Once again, HMG will be traveling to Damascus, Va for the 28th annual Trail Days festival celebrating this year’s 4,000-5,000 Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.  In addition to the majority of thru-hikers that will be in attendance, the festival draws an additional 15,000-20,000 hiking enthusiasts and lovers of the Appalachian Trail from around the U.S., North America, and the entire world.


Hyperlite Mountain Gear will be loading up a few cars and trucks on the morning of May 13th to make the 1,000 mile journey from Maine to southwestern Virginia for its fourth showing at the festival.  HMG will have a booth set-up demonstrating its ultralight mountain gear and will also have a large stock of inventory available for sale.

Stop Trail Days by to:

- Check us out
- Get a gear shakedown from HMG CEO, Mike St. Pierre
- Replace your old gear to finish faster and with more comfort
- Sign up for a pack giveaway raffle
- Or just say Hello

We might even choose you for a gear sponsorship!





Skiing the Grand with HMG Ambassador Beau Fredlund

This week things aligned for some exceptionally good ski mountaineering in the Tetons.  A nice spring storm had come in warm, bonding well to the old snow surfaces, and finishing cold and dry.  Perfect for skiing and avalanche stability.  Our week included some excellent adventures with bicycle access in Grand Teton National Park (on a road closed to auto traffic), and was punctuated by a ski descent of the highly coveted Grand Teton .  Possibly the most iconic mountain in the lower 48, and a challenging ski mountaineering objective by any route.


As with many things in life, timing is one of the more important aspects of a project like this.  Two days of letting the new snow settle, and we were off at 11:30pm.  Climbing through the night, our HMG Ice and Porter packs were carefully packed (two thin ropes, ice climbing gear, some rock pro, a stove, and lot’s of photo and video equipment, ect. ).  The plan being, to ski the Ford/ Stettner route on the Grand, capture some amazing video content, and then link up the Middle and South Tetons, for a Teton trifecta.  Above all though, we hoped to do it in good style.


The weather ended up turning a bit too warm for the link-up, but skiing phenomenal untracked/ bottomless powder down the upper east face, and Ford Couloir was an experience we won’t soon forget.   :)

HMG is off to Everest!

We’re proud to share the news that cameramen and adventure videographers John Griber and Ed Wardle will be carrying HMG ultralight packs when they climb Mt. Everest to film Joby Ogwyn’s historic wing suit jump off the summit.

“I’ve been hired by NBC as a cameraman this spring for an event called Everest Jump Live,” said Griber.  He and Wardle will be following Ogwyn up the mountain filming his climb and running jump off Earth’s highest point.  No human has ever attempted this feat before and the Discovery Channel will be airing the 11,000 foot drop and five mile descent back to Base Camp during a two hour live broadcast in May.

Joby Ogwyn 3

This is not the first summit attempt for Griber who has reached the top twice previously, but it is the first time he will be filming a live broadcast.

“As a cameraman, just to be asked to go to Everest is one thing, but to be breaking ground in broadcasting is entirely another level. This live event will be broadcast to 224 countries/territories and that’s very exciting.”

John Griber 3

While Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs have been all over the world including Everest Base Camp, this is the first time an HMG ultralight pack will summit the world’s tallest peak.  According to Griber, weight and gear are of the utmost importance while climbing at altitude.

“HMG makes sense on various levels.  The Cuben fiber based pack is obviously lightweight as well as incredibly strong and durable.  The basic design is perfect for Everest where you don’t need any extras, you simply need gear that you can rely on and that works.”

Wardle will be carrying the 4400 Ice Pack, a 70L technical climbing pack.  But Griber will be carrying Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 4400 Windrider – a basic large volume hiking pack.  When asked if he realized this or had any thoughts on it, Griber humbly said, “Well after all it’s just one big hike…I just happen to be walking to the top of the world!”

Be sure to check out this epic event live in May on the Discovery Channel

4400 SW Three Quarter

4400 Ice Pack Three Quarter










Ed Wardle 3

Why my parents adopted a lightweight mindset


By Amy Hatch

Large external frame backpacks protruded over their heads. Bungee cords lashed to them a frying pan, heavy foam sleeping pads and an extra daypack. A bulky backpacking shower, full books, and eggs, bacon and hash browns added to the unwieldy load.

This is how backpacking used to look for parents, Nancy and Cleve Schenck, back in the ’70s and early ’80s, before I was a twinkle in their eyes – and, for that matter, even once I became part of their outdoor adventures.


“Packs used to not have sternum straps, so we’d jerry rig the sternum straps,” my mom reminisced.

Back then, my mom and dad managed to make it work, hiking into remote and breathtaking backcountry destinations, many of which in later decades would become “discovered.”

But now in their 60s, they’ve changed their approach, adopting a lightweight mindset, mostly out of necessity.

“It’s made the difference between being able to backpack or not, that’s the bottom line,” my mom said. Going lightweight prevents back, shoulder and neck injuries and also allows them to sleep comfortably when they arrive at their destination “because our bodies feel good,” my mom said.

“My days of carrying 60 pound packs are over,” my dad said. “Every year the pack gets heavier, even though there’s less weight in it.”

My mom’s pack weight is now down to 23 pounds and my dad carries between 30 and 35 pounds.


Today my parents are cheerleaders for companies that make lightweight equipment, like Hyperlite Mountain Gear, but it’s been a transition that’s come with some resistance. My dad clung to his 11-pound, all-season, four-man tent for years, even after my brother and I had moved out of the house. It wasn’t until the tent fly was in threads from having been water proofed so many times that he finally upgraded to a technical 4-pound tent.

And when I first suggested to my dad that he try out my HMG Windrider backpack, he showed little interest. It took my mom’s raving about it, to get him to put it on. But only a few weeks after he tried it, he was buying his own for an upcoming trip to the Dolomites in Italy.

“The thing about the Hyperlite that struck me, it’s nice that it’s lightweight, but it’s really comfortable,” my dad said.

My mom echoed this with:

“It has everything you need and nothing more. I feel more secure on more challenging trails, especially when there is some exposure, because I feel like the pack is fitting so well that it’s not throwing my body weight around.”


Amy Hatch is an ambassador for Hyperlite Mountain Gear. She’s also the founder of two companies: Jackson Hole Packraft & Packraft Rentals Anywhere (www.jhpackraft.com) and Garage Grown Gear (www.garagegrowngear.com).

HMG’s Newest Ambassador

Hyperlite Mountain Gear would like to welcome our newest ambassador.  Bad Ass for sure!

Angela VanWiemeersch

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Angela VanWiemeersch (or VanStein known for her epic stein pulls), lives a passion for the mountains. From the peaks of Alaska to her home crags of Zion where she works a climbing guide, Angela is constantly seeking to push herself to higher limits.  As an accomplished climber on rock, ice and mixed terrain Angela views her self as an explorer at heart.  In 2010 she completed a 1400 mile solo unsupported bike tour from Detroit, Michigan to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The lure of the unknown and the vast beauty of untouched landscapes then continued to drive her North. In 2011 Angela found herself again on a journey where the road ends and the tundra begins. She paddled 430 miles, unsupported on the Mackenzie river in the Northwest territories of Canada.  Her pursuit to find great adventures led her to the Alaska Range where she became (as far as the records go) the  first woman to free solo Ham and Eggs on the Moose’s Tooth.3000′ while using the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Ice Pack. Angela has made her life not only about getting to the top of summits around the world but about the reward of the journey and the adventure of each endeavor.

Climbing Resume – All routes below are climbed on lead
**with the exception of cali ice and stairway to heaven where i was swapping leads.

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First female free solo of Ham and Eggs (WI4+ M4- Jon Krakuauer / Nate Zissner) 3000′ . west side of mooses tooth, central alaska range

Almost A Free solo ascent of Mt. Francis (IV, 5.8,60′ snow) 3,600′. (I ran into some climbers and roped up for one exposed crux pillar pitch just to be safe) Kahiltina glacier, central alaska range.

**california ice (WI4-5)3,000′ in the Beartooth Range in Montana (1st pitch in photo)
**Stairway to heaven ( WI4-5) 7 pitches in jan 2013

White Nightmare (WI4-5) 2 pitches,150′  provo canyon, utah
Bridal Veil Right (WI4-5) 2 pitches,200′ provo canyon, utah
Bridal Veil Left (Wi4-5) 2 pitches,200′ provo canyon, utah
The Matrix(WI 4, M4-5) 130′ hyalitet canyon, montana
Scepter(WI 4 +) 100′ hyalite canyon, Montana


Basically i’m in love with wide open places and I strive to explore those places to the fullest. Climbing gets me exactly where i want to be. Connected to the landscape, In a zen i never thought was possible. Every time i’m climbing i think its the coolest thing i’ve ever done.
- Angela VanWiemeersch