Zack Smith is a ninja, a master of all climbing styles, a bona fide climbing badass, and if you haven’t heard about him, it’s likely because he prefers it that way. From Patagonia, to Pakistan, to every crag within a six-hour drive of his Moab residence, Zack’s been stealthily pushing rock and alpine climbing standards off the radar of the mainstream media for over a decade now.
He’s FA’ed scores of 5.12 and 5.13 desert lines and multiple 5.12 routes in the Black Canyon, managed a near bolt less ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre, set a speed record when he stuck the first free ascent of the Central Tower of Paine (and freed both the north and south towers that same week), and is a regular personality at alpine-rock basecamps the world over. I’d tell you more, but I’m hard-up for all the details as they’re mostly unpublished.
I can’t remember exactly when I met Zack, but a slew of mutual friends put us in good company years ago and we’ve shared plenty of good times cragging, kicking it ’round the campfire, and hanging out ever since. So, with no major sponsors and living off a mountain guides’ salary, I was more than happy to pull a DAS Parka from a demo bag and put it in the mail to Zack when he sent me a humble request for one several months ago. He was in need for an upcoming expedition to the Kichatna Spires in AK with our friend Josh Wharton.
Living in Southern California, my mind was far from the cold mountains of AK when I heard back from Zack this June, and apart from the burly climbing objective he and Josh crushed, his trip report had some interesting “product testing” caveats that I thought would be worth sharing with you folks. I’ve pasted that email here, and I think you’ll agree, the rip-stop nylon shell and synthetic insulation in our DASParka can serve another purpose beyond durable insulation – DefenseAgainst Slicing.
What’s up Amigo? I’m back from AK, had a good trip. We managed to do a new mixed route on Kichatna Spire in good time, which was the main goal of the trip. The funny part was that we did the thing the next day after flying in. Great climbing, bad weather for most of it, hoods up, gloves on, not much for summit views. We weren’t even sure we stood on the true summit until a couple days later when it cleared. We got the 9th ascent of the peak, 2nd ever from theNorth side and the fastest ascent. There are some photos on Climbing.com.
Photo: The biggest peak is Kichatna Spire. Check out the blue hole above Josh in the image. There is a full on 300ft tall hole through this wall leading to the other valley. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it in the mountains. Wild, huh?
Afterwards we tried a couple of other routes but didn’t summit anything. The final attempt almost ended in tragedy. JW was leading above me in a steep chimney, icy thingy. I was at a hanging belay unable to move. Blown tool placement and then an icy cam blowout sentJW crashing onto me. Crampons to the upper back and brake hand. Dude, no joke it’s a good thing I was wearing that DAS parka you sent me. It was serious padding. DAS: Defense Against Slicing.
So no lasting injuries but a bit of a trip ender. I’m spending the summer doing some guiding work in Aspen. The climbing on IndependencePass is pretty good. Eric D, Matt S, and Renan have all made visits so that’s fun. I’ll be here working until Eric and I go to India. Are you going to be visiting CO this summer? You should come bouldering at ThePass.
Funded by a grant from the Mugs Stump Award,Zack is headed to India with Patagonia Ambassador Eric Decaria at the end of August to attempt an alpine-style first ascent of the 7,000 ft.Central Spur of the Kedar Dome. Zack, I wish you and E the best of luck, and a safe journey all around.
Ed’s note: The DAS Parka takes a hiatus on Patagonia.com during the spring/summer months. Look for it again once we update the site with our new fall line (early August).