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.
[Photo: Zack Smith lovin’ life on the Kichatna Spire, Alaska.]
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 boltless 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 I’d tell you more, but I’m hard-up for all the details as they’re mostly unpublished.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 mountainsof AK when I heard back from Zack this June, and apart from the burlyclimbing objective he and Josh crushed, his trip report had someinteresting “product testing” caveats that I thought would be worthsharing with you folks. I’ve pasted that email here, and I think you’llagree, 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 agood trip. We managed to do a new mixed route on Kichatna Spire in goodtime, which was the main goal of the trip. The funny part was that wedid the thing the next day after flying in. Great climbing, bad weatherfor most of it, hoods up, gloves on, not much for summit views. Weweren’t even sure we stood on the true summit until a couple days laterwhen 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 holeabove Josh in the image. There is a full on 300ft tall hole throughthis wall leading to the other valley. Neither of us had ever seenanything like it in the mountains. Wild, huh?]
Afterwards we tried a couple of other routes but didn’t summitanything. The final attempt almost ended in tragedy. JW was leadingabove me in a steep chimney, icy thingy. I was at a hanging belayunable 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. Itwas serious padding. DAS: Defense Against Slicing.
So no lasting injuries but a bit of a trip ender. I’m spending thesummer doing some guiding work in Aspen. The climbing on IndependencePass is pretty good. Eric D, Matt S, and Renan have all made visits sothat’s fun. I’ll be here working until Eric and I go to India. Are yougoing 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 theend 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 ofluck, and a safe journey all around.
[Ed’s note: The DAS Parka takes a hiatus on Patagonia.com during the spring/summermonths. Look for it again once we update the site withour new fall line (early August).]