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All In A Days Work


by Jonathan Copp

February 18, 2002

Originally published in Feb/March 2001 issue of Hooked on the Outdoors Magazine.

I've been home for a week now, and life seems to be crashing in on me. After dwelling in the mountains all summer, the pace here seems insane. And I'm just learning how to drive again. Meanwhile, I'm neglecting the stinking heap of gear in the back of the garage. The day must come to sort, repair and maintain this stuff - sooner as opposed to later.

The first step is drying out the tent and bivi sacs on the clothesline. Any dampness there will create mildew, and the smell will kill you the next time you pull them out. Next, I wash all Goretex or shell apparel with a safe detergent like Nikwax Techwash and dry it in a machine - the heat reactivates the DWR coating on the outside of the fabric. Use a down-safe detergent to wash the sleeping bag. Every couple of cycles, as the bag dries, I pull the clumps of feathers apart. (Refluffing the down is fairly time consuming.) To aid in the refluff I also add a few tennis balls to the dryer.

Next, I look at the twisted mass that used to be my hardware and turn on some tunes. I separate all the camming units in the pile from the rest of the passive gear, packing the stoppers, biners, pitions and ice screws aside. I begin by washing each camming unit in white gas, making sure the gas doesn't touch the webbing. Then I throw them all in soapy water to soak. Within an hour I'll rinse them in warm water and let dry. Finally I apply a graphite-based lubricant to all moving parts. After sorting the stoppers and 'biners, I throw away any frayed or damaged slings or webbing. Now I have about a thousand feet of rope to inspect. Foot by foot, I search for core or sheath damage. Any usable ropes left I throw in the washing machine without detergent, then hang to dry.

It's now time to enter the garage and bang things back into shape. I find all the pitons that are looking deformed. Placing them on a large piece of metal or wood, I use a hammer to pound them back to their normal dimensions. If there are ripples in a knife blade, for instance, I tone it back to being flat. Sharpening the ice equipment is last. Sharp tools enhance performance dramatically. First, I never use a power grinder. A high-speed grinder compromises the integrity of the steel. A mid-range rasp steel file is ideal. Rembering that the sharper I make the ice axe or crampon, the easier it is to dull, I ususally hit the points at a forty-five degree angle while making sure to leve a nice flat surface on the bottom end. If I've lost a tooth on the underside of the tip, I sometimes file another tooth into the flat surface.

Your gear is a tool for exploration. Once you've cleaned it and sorted it, you can crack open a cold one and drink cheers to the auspices of another safe trip.

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