Welcome to the "Adventure Essentials" column, where we’ll be reaching out to experienced and inspiring adventure athletes for tips about must-have gear. Even if we don't explore on the same scale they do, we can take valuable advice from what they've learned on their expeditions.
The Adventure: Mountain climbing
The Essential: The do-it-all ice ax
Pat Goodman is a West Virginia-based alpinist, and it doesn’t take long for him to dig up his adventure essential out of the overstuffed closet full of his very used gear. So what’s his trustiest of tools for an expedition? The thing that has saved him again and again: his ice ax.
Goodman — a New Mexico native who got his start close to his childhood home on the rugged, lonely monadnock known as Shiprock — has established huge, demanding mountaineering routes in off-the-grid places like Canada’s Vampire Peaks and India’s Charakusa Valley.
Holding a job as a custom-flooring specialist to support his adventure addiction, he has established brick-hard first ascents of almost-too-dangerous-to-climb routes like Scavenger (5.13c R) in the New River Gorge, West Virginia, and Jade Rabbit (5.13d/5.14a R) in Lineville, North Carolina. But his true passion lies in the mystique of the mountains. With him from his very earliest climbing experience was the first iteration of his trusty ice ax — a 1970s Chouinard ax, a relic given to him by his uncle when he was 13 years old. He called it "The O.G."
What it does
“The O.G. was perfect, aside from being a bit heavy,” says Goodman, who used it early in his climbing career in the Southwest while new routing on much-too-soft stone. “Back in the day it did everything from hammering pins on the Titan to cleaning chossy flakes on Shiprock to excavating placements on the mudstone in New Mexico’s Hoodoo land, Blanco Canyon.”
Why it’s essential
In more recent years, the O.G. took an essential spot in Goodman’s kit for expeditions to China, Pakistan, India and Canada. Goodman remembers a chilling moment in 2012 when he, Jeff Achey, Jeremy Collins and James Q. Martin were 2,400 feet up a new, soon-to-be first ascent in Canada’s Vampire Peaks.
“It was dark and we just wanted to get down,” says Goodman. “All the cracks available for an anchor were bottoming flares.” [Ed. note: Flared cracks are wider at the opening than in the back, and sometimes won't accept gear at all.]
They had no pins or bolts, and needed to establish an anchor system in order to descend. So, using what items he had, Goodman went to work. Much like a climber might paste a copperhead (a super malleable nut that can conform to the rock) with a hammer and chisel, “my trusty O.G. laid waste to a handful of small brass wires as they were ‘pasted’ into a flare with the ax end.” The group made it down safe.
To his dismay, Goodman lost the O.G. in 2013 while attempting a new route on Seerdengpu (5,593 meters) in China’s Shuangqiao Valley. But the following year a friend gifted him a new edition. Goodman named it the N.O.G. It was new and light, but needed an overhaul.
“I cut the shaft down a few inches and ran a webbing loop through the end,” says Goodman. “Also, the ax head was trimmed down to half its size."
While not as well traveled as the O.G., the N.O.G. has been on a few big expeditions — two Canadian trips in the Northwest Territories and one in China. And modified just to his liking, it surely will venture out on many more.
Next we’ll feature ultrarunner Paul Terranova, who has a tip that will make hiking and trekking much more comfortable. Check back on Wednesday, Oct. 14 for his Adventure Essential.
Special thanks to James Q. Martin for providing photos for this aritcle.