- Buyer's Guide
Specialist Carry :: Rock Climber
Jasmin Caton is a woman that frankly rocks at rock climbing. An ACMG rock guide and assistant ski guide as well as a rock climbing ambassador for Patagonia, Jasmin is no stranger to globe-hopping for her passion, having climbed in France, Greece, Canada, Greenland, the USA, Mexico, Italy, Thailand and Australia. We were eager to find out more about Jasmin's sport and the carry she uses to pursue it and she kindly agreed to share her insights about the challenging but rewarding world of rock climbing...
What makes a great rock climber?
A great rock climber has passion for climbing, is motivated and excited by challenges, recognizes limitations in their skills or experience and manages themselves safely and with respect for other climbers and the environment. The most accomplished rock climbers I know think positively, do not become overly disappointed by setbacks and find adventure in every aspect of climbing.
Any guiding philosophies you live by?
Time is more valuable than money.
What do you dig more: climbing for fun or for competition?
I only climb for fun. Even the few competitions I have done have been purely for fun. I drive myself hard enough just competing with myself that I don't have any desire to compete with other climbers. Competitions would just draw me away from why I climb – to spend time in the fresh air with my friends.
What carry challenges do you face when you’re trekking through the mountains?
I tend to favour light, simple packs that can both be used for approaches and ascents. However, on long approaches with a heavy load these types of packs don't adequately cushion the shoulders, sacrum and iliac crest areas, leading to painful bruising and chaffing.
these types of packs don't adequately cushion the shoulders, sacrum and iliac crest areas, leading to painful bruising and chaffing.
So what’s important design-wise?
Minimalism is extremely important. Every extraneous zipper, pocket and seam adds weight and a potential failure point to a pack. Durability is also important, I have been on several climbs where the rock damage to the exterior of packs caused by hauling them up the cliff has threatened to end the climb. Materials that are both light and abrasion-resistant are very important for rock climbing-specific packs.
Have you ever had to modify any of your gear to suit your needs?
I've definitely cut straps off of packs, removed waist belts or replaced them with different ones. Added longer zipper pulls. Patched with duct tape.
What do you look for when choosing what to climb?
I love climbs on high-quality, solid rock with good protection and minimal objective hazard. When climbs are known to be on crumbly rock, have poor protection or are threatened by serac or rock fall I usually stay away. Climbing is part of my life, but not my whole life and I want to do my best to stick around and enjoy climbing 5.4s until I am 80.
When you’re trekking up the mountains in search of the perfect rock face what gear do you lug?
On my most recent alpine climbing trip into the Bugaboos last summer, I carried all my gear up to the base camp in a Black Diamond Speed 55 pack. It's a light, simple pack with simple design and a reasonably comfortable carry for approaches.
Once you start your ascent, what gear do you go to?
I have been using the Black Diamond Speed 22 (as seen in the photos of me climbing) a ton for one-day alpine rock climbs. It carries well, has a top lid and you can drape a coiled rope under the lid.
What single climbing moment has given you the biggest smile?
High-fiving my husband Evan Stevens at the top of El Capitan after a super challenging and rewarding adventure on The Freerider.
And what’s the diciest moment you’ve ever endured?
I recently triggered a very large avalanche while digging a snow profile in the Selkirk Mountains. I was not taken down by the avalanche, but my shovel and saw were swept several thousand feet down the mountain. I also came close to making a fatal rappelling error last summer, but my climbing partner noticed before it was too late. Check your systems, then double check them, it doesn't matter how experienced you are – humans make mistakes.
Wow, that's really heavy. Everyone take note: CHECK your systems!
OK, let's move to something a little less terrifying – travel. Any favorite tips or habits for travelling better?
Bring less. I love my Kindle for having tons of books in a nice compact unit. I always have a reusable water bottle and coffee mug to avoid producing more waste in airports. A cosy scarf or small blanket makes airplane or airport naps cosy.
Go-to travel bag?
I love to use my Osprey transporter.
And daily carry?
These days, I'm ski guiding every day so my Osprey Kode 32 is pretty much a part of my body more hours than not. On a town day, my Patagonia Lightweight Travel Courier holds my sunglasses, phone, wallet, toque and bathing suit for a quick hot springs dip before heading back into the mountains for more ski guiding.
So what’s next for Jasmin Caton?
In the immediate future, I'm wrapping up the season at the ski touring lodge I own and operate – Valhalla Mountain Touring. My spring will involve a road trip to the sunny US for climbing, mountain biking and blissed out yoga and wine drinking with my husband and dog. No large-scale alpine trips on the books yet for this summer because the spur-of-the-moment adventures are my favourites these days.
If you weren’t a rock climber, guide and all-round rad chick, what profession would you be doing now?
I have a masters degree in Hydrogeology, so maybe I would be a hydrogeologist? Tough to say, I really never look back.