I bought a pair of the First Ascent Guide Gloves during the Eddie Bauer pre-Christmas sale. I couldn't wait to try them out during my Chicks With Picks week of ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado at the end of January. I can safely say these have quickly become my favorite pair of gloves, hands down (ok cheesy pun I know).
The Guide Gloves are made from Pittards leather which is water-repellent, strong and highly abrasion resistant. Textured patterns in the leather on the palm enhance the grip. The gloves have a merino wool blend lining and are filled with PrimaLoft insulation to keep your fingers warm. Don't forget the extremely important nose wipe panel on the thumb- genius!
When looking for a new pair of winter climbing gloves, I wanted something that I could both climb and belay in as I hate having to change out all the time. The three most important criteria in an ice climbing glove for me were warmth, dexterity and grip. I find it impossible to belay in larger gloves or mitts and for my own peace of mind always want a firm grip on the rope, even in snowy or icy conditions.
Me ice climbing in my First Ascent Guide Gloves
I am happy to report that I did not get the dreaded screaming barfies once, not once, during my entire week of ice climbing. We had some pretty cold mornings and my Guide Gloves really kept me warm. The merino liner feels really cozy against your skin and the textured leather palms gave me unwavering grip for both belaying and climbing.
The one thing I would say is that it takes a little bit of use before the gloves loosen up a bit and become more dexterous. By the second or third day they were feeling pretty good. I have a feeling they are going to be like an old pair of jeans and just get better with every wear. Some people might argue that a thicker insulated glove like these requires you to grip harder on your ice tools, but I would trade warm hands for holding on a bit tighter any day!
In warmer, wet conditions, the leather tended to absorb a bit of moisture but the gloves always completely dried out overnight in time for me to wear them all day again. I am thinking about buying another pair to have as a backup I love them that much. I would also love to get the lighter softshell glove and try out some of their apparel.
I admire that First Ascent really use their guide team to help design gear. Caroline George, First Ascent athlete and Chicks With Picks guide, said the team has full veto power on any design or feature that goes into the gear. If they don't like it- it doesn't get made.
Caroline George and fellow First Ascent guide Chad Peele are currently in Norway scouting some amazing ice climbs. Check out the First Ascent blog to follow their progress and also Caroline's personal blog.