Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

2nd Cuillin Ridge Traverse in a week

 A late start for our 3 day traverse

 The full ridge in the sunshine

 Our first bivi spot

 Sunset from our bivi

 Early morning mist on the climb back to the ridge

A Brocken Spectra

 Jude enjoying King's Chimney

 The loose approach to the Inn Pin

 Jude stood on the very top of the Inn Pin

Abseiling off the Inn Pin

Great sunset at our second bivi

Looking along the final stretch of the ridge

 10km of scrambling!

 Afternoon cloud blowing in over the Cuillins

 The imposing Basteir Tooth through the cloud

 An atmospheric Naismiths Route

Jude topping out on the Basteir Tooth

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Skye's Dubh Ridge

 The start of the great sweep of slabs which make up the Dubh Ridge

 Amazing friction

Great views along the ridge above Loch Coriusk

 An exposed abseil off the tower

 Calling in the coastguard for a climber with a broken leg

A tricky descent at the end of the day

Saturday, 26 May 2012

One year ago today...

 Above the second step on the North Ridge of Everest

  Top of the world!

Good memories

...and the view on Skye today.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Cuillin Ridge Traverse

Easy ground at the start of the ridge

Scrambling up towards TD Gap

Looking along our route for the next 2 days

Stunning sunset from our bivi at the Inn Pin

Incredible evening light on Skye

Shadows on the Inn Pin

The spooky top block on the Inn Pin (How many Munro Baggers actually stand on the top?)

Pinnacle Ridge in the evening light

Friday night film - Everest

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Review - TNF Alpine Project Wind Jacket

Evening session on the Langdale Boulders

For the last few weeks I've been testing a new jacket from The North Face, the innovative Alpine Project Wind Jacket and after a dubious start it's really grown on me. At first glance I struggled to identify where it would fit in to my clothing system. Was it a soft shell, an insulated jacket without the insulation or a heavy weight windproof. The best description is probably all of the above as it's one of those pieces of kit that just seems to work. I must admit I've been using this jacket for a number of activities that probably exceed what the designers had in mind for it but layered over a thin thermal it's kept me comfortable fell running, bouldering, mountain biking, climbing, scrambling, hill walking, road biking, marshaling on a mountain challenge and even a photo shoot for Trail Running magazine.

The North Face Alpine Project Wind Jacket
£100.00, 350grams
'Rage against the wind in The North Face Men’s Alpine Project Wind Jacket a new pull-over anorak styled, hooded nylon micro ripstop mountain shell. Coated with a DWR water shedding finish. This wind shell has map accommodating twin alpine pockets and a chest pocket that’s handy for a compass, phone or gps device. The hood adjusts at the back. Simple and rugged ,The Men’s Alpine Project Wind Jacket offers effective wind shell performance as one would expect from a technical, athlete test Summit Series™ jacket.'

Designed as a technical and durable windproof it has proved surprisingly waterproof when caught out by yet another shower at the start of our traditional Lakeland summer. I would still carry a lightweight waterproof with a bad forecast but generally I've been very happy to use this as my shell. The double layer of ripstop nylon has proved very successful at blocking everything the elements can throw at me. There is an extra layer of insulation over the torso provided by an internal thin fleece scrim. However this doesn't extend down the arms which means the jacket doesn't bind when you're trying to put it on over a damp thermal, a great design feature which really makes a practical difference on the hill. 

The jackets hood is one of its best features. It's a great fit, feeling comfortable, unrestrictive and turns with your head but offers far more protection than many other wind proofs. The slightly stiffened peak sits just in the right place to deflect the worst of the weather but doesn't restrict your vision. The only adjustment on the whole jacket is a cord at the back that clinches the hood in snug to your head. This also means there are no toggles to whip you in the face. However the price you pay for such a well fitting hood is that it won't fit over a climbing helmet.

Having raved about the hood there are however a couple of significant niggles. There is no way to secure the hood when it’s not in use which means it flaps around in a very annoying manner. Then if you place anything in the chest pocket while the front zip is open then there is a tendency for the hood to be pulled around to the left ending up perched on your shoulder. A simple Velcro strap would transform this jacket for faster paced activities. The second hood issue occurs only with a following wind when the drumming of the fabric over your ears drowns out any other sound (rockfall, climbing partners etc). I suspect this is due to the lightness of the nylon fabric and or the lack of hood adjustment but for whatever reason this is probably the biggest weakness of the jacket. Some reinforcing over the ears or an adjustable draw cord may go some way to helping prevent this?

Summit of Ben Nevis

The rest of the jacket gives a very roomy and comfortable fit. There were plenty of venting options with a long front zip and the lycra bound cuffs could easily be pulled up to your elbows. I get the feeling it would have been brilliant for last months ski touring trip to the Vanoise. The extra water repellancy would have been ideal for my frequent crashes!

Tunnel pockets used to be very popular in outdoor clothing but have pretty much disappeared from use. Here they work extremely well giving loads of room which is accessible while wearing a harness and having a deep lip to help prevent items from escaping if you forget to zip the pocket up. The chest pocket is small but will take a smart phone or compass.

 A chilly evening on the Langdale Boulders

For me this jacket makes a great multipitch cragging top offering lightweight insulation and weatherproofing. A couple of sessions on the very rough gabbro of the Carrick Fell boulders has failed to inflict any damage on the surprisingly tough lightweight fabrics. The jacket is designed to stuff into it's own pocket however one minor design flaw is the lack of an internal loop for attaching it to the back of your climbing harness.

After my initial confusion I think this jacket has identified it's niche offering a weather resistant shell that's just that bit more practical for UK conditions than a traditional soft shell and compliments my existing system of thermals, Primaloft insulation and hard shell waterproofs. A wee bit of fine tuning and this could become a classic multi activity jacket.

Between the showers in Langdale

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Everest on Discovery

Geordie arriving at Camp 2 (7800m)

Tonight the Discovery Channel is showing 'The Ultimate Climb' which follows Geordie Stewart's successful attempt to climb the 7 Summits culminating on Everest with me in 2011. There's a few trailers on the Discovery web site. Starring roles for Greg and Jaysen as well.

Geordie reaching 7500m on our final acclimatisation