Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Mountain Leader: My leader kit

This is the last of my "xray" diagrams for kit lists. This one is a typical(ish) ML leader pack. Containing a variety of items essential for leading groups in the mountains. This is by no means an exhaustive list and any ML or aspirant ML should pick their own kit based on their experience. My equipment listed below is everything I would take (although not everything is shown on the diagram)for a standard group day on the hill, any specialist items are not included, however these could include things like GPS, any books or guides for the area as required, I also list a sling in the equipment, if going for you ML assessment it is worth noting that some ML assessors do not allow the use of a sling and biner and some do. If you do have one, make sure you know how to use it correctly! Kit list:

Spare water
30m Confidence rope - Set up for easy use
240cm sling and HMS karabiner
Spare warm jacket
Food and emergency rations (in yellow stuff sack)
First aid kit
Group shelter
GPS handset
Walking poles
Thermos flask with warm drink

The above list is not exhaustive, but is generally what I carry when with groups, I add or take away items depending on time of year, group size/age/type, and the nature of the day.

I hope you have enjoyed the series of little diagrams in the last couple of posts, feel free to use these in any presentations etc, but please reference me or let me know if you do :)

Next post: FigFour Dry tooling....any good?

Expedition loadout

Really enjoyed messing around in photoshop and creating the winter loadout image below, so decided I would do one for expedition loadout and mountain leader day sack. My expedition equipment varies a huge amount depending on length of expedition, time of year etc. In the diagram I have not included items like penknive, gps, phone etc, as they are too fiddly to edit in photoshop! Kit shown:

Tent (or part there of)
Sleeping bag
Thermorest (right side)
Poles (left side)
Insulated jacket
Spare clothes (red stuff sack)
Food (yellowy stuff sack)
Spare water
Group shelter

Other kit can be added or taken out as needed. If wet weather expected then thermorest should be covered in a drybag to prevent it getting sodden! Additional kit like: scrambling rope, ice axe (and other winter gear) etc can be added also depending on the nature of the venture.

Bag in picture is my faithful Lowe Alpine Frontier 80+15L. Fantastic bag, present from my parents for my 20th birthday.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Winter Loadout 2010/2011

So last year I spent some time doing a cut away style diagram to detail my winter kit. I thought I would do the same kind of idea again this year. The diagram to the left shows a standard winter day pack. The only changes being that my crampons are not covered and the axes shown are actually strapped to the outside of my bag not the inside as it may seem. As you can see the packing is a little tight, but largely whats included is:

Roughly half a winter rack
1 x 60m half rope
2 x DMM Fly
A small group shelter
A water bottle
An insulated jacket
Spare gloves

Naturally that is quite a sparse kit and would only be useful as a daypack. Other things could be added or taken away depending the type of trip/length of trip. It also makes the assumption that I would be wearing certain kit like my hardshell jacket and trousers, gloves etc

Overall I usually pack my bag as shown, with items like helmet/harness and goggles towards the top. I might also add things like GPS, first aid kit (if partner wasn't carrying). My bag of choice is my Osprey Mutant 38, however in some instances this is often not big enough.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Clipper Leashes!

After the hardcore failure of my chokehold leashes at the weekend I vowed to sort out my leash system. This is my story....
Prior to hitting the first ice of the season at the weekend I had been looking into how best to "mod up" my axes for winter. Having struggled with my chokehold leashes previously, I decided I needed some form of clipper leash. I contacted DMM regarding a fitting kit for my DMM flys. The good thing about my axes is that I have a slightly older version of the DMM fly featuring hollow bolts on the shaft, these can be fitted up for a clipper leash. Simon from DMM very helpfully sent me 2 fitting kits for my axes to enable me to fit these leashes.

Having shopped around for the clipper leashes I found Joe Brown offering them for £35 each! http://www.joe-brown.com/outdoor-equipment/winter-mountaineering/climbing-tools/dmm-clipper-leash.html, V12 offering them for £40 a pair, and www.theoutdoorshop.com offering them at an incredible £32 a pair. I immediately put in an order with the outdoorshop.

Quick plug for www.theoutdoorshop.com - this is a brilliant site, great customer service, online BMC discount (if you mail them your membership number), and most of all cheapest prices on everything! incredible! Never had bad service from them yet! Worth a browse with christmas coming up!

The leashes arrived today (8/12), I fitted up the fitting kits (simple enough), and attached the leashes. Job done!

The leashes themselves are simple enough, I was very surprised to recieve 2 DMM phantom karabiners as the "clippers". At £8-9 each these were a nice bonus to have with the leashes (not that I will use them for climbing!). The leashes are very padded and comfortable, and have a small buckle for keeping the leashes in place on your wrist. I imagine when I use these I will simply attach them at the start of the day, and take them off at the end!

Overall for the time and cost investment, I think these will be an excellent addition to my axes! Stay tuned for my next trigger modifications!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Early season winter climbing

Reynolds text me last week asking if I fancied heading over to Wales for a spot of early season winter climbing. The idea appealed to me and over the course of the week we decided on a plan to bivi out in Devils kitchen in Cwm Idwal, and hit the ice early in the morning to avoid the queues. A great idea...until you consider the temperature will be below zero. That said we went ahead with our plan and headed into Idwal around 11pm on Friday night. We bivied out and heading for the ice in the morning. After some pleasant climbing we headed back down and back to the car. Based on crap weather reports we headed back saturday night. We both carried a large amount of kit with us, but which kit did well? And which didn't do well?

Champion kit:

Mountain Equipment Fitzroy:

A cracking jacket, I wore this all day climbing, during the walk in and in the morning in the bivi. It held up to everything Wales threw at us, snow, rain, wind, cold, not only that I didn't overheat in it (often a problem I get!)

DMM Fly:

A cracking all round axe, comfortable to use and ideal for UK winter climbing!


I love the Jetboil - simple as. Nothing better for making a brew and cooking up boil in the bag meals.

Vilified kit!

DMM Chokehold leashes:

Whilst I love the DMM fly, I HATE the standard chokehold leash, they are uncomfortable to use, hard to get off, and generally not user friendly. Fortunately the good folk at DMM sent me a free fitting kit for my DMM fly axes (I have the slightly older version that have follow bolts for clipper leashes). And I will now be buying some clipper leashes!

Leki walking poles

Titanium poles my ass! One of my poles snapped during the walk in to the first climb, not impressed in the slightest, I will be contacting Leki to try and get this fixed, details to follow!

All in all it was a cracking day! Good nick climbs, good company and ok weather!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Writing my book - good times

Hiya guys,

Sorry for the lack of posting as of late, as the title suggests I have been writing my own DofE training manual lately, I have just finally finished off the chapter 2 of 8: navigation, word count sitting at 8217words, I am so psyched for writing this at the moment, really enjoying making the book the way I would want a training manual, it has taken me a while to write what I have so far, however quality is an issue so slow and steady is the best way. Little sneak peak in the picture there! More updates soon!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Jbel Toubkal 2010

So the day came for Morocco, weeks and weeks of planning, worrying, and packing all came to a finale! Overall the trip was a great success with all of the team summiting on 17th September at 11.05am. Whilst the trip was a slog and a half, and wasn’t without it’s issues, it was very enjoyable, and a trek I would definitely recommend.
The trek consisted of a long day from Imlil (1600m) at the edge of Toubkal National Park up to Refuge Du Toubkal Les Mouflons at 3207m. So 1600m in 35-40Degree heat, with full expedition packs on....what a day huh? The day went smoothly until exiting the small village of Amround via a dry river bed when Ruth tripped and dislocated her knee.

However being the hardcore adventurer type, we promptly relocated the knee and continued on. This leg of the climb just goes on and on and on, the most annoying part of the trek was seeing the large groups of amateurs on the backs of mules heading up with no effort on their part what so ever. While on the subject of mules if you ever do this trek be very careful of the mules and muleers, they make the broad assumption that no matter what the circumstances they have right of way, and will quite happily egg their mules on along the track knocking you out of the way, crushing you against rocks, and generally not considering trekkers along the trail. After continuing through the small shrine of Sidi Chamarouch the path zig zags upward and continues up toward the hut. Eventually we arrived at the hut.

The summit day began up a steep scree slope in poor weather. After reaching the col we continued on upward and up to a false summit before moving along the summit ridge to a giant Iron summit cairn. After enjoying being at the highest point in North Africa we heading back down and to the hut. The following day we descended back to Imlil thus completing our trek.

Equipment wise a brief look at the best bits of kit I had with me;
Leki Makalu Ultralite poles: Brilliant, simply brilliant, I have always highly recommended poles for mountaineering of all kinds, for descending they came in particularly handy really helping to take the weight off my knees on descent.
Marks and Spencers Microskin Boxers: Mark and Spencer boxers eh? Might seem like I’ve got mad but good god these are the best shreddies I have ever worn, so comfortable all day long, I highly recommend these for all outdoor activities!
Camelbak Unbottle 1.5L: Did very well up until I lost the valve for the drinking tube in the scree field. However when I did use it, it kept the water so cool in my back and was refreshing to drink from.
Scarpa Manta: My boots once again proved they are perfect for anything from winter climbing to high altitude trekking in high heat!

Big shout out to the rest of the team, a climb like this is what the team make it, and the our team made the trek for me. Cheers guys.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Toubkal preparations – First aid kit

Continuing on my theme of Toubkal preparations this post will focus on additions made to my first aid kit to accommodate issues we may experience at altitude. I will be sticking with my standard Mountain Leader kit by Lifesystems, and making some modifications and additions for stuff that I may require for altitude related issues. Also past experience of this type of trek has taught be carrying certain medications is very useful, below is a summary of the kit I will be carrying in addition to my standard gear:

Acetazolamide – Anyone who has done any altitude work will be familiar with Acetazolamide (aka Diamox). Diamox is a drug that is used to treat the initial stages of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). It is one of 2 drugs usually carried on expeditions the other being Dexamethasone (something I would never use or carry). Essentially I carry Diamox for use to treat initial AMS, I do not take it as a preventative measure. Diamox is a prescription only drug, and you should consult your GP in order to get this prior to a trek. The drug works by acidifying the blood, this means the blood functions more efficiently in its removal of CO2. In this way it minimise the effect of high altitude on the body.

Co-codamol – Co-codamol is the strongest pain killer available without prescription. It is essentially codeine combined with paracetamol. I carry it so that in a worst case scenario I have a strong pain killer to mask any discomfort I may be feeling. This came in particularly handy when I broke my collar bone at 18,000ft. This is available over the counter at most pharmacies.

Imodium – Imodium is an over the counter drug used to treat diarrhoea. I carry this because more often than not changing to a local diet when abroad can mean your body struggles a bit. Personally I try to avoid this my changing my diet over about 2 weeks before I go to help me. I am usually ok (touch wood), others I have been on expedition with have not been so lucky....

Oximeter – I carry a small oximeter. This allows me to accurately check my own (and others) oxygen saturation rate (SP02). Oxygen saturation is a measure of how much oxygen is in the blood in a given sample. It can be a useful tool in an emergency as an indication of weather altitude is hitting someone hard.

You should always consult a medical professional when using/buying any of these drugs. I have been revising all my expedition medicine skills by using the Royal Geographic society expedition medicine book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Expedition-Medicine-Royal-Geographical-Society/dp/1861974345/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282077807&sr=8-2 very worthwhile if you aspire to learn first aid abroad.

I have been on a number of courses that focus on first aid and emergencies in remote areas, in particular I can highly recommend High Peak First aids expedition medic and wilderness level 2 courses http://www.highpeakfirstaid.co.uk/. They really helped increase my existing first aid skills to include remote care and emergencies.

More prep to come.....

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Toubkal 2010 trip preparations

So there is a month and a half until I head out to Morocco. The main objective is obviously Toubkal (4167 m) via the North Col route (PD*). However hoping to tick off 2 other 4000m+ peaks in the area; Timesguida (4.089 m) via the East ridge route (F***) and Ras n'Ouanoukrim (4.083 m) via the North Col route (PD*). Ambitious perhaps to climb North Africa’s 3 highest Peaks in 7 days but I’m confident it’s very achievable.

Naturally my thoughts have been running over what equipment I should take, and what equipment should stay behind. I have made a number of purchases lately which should hopefully allow me to adapt to the climate in Morocco a little easier. First off I have bought 2 new pairs of trousers:

The Mountain Hardwear Canyon trousers and Craghoppers Kiwi convert trousers. I bought these specifically as they were lightweight, light coloured and UV protective. My current trousers are (for the most part) heavier weight trousers more suited to UK climate. I have also bought a Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve shirt. I chose this shirt as it will make a happy change to the base layers I usually wear, and because most of my current set of base layers are short sleeve. These recent Mountain Hardwear purchases are the first of this brand I have bought, hopefully they will perform as well as I’ve heard they do!

I have also bought an MSR miniworks water filter. This will be ideal for providing me with a clean source of water throughout my trek. Review will be coming soon! However a number of features appealed to me about this filter over the many others on the market including the ease of maintenance in the field due to its simple design, and it's efficient filter unit that gives around 2000 litres of water before needing replacing

I have also finally completed my Memory Map Morocco file. It is now fully georeferenced and good to go. It is also working fully on my GPS so that should be ideal for emergencies and the like!

Other preparations have not been going so well, my eating habbits that had got much better have now disapeared and returned to the ways of old, my fitness has not really changed, and my lung training to help my asthma hasn't been moving at all. However from today (1 Aug) I will be resuming all of the above more positive than ever. I have set myself the goal of losing another stone and a half before I go. I have also been continuing with my French training so we will see how that progresses!

More information soon...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

SPA assessment

So it’s been a while since I posted anything. So I guess I should start with a post about my SPA assessment at Plas Y Brenin.

First of all...I PASSED! Woop! I am incredibly chuffed, but equally I can honestly say I deserved it, I have put so much effort into my climbing lately, working hard on the coaching side of things as well as pushing my personal leading. I came away from my assessment with a huge feeling of pride in myself, my skills, and my ability as an instructor. The guide who was running the course gave me a lot of positive feedback about my experience and said long term I should be looking towards my MIA. He also commented on my passion for climbing and working with kids, and that being a centre based instructor was an ideal place for me.

The assessment itself was straight forward, I lead 3 climbs, rigged a number of top ropes, bottom ropes, and abseils, at 2 different crags. There was also a climbing wall session. But how did my gear help? What gear did I take? Anything I would recommend? Any lessons learned?

Firstly, if you do not own a set of DMM offsets, buy a set now. The DMM offsets were the best bit of kit I carried with me, they just fitted so well. The assessor commented on how every time I used one it was a bomber placement. They were just excellent all weekend, and for the sake of £40 I think they are perfect for any rack!

Secondly, DMM Boa’s are ideal for top rope rigging, Italian hitch’s and setting up belays. If you do not own at least one Boa, then buy one, they are excellent for a number of things.

Gear I took on assessment:

1-11 DMM Wallnuts
1-11 Zero G Spectrum wires
5-11 DMM Offset wires
Black Diamond Hexcentrics 4-10
DMM 4CU cams: 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4

3 x 120 slings
2 x 240 slings
1 x 400 sling

8 x Wild Country Oxygen Quickdraws
3 x Slingdraws
1 x Screw draw

10 x Screwgates
2 x DMM Boa
1 x Reverso3
1 x DMM Fatboy locksafe

So standard rack really. I racked slings round my chest with a screw gate. I had wires racked on 2 biners (small wires and large wires).

Lessons learned that might help people going for SPA assessment:

These are points of discussion raised on my assessment that may be useful for anyone going for their assessment. These were either things I did, or things others on my course were pulled up on!

1) Italian hitch, ensure you are well below the Italian hitch and when lowered have both hands on the dead rope!
2) Larks footing slings as safety sling; I was told by the guide that larks footing through the belay loop is the best way to do this. Apparently over time larks footing through leg and waist loops (as per tie in) can erode away the loops and weaken them. He reference an accident in which a climber was killed by a weakened harness in this way.
3) Extending wire placements with a second wire. Using a second wire to extend a placement out is very useful to prevent rubbing on the wire.
4) Simple! Keep everything simple examples include:
Q: Climber stuck on a top rope system, you are in the system
A: Tie off, get out of harness, get a harness from group, abseil from above

Q: Climber stuck on bottom rope system, won’t budge
A: Abseil from above pull climber off, tell group to payout.

Q: Solo’ing climber cragfast
A: Abseil from above with a accompanied abseil setup

Q: Stuck client on group abseil
A: Tighten up safety rope to remove weight from abseil (note: I was asked on second time to tie off and release ab rope!)

5) Rating anchors out of 5, 5 being bomber, 4 being good, 3 being average etc this helps decide how many anchors to put in.

Ultimately consider that the assessor wants you to pass, you just need to demonstrate you are safe, quick, and simple. Don’t over complicate anything! Anyone who wants any info just message me!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

LifeSystems Mountain Leader First Aid Kit

RRP £45

So it’s been a while since I posted anything, I’ve bought a few things lately, but I prefer to field test things before writing a review. However I have recently upgrading my first aid kit.

Having a good first aid kit has always been important to me, especially with the amount of group work I do. Also I hold the REC level 4 first aid qualification and I am going for my REC level 5 and Expedition medic qualifications in August, so having a kit with the tools appropriate to my skills is important to me.

By this definition my previous kit was pretty useless, so I set about researching dedicated expedition kits for multi day expeditions with big groups, and eventually I concluded that the kit I wanted was Lifesystem’s Mountain Leader kit. I managed to track the kit down for £30 with free next day delivery from Amazon of all places! I have now been using the kit for a month or so, and I have to say I am a huge fan of this kit! Although (touch wood) I haven’t had to use anything from it really except for the odd cuts and bumps to kids at work, I have am very impressed with the layout of the kit and ease of use.

What I like most about the kit is the thought that has gone into it. For starters the kit uses the same system trauma kits Army medic use; the kit is compartmentalised into different sections. For example; Bleeding and wounds, Breaks and Fractures etc. This means in an emergency (or in the event someone needs to use the kit) everything is laid out simply and it is very easy to identify the section you need (see pics). In addition to the ease of use the kit comes with several very useful things:

A small roll of duct tape
A small working mat
A 12 hour light stick
Emergency shears for removing clothing

I know that reading this doesn’t sound like much, but to me the extra thought to include such items and also dedicated and labelled slots for them in the kit is just excellent quality.

To finish the kit off I added some bits of equipment I commonly use and would think need to be in a kit of this size:

Small GPS handset
Foil blanket
Spray plaster
Individual plasters
Casualty card and notebook.

I guess the above items are self explanatory, however I should point out the kit does include plasters, however they are those annoying rolls of plaster which you have to mess around cutting to the correct size, personally and in my experience it’s easier to carry both, along with spray plaster. The GPS is easy to keep in the kit and be there when you need it, and it weighs nothing, the unit I use is a Garmin Geko, not one I would use as my primary GPS set however it does the job of an emergency unit very well.

The kit also has plenty of space for expanding with your own items without having to remove anything. Waterproof sealed seam zips also ensure the kit stays dry.

Overall I love everything about this first aid kit, it is ideal for any outdoor professional, mountain leader or outdoor enthusiast looking for a great first aid kit, and what’s more £30 is a great price for everything you get with the kit, so if you are looking for a new kit check this one out on Amazon!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Morocco trip - Toubkal 2010

Well I've put off writing this post until I was sure this was going ahead, and I'm now sure it's going to happen :)

Myself and 5 others are heading off to Africa to climb Toubkal 4200m (13,700ft). It's the largest Peak in the Atlas mountains, and a mountain I've wanted to climb for a while now. I was sat with Atko the other day and we said "lets just do it man". So having rounded up our team for the trip (which we capped at 6 people) we are now in the planning phase.

Now for me that means letting all my current tech take a step up. I've already scanned and Georeferenced a map of Toubkal, which has intergrated fully with my PDA. To do this was a bit fiddly to be honest. I had to install Memory Map navigator (which I discovered was different to memory map OS5). This allowed me to scan in my new Toubkal 1:50k and calibrate it for use with GPS. To do this I tried taking GPS lat/long co-ordinates from Google earth however this was less than effective, and the first prototype of my map informed me it was 200miles to the summit of Toubkal. So I scoured the internet and eventually found a GPS track of the route. I managed to identify various points in the track and put the co-ordinates into memory maps calibration system. Time will tell if it works but I'm optimistic!

All in all watch this space, I've got a few new bits of kit on the way, reviews up soon!

Overall I am so psyched for this trip, back to high altitude with a great group (including my baby bro) on a peak I've wanted to do for months!!


Monday, 26 April 2010

BD Ice clipper problems

Well I've read/written quite a bit about these, and I think it's only fair/right that I explain the circumstances under which I have become part of the "Ice clippers broke on me" club.

Today I was climbing at the Roaches, while rigging the belay I heard the depressed clink clink of gear falling. I looked down to see my trusty reverso3 had fallen down to a lower ledge of the climb I had been on (only about 2 metres). Confused I looked down at my Ice clipper (where I always rack my belay plate) only to see the gate had fallen completely off onto the floor. I looked around and eventually found the gate. I am confused as to how this happened, the route had been a techical slab climb, no trutching or scraping involved, so how did it come off?! Luckily in this case I didnt lose anything important, and nothing was damaged. Would I trust these with a full rack of £40+ ice screws....Probably not.

I fixed the ice clipper no problem, and then belayed with an italian hitch, however if I had been climbing something longer and dropped something more important this would have been an issue!

.......Disapointed and confused.....

DMM Alloy Offsets

Well a little later than planned I finally got around to writing my review of these. They have now accompanied me on 4 climbing trips, three times on grit and once on limestone. There really is nothing to say about these except they are pure magic. They fit so well, I find myself wanting to save them for later in the route and refusing to use them! Climbing at the Roaches today on a route called Captain Lethargy, only HVD, but figured it would be a good outting for the Offsets. The route itself is a winding crack in the "into thin air" section at the far right of the lower tier. I used 3 offsets during the route, and the placements were perfect, the unconventional shape of the offset wires meant they slotted perfectly into the cracks. As an experiment I also tried placing standard DMM wallnuts in the same placements, and they were less than convincing!

The offsets are ideal for complimenting an existing set of wires (I carry wallnuts and/or zero G spectrum wires), as they fit into tapered cracks very well. My climbing partner today (Paul) also commented about the excellent placements the Offsets seem to allow for, turning seemingly appalling cracks into bomber placements.

Brilliant piece of kit, 10/10!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

DMM Alloy Offset wires- first impressions

RRP: £45
I paid: £20

I had been after a set of these for a while to compliment my DMM wallnuts and Zero G spectrum wires. Finally settling on buying a set I had planned to head over to the new V12 at Awesome Walls in Stoke, however by chance I gave my bro a ring who was at the Outdoors Show, he said they had them on offer at £20 for a full set. At that price how could I say no!!
Will be testing these in the Peak tommorow (Stanage?), so hopefully some details on how they fit then.
However they look and feel cool and well built, so I guess we shall see!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Black Diamond Ice Clipper problems??

Following my review of Black Diamond Blizzard accessories, it has been drawn to my attention that with moderate use the ice clipper experiences a terminal issue whereby the clip malfunctions and stays open outside the clip. (See pic). A number of users have complained about these on UKC, indicating a common problem resulting in the loss of ice screws.

Comments taken direct from UKC:

"The screws were nowhere around and the wire gate on my little plastic Black Diamond ice clipper krab was on the wrong side of the gate. One to watch out for."

"I threw my ice clippers away because of this happening, though I did it before I lost any screws. The petzl caritool is better."

"lost a screw for the very same reason! The worst BD product ever!"

So for those of us who use Ice clippers, just be aware of this issue! I myself still love the ice clippers, but will keep a close eye on them from now on! However I should point out I have been using these for 2 years and had no issues.... Mr Reynolds has similar opinions of the ice clippers, so until one of us has this issue, I'll continue to place my faith in these!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Jetboil PCS – The coolest stove out there?

Of this there is no doubt, but is it any good? I've had one of these for a while now, so I thought I might as well review it!

Now for those are you who aren't familiar with the Jetboil, let me explain;

The Jetboil is an ultra efficient, lightweight, cooking system. The stove is designed to take up as little space as possible in a rucksack by storage for all the components (including the gas canister) being inside the cooking pot. At the moment there are 3 Jetboil systems on the market;

Jetboil PCS (Personal Cooking System)
Jetboil GCS (Group Cooking System)
Jetboil Helios

The PCS and GCS are designed to be modular, by this I mean if you purchase a PCS, you can buy additional components to have a GCS as well. The main difference between the GCS and PCS is the type of pot used for cooking. The PCS uses a 1 litre companion mug, where as the GCS uses a 1.5 litre cooking pot. Both systems uses the same burner self igniting burner system which is compatible with screw top canisters. The GCS also features a stabiliser kit so that the unit can be a standalone stove and will have additional stability on the floor rather than just the base of the gas canister. Essentially though if you buy a Jetboil PCS, you can buy a stabiliser kit and a 1.5 litre pot and have a GCS as an additional option.

On to the review. . .

I bought this stove to use when I am short expeditions. It appealed to me because it was efficient, light and easy to use. My stove combination consists of the Jetboil PCS and the stabiliser set, along with a gas canister this weights in at 670g. The addition of the stabiliser kit means my stove is more "team friendly". Without the stabiliser the Jetboil can only be used the jetboil accessories, by carrying the stabiliser kit I can share cooking with other team members as the kit converts the stove into a more universal setup (see pic)

I did a quick test to check the units specs listed on the website:
The stove should be able to boil water in 2minutes (0.5L), and boil around 12 litres per 100g canister. I bought a new canister and boiled as many 0.5L cups as possible, whilst averaging out the time taken on each. The average time taken to boil 0.5L of water was 1min 53.4secs, and I got 17 Litres of water from a single canister. Personally I think this is excellent for a small canister. All Jetboil pans use Jetboils patented Fluxring technology to increase efficiency, it functions in the same way a radiator works, by providing a larger surface area to heat up while cooking, as a pose to the flat bottom of a pan or mess tin. The same system is used on the 1.5L pot, 1L mug, and Frying pan.

In terms of cooking with the Jetboil a lot of people have said you are fairly limited in what you can cook. You can cook any kind of ration pack style meals. This just involves rolling the meal up and cramming it into the cup! Other than that anything that you would cook on a hob you can cook on the PCS. Which is ideal for short term expeditions.

The Jetboil is very well thought out, after you have finished cooking there is a plastic cover to protect you from burns while you are eating. There is also a sewn handle on the companion cup so you can move around while the stove is cooking.

In additional to being quite stable when fitted with the stabiliser kit, the stove is also fairly windproof, and is fitted with a small piezo electric igniter meaning there is no need to fiddle with matches in poor conditions.

Drawbacks? Well I'm yet to find one, however I have enjoyed shooting down some common Jetboil gripes lately which I thought I'd share....

Moan: "You can't cook big meals like you can with other stoves"
Owning: Purchase the 1.5 Pot, or purchase the stabiliser kit and a mess tin so that you can switch to that when you are out for longer

Moan: "The cartridges are so small"
Owning: Purchase a bigger screw seal canister....Idiot

Moan: "You have to hold it while it's cooking"
Owning: Put it down? Or better still buy the stabiliser kit and put it down

. . . You get the idea, any other gripes feel free to email me for an owning...

In addition to the various components in the GCS and PCS, there are a number of other accessories to customise your Jetboil kit:

Coffee press (£17.50)- turn you Jetboil into a coffee brewer
Frying pan (£44.99)- Fluxring frying pan, for efficient frying of tasty goodness
Hanging kit (£27.50)- a kit for handing your jetboil when big wall climbing, snow holing or whatever other use you could think of!
Jetboil cutlery (£13.50)- Highly temperature resistant nylon cutlery, light and tough, personally I'll stick with my titanium spork!
Additional coloured sleeves for companion mug are also available for further customising of your set (£5.99)

All in all you can't go wrong with a Jetboil, brilliant, customisable, efficient, not overly cheap but consider it an investment! RRP is £85, but browse around and you can get one for around £60! Stabiliser kit around £17.50 is also a must have!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Landrover S1. . . how tough is it really?

Well how tough is it? I've had this phone since december now, and whilst I did some initial testing to check general toughness (throwing in water etc) I'd been wanting to push it a bit further. I was working this weekend, and one of the kids I was working with spotted my phone clipped to my belt. This sparked off a series of "Sir can I smash your phone on the ground" and "Sir can I tip my drink on your phone". Now whilst not keen on letting a group of lads from Stoke boot my phone around part of me was curious to see what would happen. And given it had a 3 year guarantee on it with the tagline "you break it for any reason we replace it" I was tempted. Later on in the day we were up in the high ropes tower doing the "parachute jump" (very cool indeed and worth checking out www.stanleyhead.org.uk, weekend bookings available :) )and one of the kids said "Sir if your phone is that tough then proove it".

Never one to back away from a challenge, I looked over the edge of the tower to check for people below(see pic) then promptly dropped it over the side of the tower. If nothing else this achieved a loud gasp from the group of lads in question. But what was even more impressive was when I got back down to the ground and inspected the phone, not only did it work fine, there was not even a scratch on it! Impressive!

During the weekend I did a number of other tests on the phone, including dropping it out of the bouldering room abseil hatch onto concrete, dunking it into my tea, leaving it in the freezer, and various other horrible things, and it still works perfectly.

The only problem I experienced is that if you drown it in water, water can get into the speaker hole, best way I've found it to leave it upside down for a short period to allow water to drain out. I should add this doesnt damage the phone just water getting stuck in the the hole!

Awesome piece of kit!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Black diamond Blizzard accessories

RRP £5.99 (Clipper) & £8.00 (holster)
I have a black diamond blizzard harness, and I've always loved it for it's comfort, good fit and quality build. Black diamond also do 2 accessories for this harness to aid the budding winter climber. I now have both of these;

Black Diamond Blizzard Holster:
This small webbing holster attaches to the blizzard (or any other harness) and allows the user to holster one or both of their ice tools whilst placing gear etc. I would say its a nifty little accessory, but can be a little bit fiddly holstering 2 tools, however to holster one tool at a time is very easy! Overall, nice addition to my harness and easy to use.

Black diamond ice clipper:
This is the best few quid ive ever spent! It is such a great bit of kit. It allows you not only to rack your ice screws easily, but also when trad climbing its very easy to stow gear when seconding, or clip you belay device to avoid fannying around at the top of route finding it. The ice clipper will fit to any harness, however the BD blizzard has custom slots to slide these in, making them even more secure! My friend Matt Reynolds also loves these:

"BD ice clippers. These little plastic 'biners are simply like the most innovative idea ever (not just BD ones, I mean the whole concept). For those that don't know then they are little plastic 'biners that are held sort of poking out from your harness so you can rack screws (or anything you want) on them. I brought 2 initially as I was trying to expand my summer harness with more gear loops (I just brought a DMM Renegade in the end, another quality piece of kit)."

Taken from http://www.lifeattheendofarope.blogspot.com/ (worth a read for some of Matts Crazy Stories!)

Overall Black Diamonds 2 cheap accessories make a good harness even better, and for the few quid involved its very worth investing! I now have a holster for my axes AND an ice clipper on the left and right of my harness for ice screws and anything else!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Mountain Equipment Kongur MRT

RRP: £320

This Christmas my parents wanted to buy me a new jacket to update my Millet Hardshell that I’ve had since I was 18. When thinking of which jacket I wanted the first think that sprung to mind was “Mountain Equipment”. I am in no doubt that Mountain Equipment is one of the (if not THE) best company out there at the moment. I own a number of mountain equipment products, all of which have stood the test of time, and been damn good in the process. But any hardshell I bought would have to be as good as my Millet one (no easy task!). My Millet jacket has been my faithful companion in sub zero temperatures in the depths of Scottish winter, at 18,500ft above sea level in the Himalayas, in dust storms in Iceland glacial plateaus, through my ML training and ML assessment, and through countless crap days in Stoke! So in replacing it I needed a jacket that would fill that gap. I had already tried on the ME Kongur and had liked it. At £280 the Kongur was not cheap. I was also aware of the Kongur MRT a beefed up stronger version of the Kongur. The Kongur itself came highly recommended, it had won Trail’s ultimate waterproof test twice and had ringing endorsements from numerous reviewers. The MRT version was £40 more than the Kongur. However on reading about it I figured I might as well get that one.
The Kongur came on Christmas day and good lord is it good! The jacket uses Gore’s latest Gortex fibre – proshell. It feels very crinkly, I don’t know whether this is just because it is a new jacket! The toughened fibres on the shoulders, arms, and back feel very substantial, almost feels like a canvas material in a way. All the zips are waterproof including the pit zips (for added ventilation), and the cut of the jacket is perfect. What I would also say about the jacket is unlike a number of mountain equipments other jackets, the sizing is slightly larger on this. The XL fits me with plenty of room for extra layers underneath. The mood is the usual level of high quality I’ve come to expect from Mountain Equipment, plenty big enough for a helmet underneath – my salamander has quite lower clearance, however I have tried it with an Elios and Ecrin underneath and they fit just as well. The other added perk to the new Kongur is the reflective stripping added to increase visibility in bad conditions.

All in all the extra £40 is definitely worth it! The toughened fibres are brilliant! The Kongur MRT is on offer on theoutdoorshop.com at £240 at the moment which is a fantastic offer for a fantastic piece of kit. I also like the fact that the colour scheme of red and black is similar to my trademark red and grey Millet hard shell.

FEATURES & BENEFITS (From www.mountain-equipment.co.uk)
• 3 Layer Gore-Tex® Pro Shell Ascendor
• 3 Layer Gore-Tex® Pro Shell Lofoten reinforcements
• 3M® reflective detailing for visibility in poor weather & darkness
• Super longer cut provides exceptional protection
• Award winning helmet compatible Stealth construction hood
• Stealth construction techniques used throughout
• Slim double centre front storm flaps
• 2 large chest pockets can be used whilst wearing a rucksack or harness
• 2 external map pockets allow hidden access to stored items
• Underarm Water resistant pit zips for ventilation

Monday, 4 January 2010

Layering systems – What’s that all about?

Another in the series of things I’ve been wanting to write about lately! This article will cover a little bit about types of layer and what each is suitable for.

A number of different layers exist. When looking to get a layering system, it can be very confusing to understand all these layers and where they would fit into your system. Easiest way to look at layering is to start at the inside layer (closest to your body) and work outward:

Base layer: The base layer is as it says; your base. It is the closest layer to your body. A number of different base layers exist, some designed for summer, some for winter. Some designed to be warm when wet and some designed to dry quick. As such it is impossible to categorise base layers into any sub categories. However as a general rule summer base layers wick sweat away from the body ensuring you stay dry, but also ensuring air circulation so you stay cool. Winter base layers are designed more to keep heat in, usually comprised of wool or synthetic fibres, winter base layers are also slightly thicker.

Mid layer: “Mid layers” covers a wide variety of layers, fleeces, jumpers, down jackets and soft shell jackets. The idea of the mid layer is to provide additional warmth depending on the environment. Down jackets that are not waterproof are usually worn in the mid layer position depending on temperature (they are very warm) and weather (they are not usually waterproof). Soft shell jackets is arguably a category on its own, however I have included soft shells in mid layers. Soft shell covers jackets that provide additional warmth, but provide some protection from the elements. Soft shells (sometimes called wind stoppers) are usually windproof, and shower proof, they are however not suitable for heavier rain.

Hard shell: Hard shell jackets provide a complete barrier against water and some protection against wind. They are however not warm, so need to be supported by mid layers which provide the warmth. The hard shell basically protects anything underneath it from getting wet. Hard shells vary in quality, with the best (in my opinion) being Pro shell Gortex. Other waterproof materials include drilite, hyvent, event and paramo.

Other outershells: Synthetic belay jackets, waterproof down jackets. Belay jackets are designed to be thrown on over the top of other layers whilst climbing or in bad conditions. They are usually waterproof or highly water resistant, with either synthetic or pure down for warmth. Jackets like this provide both warmth and protection from bad conditions.

Friday, 1 January 2010

My winter loadout

I’ve been meaning to write about my winter gear and what I take with me winter climbing, so I decided that with photoshop reinstalled I would go through my gear (I’ve always wanted to have a bash at those cut away diagrams!). Below is all the gear I would personally take for the kind of routes I do in winter (I don’t bother with tough mixed climbing, I tend to stick to good condition grade I,II or at a push III and enjoy good mountain days!)

Please note: This is by no means a guide as to what to take, merely my explanation of what I take and why. If you are new to winter climbing or just want some additional reading, I recommend “Winter Skills, Chapter 1 - equipment” by Andy Cunningham and Allen Fyffe, a good read and a good basis for a new climber. Also worth reading “Winterising your rack” by Rob Jarvis (http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=709)

So onto my gear! The cut away diagram (click to enlarge!) shows the various layers I would wear for a winter mountain day.

1. Helmet – essential if winter climbing to protect you from falling ice and rock, especially if you are belaying from belay, your leader will most likely kick ice and snow down onto you so having a comfortable helmet you can wear all day is important. I have a Grivel Salamader, it’s light and very comfortable, the headtorch elastics are excellent also. However at around £60 it’s not a cheap one!

2. Goggles – I picked these north face goggles up at TK Maxx for £20, however they are usually £90 so I got lucky! Good goggles will help you in bad conditions, and also help with the glare of the sun reflecting on the snow. Alternatively glacier goggles are a good idea. If using sunglasses then make sure you get ones with some wrap around on the sides.

3. Hard shell – My beloved mountain equipment kongur. In my opinion the best and most well designed hard shell on the market. A good winter hard shell is essential for protection against the elements whilst out. The Kongur MRT is excellent however you won’t find it cheaper than around £250.

4. Harness – Harness may or may not be needed depending on what route you plan on doing. Always a good idea to carry you harness if you are planning on doing a route you are unsure about. I have a black diamond Blizzard, with 2 ice clippers to allow me to rack gear closer to the front of my harness, given that I climb with my pack on and reaching to the back of my harness with a rucksack on is difficult. The blizzard is excellent, comfortable and easy to adjust. Can be found at around £50.

Picture above: Selection of ice gear is essential

5. Hard shell trousers – Waterproof trousers are my “weapon of choice” when it comes to winter climbing. Some people opt for soft shell trousers for the added breathability, however I use my waterproofs. My trousers are Mountain Equipment Matrix sallopette (no longer on sale), which are a combination of paclite Gortex and XCR Gortex, with toughened knees and crampon kick straps. I use sallopettes as they are more comfy and don’t ride up exposing my back.

6. Boots – I have both Scarpa Vega (B3) and Scarpa Manta (B2). I tend to use my Manta’s when out, as they are more comfy and less bulky. They do well on simple gully and snow climbs, however for anything more serious consider a B3 boot.

7. Crampons – I use Grivel G12 Newmatic fit. The newmatic binding is semi step in binding, allowing me to quickly fit my crampons when needed, the rear clip fits well on my Mantas, and will fit on any B2 boot because of the front plastic bail. These retail at up to £135 in winter and as low as £90 in summer. All depends when and where you buy them! At present the outdoorshop.com is doing them for £109.

8. Gloves – I wear lining gloves and my Millet winter gloves.

9. Ice axe – I used a Grivel Munro walking axe. The axe is excellent except for the lack of grip, however I used a tennis grip and some duck tape to fix this! I also have a set of DMM fly technical axes for use on routes that are steeper.

10. Winter rack – again this is my personal choice for the routes I do. However you rack should be as broad as possible when packing to go to an area. Make sure to read “winterising your rack” on UKClimbing.com. Myself (and my partner between us) carry:

60 metre dry treated rope x 2 (Beal Iceline)
6-8 Runners depending on the route (Slingdraw)
Hexes (BD Hexcentrics)
Wires (DMM Wallnuts)
Slings (120cm x 2 and 240cm)
Ice screws x 3
Various screwgates
Belay plate (reverso3)
Prussik loops x 2

Picture above: Winter rack as described, minus 1 ice screw and sling draws

This is based on a generised rack, however I customise depending on what I am doing and where I am going.

The second half of my cut away diagram (once again very cool!) Shows what I have underneath my hardshell.

1. Softshell – I wear my softshell underneath, I use an ME Astron, an excellent and comfy softshell, however not ideal for wearing on its own in winter as it provides very little warm. The windproofness of it is fantastic however. Often I wear another mid layer underneath this, along with a base layer underneath that.

2. Leggings – I don’t bother with trousers under my waterproofs, just thermal leggings! I find it keeps me at a good temperature!

3. Gaiters – I wear my XCR gaiters underneath my waterproof trousers to provide a good seal against snow.

4. Socks x 2 pairs. I usually wear my Seal Skinz socks and a pair underneath. Seal Skinz socks and gloves are brilliant and definitely worth a buy!

Picture to the left: Layers that can be used, note the down jacket is underneath the hardshell and the belay jacket is above. This is because the down jacket is NOT waterproof

In additional to all this gear I carry a 38 litre rucksack (Osprey mutant) with the following additional gear in:

First aid kit – Stripped down version of my Mountain Leader First Aid Kit
Penknife – multi blade
Ground shelter bothy bag – 2-3 man
GPS – my Airo A25
Phone – my new Landrover S1
Insulated jacket – my Mountain Equipment Fitzroy OR my North Face Nupste Jacket
Spare gloves – Seal Skinz
Spare shoe laces
Headtorch – Petzl Myo 3

This is an indication of the gear I would take, however this gear is highly customisable depending on what I’m going to do. As I said at the start, do not take this as gospel and I would encourage you to do some background reading if at all unsure. I am not a winter qualified mountain leader (yet!) so what I write here I write as an unqualified winter mountaineer with some experience!

Happy climbing!