Thursday, 26 December 2013

Jack Wolfskin Thermosphere Jacket Review

Jack Wolfskin is a company of which I have little experience using. Their kit does look quite good, although Im sure its not that hard to make things look good in a picture on the internet, but I have always been put off a bit by the name. Yes it is a bit silly but Jack Wolkskin just doesn't sound as appealing as Mountain Equipment or Mammut.
Testing in the Cairngorms
The Jack Wolfskin Thermosphere jacket is a semi insulated jacket with stretch panels under the arms hood. On first wearing the jacket I thought I had got the wrong size as it seemed really tight in the arms. I wasn't sure how much I was going to like this super tight feel but I have always think that having something very tight around my arms stops me from getting pumped. This tightness doesn't hinder movement, due to the stretchy panels.
Thermosphere jacket at the STS (under the shirt)
The jacket has a reasonably athletic fit to it, which combined with the tight sleeves, gives a non-bulky feel. This lack of bulk is useful if using the jacket for climbing in, or as a mid layer. I have used this jacket both whilst bouldering in cold conditions and as a mid layer underneath my waterproof whilst winter climbing. It has performed very well in both of these situations. The hood isn't really big enough to go over a helmet, although it will at a push, but does fit underneath quite nicely.
Climbing Magic Crack in the Thermosphere Jacket (blue hood)
There is not enough insulation to make this a belay jacket, but it is very good if used as part of a cold weather layering system.
I have been totally inseparable from this jacket since getting it. It performs well in the hills and is smart enough to wear around town (to the library mostly unfortunately!). If you are borderline in sizing then I would recommend sizing up though.
I absolutely love this jacket! I give it a maximum rating of 2 thumbs up.
The Thermosphere jacket is available from with 10% off!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Hot Aches Distilled Review

Distilled is the new film recently brought out by climbing film makers Hot Aches Productions.
Distilled is a climbing film following mountain guide (I'm not sure on exactly what qualifications he has) Andy Cave around Scotland in winter.
Distilled doesn't really fit the usual mold of climbing film. There is no hyping about how beautiful and natural a line is. In fact the climbing seems to be more of a means to keep the viewers eye busy while Andy tells the story of his life. That isn't to say that the film is badly shot. It really isn't. Its just that when I watched it I found Andy's story more interesting than what he was climbing, which is strange for me.
One thing that stands out from this film is the very unique life that Andy has lived. He has gone from a kid from a Yorkshire coal pit with no GCSE's to a world renowned climber summiting Himalayan Peaks with a PhD.
The film follows Andy Cave around Scotland in some very Scottish looking weather. I don't often think that I should wear waterproof trousers when winter climbing, especially not while watching films, but this certainly did. I must have watched this film at least 5 times now. I'm still yet to work out all of the routes that are featured in it (those labels are a bit subtle guys!). I have to say that seeing how little gear Andy carries on routes makes me feel a bit ashamed to climb things looking like a moving gear store!
The film does end on a bit of a somber note where Andy talks about his ascent of the North Face of Changabang, which claimed the life of his climbing partner Brendan Murphy. It was quite interesting for me to learn how Andy recovered from this and has since been back to the Himalayas.
I found Distilled inspiring in a very odd way. Its not like hot aches previous winter climbing film, The Pinncacle, which got me really psyched because of what Smith and Marshall did. I really can't put my finger on the way that Distilled has inspired me.
All I can really say is you have to watch it. Im sure its not to everyone's taste but give it a chance.
I give Distilled 1 thumb up.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Magic Crack

On Saturday I met up with Pete Holder, who hitched all the way from Keswick to Aviermore (that's dedication). We headed into t'Schneada with a few idea about what we could try but no firm plans. Once in the corrie we decided to head for Magic Crack. This is a really iconic route, which was featured on the TV show the edge back in the day, or so I am told.
The route starts up The Genie before breaking out right up a steep foot less slab. Magic Crack can be done in two ways in winter. One by breaking out right after the crack pitch, for White Magic, or by following the summer line throughout, for Magic Crack.
I began by climbing the first pitch of The Genie, which felt really sketchy. I didn't manage to get much gear in but I got up it reasonably quickly. Pete led the second pitch, a really cool set of crack and a corner set just off vertical. Everything is there on this pitch but you do have to do some smearing in your crampons which is pretty good fun.
The third pitch was the money pitch. The finger crack is a pitch I had seen pictures of before and it looked really hard. I was a bit worried that there would be ice in the crack which would make protecting it really hard. The crack was full of the most helpful ice I have ever seen. It was good enough to allow me to hook it making the climbing easy, but not too good so that I had to struggle to clear it. I managed to climb this pitch quite steadily, until the very end of it where I spent a long time trying, and failing, to get some gear in.
The fourth pitch was Petes and he elected to climb the final hard pitch of Magic Crack, instead of copping out and climbing White Magic. He took a couple of falls on this pitch but persevered and managed to dispatch it. The climbing on this pitch was well protected but a bit blind with really poor feet!
The final couple of pitches were about grade II scrambles.
I really liked the climbing on this route. There was nothing too difficult but you were always thinking. I do quite like climbing things where you have to really try and place your feet as well.
I would recommend this route to anyone, especially if you get it in the conditions that we did! I have done a lot of route in the coire and I think I can say that this is by far the best one.