Alpine Climbing / Ice Climbing / Snow sports / Landscape / Patagonia / Everest / Pakistan / Alaska

Climbing Gear Reviews

Trousers / Salopettes Reviews

Marmot Tour Pro II

Trousers are one of these things that I tend to get through very fast. Its either that I change the combination of what I wear (ie soft-shell one year, or thermal and waterproof the next) or that they get hammered by my front points. What I really want is a pair of windproof and waterproof trousers that are highly breathable and have some kind of thin insulating interior (ie light fleece or something) all complete with full pit vents down the side. As of yet that doesn’t really exist mainly because the technology doesn’t exist to offer the kind of breathability that I want coupled with the warmth. However this is just one of those ‘ideal world’ situations! Unfortunately we live in the real world so when I received the Tour Pro 2 trousers I was excited to see whether this would bring me one step closer to my ideal trousers…Read more

Marmot Exum Pants

Alpine clothing- a nightmare. You’re body goes from overheating and sweating to cold and shivering in minutes. Add the often erratic alpine weather and you would be forgiven for bringing up half your rucksack full of clothes onto the mountains- I’ve seen many skiers on tours do exactly this. Of course this isn’t exactly ideal when you are often climbing in terrain that not only demands a ‘fast-and-light’ ethic, but one that simply doesn’t allow you the time to stop and change layers as you wish…Read more

Jacket Reviews

Marmot Genesis Review

Although soft shell is by no means a new concept I, like many others have always preferred not to meddle with my tried and proven choice of layering. Consisting of thermal and wicking layers beneath a waterproof hard-shell for winter or alpine climbing. I was therefore interested as to how my personal clothing system would change once I tried out the Genesis soft shell. For me the definition of a soft-shell has always been unclear and more like a word has been invented which no one can actually explain…Read more

Marmot Troll Wall

In a nutshell what anyone is looking for in a hardshell is something with the water and wind proof ability of a bin bag but breathability of a sieve, oh and of course its got to last years of rough abuse but weigh as light as a feather. Not an easy task to achieve, but we are now bombarded with words such as Gore-Tex, eVent, Pertex that seem to assure us that we can sweat like a pig in torrential rain running up a fell but yet stay nice and dry. Of course we all know that the perfect artificial membrane hasn’t been invented yet and to be honest I don’t know enough about how membranes are made to even begin to say which one is best. But I do know from a lot of trial and error that good old Gore-Tex is definitely one of the best…Read more

Sleeping bag Reviews

Marmot Helium Down Bag

I’ve owned the previous version of the Marmot Helium bag for around 5 years now and have used it in pretty much every condition from freezing winter alpine bivies to badly planned torrential downpours. Admittedly in the torrential downpour situations it didn’t fare too well but then its not sold for those conditions and anyone thinking about using this for Scottish bivies will be deeply disappointed as well as cold (wet). However as a super lightweight three-season sleeping bag it’s genius. What I find even more intriguing is that in the 5 years that I have had my bag it dominated the market of light-weight sleeping bags in terms of warmth to weight ratio, until very recently that is…Read more

Cams / Friends Reviews

Black Diamond C3 Cam

I really do think that cams are the pinnacle in climbing engineering technology- especially some of the new designs that are coming out. When it comes to micro-cams it is no exception. For years the Wild Country Zeros and the Aliens dominated the micro-cam market, until in 2006 Black Diamond released their version in the form of the C3. I have to admit that when I first saw a C3 it just seemed so ridiculously high-tech that I knew I had to have one. However beauty aint cheap nowadays and the C3s were relegated to my ‘If I get a bonus this year I’d like…’ list (we all have one don’t we?)…Read more

Black Diamond C4 Cam

Those who will have read my C3 review will know that I have an obsession with cams that borders on the ‘not quite right’. Cams are awesome. Ok my bias will lean towards cams because the granite spires of Chamonix eat them up like there is no tomorrow but even so the precision engineering involved in these beauties is nothing short of incredible- and that holds for all cams across the board. Of course nowadays there are many different companies producing variations of the original Wild Country Friend design and its remarkable how radical some cam designs have become- from the asymmetrical Metolius Supercam to the ‘two-in-one’Omega Pacific Link Cams…Read more

Climbing Rope Reviews

FAQ-Climbing Ropes Explained (UIAA testing)

Ask your average climber what the fall rating on his rope is and what the Impact force means and he will probabably guess a number between 5 and 10 for the first and look at you dumbfounded about the latter. The UIAA standards allow us to exhibit a kind of blind faith in ropes allowing us to concentrate on what concerns us the most of all- the price! Having said that I am totally at fault too as it took me years of climbing before I even started to think about the stats that come with a rope. For me the two most important things were weight and price and the rest…well that was for the UIAA to decide right?…Read more

Wild Country Sprint 8.4

I have used the Sprint 8.4mm for just coming up to a year now. It’s definitely been through the ‘wars’ accompanying me on anything from Alpine north face climbs to providing me with a half-decent impromptu bivy mat. Ropes, to me, have always been a bit of a pain. Ok granted they are essential to not dying in the mountains and crags, but they weigh alot and take up alot of space- a poor reason you might say but I always find that its the nail in my heavy backpack coffin as if it were. My Alpine pack always feels fine but then whack on the rope and it just tips the balance from right “lets get on with it” to “oh for fucks sake”…Read more

Rucksack Reviews

Black Diamond Speed 40L Rucksack

The Speed Backpack is part of the Black Diamond Ascent series of backpacks. A quick glance at the specs will show you that this is maybe their spearhead backpack. Its incredibly well designed and very light. That’s actually the first thing you notice about the pack as you pick it up. For a well accessorised 40L backpack its pretty damn light. At a ‘complete’ weight of 1.1kg and a stripped weight of 690gr you cant really complain…Read more

Quickdraw Reviews

Wild Country Xenon lite

For some reason quickdraws have never really needed replacing in my eyes as how much more innovation and improvement can you really put in to them? Over the last 5 years it seems that the reply is “a lot”. My previous set of QDs were a set of heavy DMMs which whilst they were fine for cragging they weren’t ideal for the Alps. Not that I am slagging DMM equipment off as I did get the cheapest there was available, but here I am 5 years later with a new set of impossibly light quickdraws (65 grams!) thinking “how on earth did they do that?”…Read more

Rocks and Nuts Reviews

Wild Country Superlight Rocks

My main problem with these superlights is that I’m completely addicted to them. As you might have guessed they are…super light. The single cable design as well as a re-engineered head makes these Rocks so light you really wont notice them on your harness. In addition it means that you have half the cables hanging off your harness and therefore a lot less clutter (and that’s important on a full winter rack). When it comes to placing the pro the Rock seat’s much better…Read more

Wild Country Rocks

The Wild Country Rock was a big breakthrough in nut design and it hasn’t changed all that much since then. Not that that is a bad thing. The tried and tested shape and design of the Rock make it a very easy nut for a beginner to get used to. Their seemingly simple design belies the fact that they, in fact, are a pretty complex 3D nut but one that is not hard to get your head around; and therefore anyone can place them without having to think too much about it…Read more

Mountain Glove Reviews

Black Diamond Prodigy Glove

I had heard good things about the new Prodigy glove and was keen to try it still hell bent on my quest for the ‘perfect glove’. In a nutshell I wasn’t disappointed. Here was a glove that was waterproof, incredibly warm, and dexterous enough to climb multi-pitch WI5 without any worrying fumbling of ice screws on 90 degree ice. I spent a day at a very wet Cremerie (easy icefalls) and my hands remained bone dry even though I was fully soaked. To put it into context there was water flowing both under and over the ice and I fell through into a (small) waterfall below the ice…Read more

Black Diamond Enforcer Glove Review

Gloves- a nightmare. Expensive, fast wearing and never as warm and as dexterous as you want them to be. Your hands and fingers are, at the end of the day, your bodies’ ultimate tool for the job. They mould themselves round anything from tiny crimpers to modern mixed ice tools and everything between. Unimpeded they do the job very well, but whack on some insulation and your dexterity flies out the window. Similarly, frozen fingers are also totally useless. So ideally you want a pair of gloves that will keep your hands very toasty but still give you the dexterity of a concert pianist…Read more

Black Diamond Pursuit Glove

The Pursuit glove is a mid weight ski/climbing glove with a thin, tight inner, and a robust leather palmed Schoeller soft shell outer with a large gauntlet. As the glove is mid-weight and has limited insulation compared to other BD gloves such as the “Enforcer” or the “Prodigy” its definitely more irking towards an alpine day climb glove or ski glove rather than a full on winter climbing glove. Although I’ve found that when combined with a warmer glove for belays it makes an excellent choice for more technical winter climbing…Read more

Ice screw and protection Reviews

Black Diamond Turbo Express Ice Screw (2008 model)

Now-a-days we are bombarded with top of the line pro from different gear manufacturers each claiming that they have that new must have item. When it comes to ice screws it can be really hard to pick one over the others as you don’t often find yourself in a position where you can try every single one out. This is due in part to that fact that UK climbers don’t tend to own many ice screws if any at all. However with more and more Brits heading abroad for those long steep fat multi-pitch ice routes, screws are starting to take their rightful position in any mountaineers rack…Read more

Harness Reviews

Wild Country Synchro Ultralite Harness

Harnesses, I find, are one of those things that you buy when you first start climbing (unless you were one of those early pioneers who found that a washing line provided ample protection) and then never really upgrade to a new one. I mean lets face it, your first harness was probably the cheapest one you could find and whilst it certainly held you in a fall, it did nothing for your fertility levels after your 20th repeated fall of the day. But as usual you battle on in this manner just assuming that a harness is a harness and the searing pain rising up form your groin is just part of the ‘safety’ process you have to go through when climbing. Not so…"Read more":

Touring Ski Reviews

Black Diamond Verdict ski (2008 model)

Yes, it’s a ski review…but with more brits climbing abroad skis are starting to become an essential part of winter climbing in the Alps. It’s a scene I’ve seen countless times out here in Chamonix- a couple of strong determined brits leave the winter hut a good hour before us only to then find them struggling in snow shoes in chest deep snow retreating from the approach. Granted some times snow shoes are fine but there is a lot to be said for using skis. When I first started climbing out in the Alps skis were totally out of the question and armed with a pair of trusty snow shoes it quickly became apparent how incredibly slow I moved compared to my partner at the time who was on touring skis…Read more

Lighting / Headlamps

Black Diamond Apollo Lantern

Black Diamond are no newcomers to the LED business. Whilst Petzl might have pioneered it all, Black Diamond have proven to be a very strong (if not the only?) real competitor to the Petzl market for climber’s head torches. Its amazing to think that in such a short space of time technology in the lighting industry has allowed us to move on from those heavy battery sucking ‘Zoom’ head torches to now ultra-light LED powered energy efficiency monsters. In fact when you think about it, the technological gains made in the head torch industry are some of the largest ones in the climbing gear sector…Read more


Scarpa Phantom Lites

Of all the items of gear that people most hate buying boots has to be top of the list. The reasons are two fold- firstly you want a boot that does everything and secondly they aren’t the cheapest thing to buy so you want to make sure you get it right. Throw in the fact that different manufacturers make their boots to fit different shaped feet and you can get into a real tangle of blisters and pain before you even get to the summit of whatever it is you are trying to climb…Read more