After a couple of years absence, it’s good to welcome Steripen back onto the website. Steripen is a UV water purification system. Principally designed to ensure that clear water does not contain bugs that will make you sick, although a pre filter option is available. A purifier (or sterilizer) is different from a filter. A sterilizer† stops the bugs in the water from reproducing by sterilizing them with UV light. Sickness is generally caused when the bugs in the water reproduce at a tremendous rate in the ideal conditions offered by your stomach. The bugs are not removed from the water by a sterilizer.
A filter removes any particle (down to a certain size depending on the filter used) from the water. This particle can be a bug or organic particle like silt. Everything caught by the filter is physically removed from the water. A filter is a better option if you will not always have access to clear water but can be more work if you are always filtering clear water.
Treatment times are broadly similar for a good filter and Steripen although a pump filter is physically more work, which becomes relevant if you have to filter 10 litres a day, which is pretty normal for 2 people physically active in a hot climate. To make the best choice for you, it’s important to consider the condition of the water which you will be wanting to drink.
We have 3 models of Steripen.
Throughout April we were running a competition to win a Rab VR Lite Jacket. Our lucky winner was Gerry McLachlan from Edinburgh, who’s sent us this pic of him wearing his new top out running in the Pentland Hills. His thoughts? “Love the jacket!”.
Two new off road running shoes for this summer. The first is the next generation of the hugely popular Crosslite, called the C-Lite 2.† Lighter than the original but broadly similar, which is a good thing.
Next is the Anakonda.† The Anakonda uses the Frixtion XF rubber which is stickier than the AT rubber used on the C-Lite 2 but ultimately less durable, marking this shoe as more fell and wilderness than trail. The 4mm toe heel differential also puts it into the natural running / minimalist camp and at 286g per shoe (not sure for which size) it’s also pretty lightweight. I haven’t run in them yet but would say that the Anakonda looks to be a pretty good UK fell shoe. I will report back when I have tested a pair.
I took a week off at the end of April to go ski touring in Switzerland. After a bit of weather-indecision we settled on the western Bernese Alps tour and headed for Les Diablerets, a small ski town to the east of Lake Geneva.
Getting to the start of the tour proved fairly interesting – being out of the main ski season meant public transport was virtually non-existent, but after a spot of hitching we all made it to the Col du Pillion for first lift and winged our way skywards on the Glacier 3000 cable car to not-quite 3000m.
Day 1 takes you down the pistes on the Tsanfleuron Glacier then up and over the Arpelistock to the Gelten Hut. The Arpelistock ridge is described as ‘exposed and can be verglassed’. In reality we skinned the majority of it, switching to boot crampons for some short sections. There were a couple of steep traverses towards the top where we opted to continue on the ridge rather than bootpacking the SE face of the mountain, it was getting pretty hot by this stage and we weren’t convinced of the stability of the face. It wasn’t the most enjoyable climb but the summit was reached without any dramas. Unfortunately the ‘fantastic descent’ of the NE face consisted of breakable crust which made the skiing a little entertaining at the top; this softened up as we dropped down though and the final run down the valley was great, in a sloppy kind of way. Getting to the hut involved a bit of steep traversing and stream crossing and we were all glad of the cool running stream water once we got there!
After a lovely night with the hut to ourselves we had a much earlier start to go halfway back up the previous day’s descent then up and over a col towards the Wildhorn, the highest summit in the area. The ‘day to savour’ in the guidebook turned out to be the worst day of the tour, showing just how closely snow conditions and enjoyment levels are related! The long, icy skin up to the Col du Brochet was slightly un-nerving having just passed below the 200m high cliffs that were awaiting you if you slipped – axes at the ready! In hindsight, from the col we actually went the wrong way but at the time the description and map seemed reasonable – not so reasonable however when we were ski-cramponing across a 45 degree hard-packed deathslide. Lots of cursing, a bootpack and a few lessons learnt later we reached the higher col just as the cloud decided to envelope us – this day was not going well! Taking a group ‘we can’t be bothered’ decision topped with uber amounts of jelly babies, we decided to forgo the summit (muttering something about ‘well there won’t be a view anyway’) and skirt the mountain on it’s east side. Having dropped out of the cloud we enjoyed a surprisingly good corn descent to the Wildhorn Hut, arriving a few minutes later having forgotten the earlier part of the day and stoked to ski again, so much so that two of us went back for another run.
The third day took us over the Schneidehorn then down and up again to the Wildstrubel Hut. The Schneidehorn was a great little climb, taking around 2 hours from the hut and involving quite a bit of steep bootpacking to the summit with fantastic views of the Wildhorn. From the summit down was a short but good run, followed by a long skin across a rolling plain to the base of the ascent up to the hut. In baking heat, this wasn’t too enjoyable, but this and the following hours climb was well rewarded by the best hut of the trip, with an afternoon of sun on the deck, free schnapps (in reward for our efforts to pronounce the Swiss-German word for ‘kitchen cabinet’, which it turns out is rather a tongue twister), a lovely guardian and a modern but characterful hut.
Day four dawned cloudy with spots of rain – this was not in the forecast! We held back to get an up-to-date forecast, which showed a clearing in the weather between 7am and 12, just enough time for us to make it up and over the Wildstrubel to the final night’s hut. We had been dreading the long flat section across the Glacier de la Plaine Morte after the previous days bake-fest, however the cloud cover worked to our advantage and it was a perfect temperature for the 5km to the base of the Wildstrubel. We were able to skin the whole SW ridge of the mountain to within a few metres of the rocky summit, although some parts are fairly steep and I would imagine in worse snow conditions you might be bootpacking. At 3244m the summit is only a couple of metres below the Wildhorn and provides a stunning viewpoint back across the terrain you’ve been traversing and also over to the higher Bernese Oberland in the east. Followed by an incredible 900m run down perfect spring snow on the Wildstrubel Glacier to the Lammeren Hut this was a fantastic way to finish off the tour, arriving at the hut an hour before the rain started.
In good conditions it is possible to ski all the way to Kandersteg after a short climb from the Lammeren Hut, however given the weather (snowy and cloudy) and the late-season snow level (about 400m above town), we opted instead for the lower level, well marked cross country ski trail to the top of the Sunnbuel cablecar, which we were more than happy to ride down – paying for the laziness with a half hour walk in the rain back to Kandersteg train station!
Although not one of the most well known of the Alps ski tours this was a great 5 day trip, well away from the crowds. We were the only group doing the tour and, aside from the Wildhorn Hut, had the huts virtually to ourselves. None of the days are huge meaning that you do actually get some holiday sunbathing and book-reading in too! The tour zig-zags over the spine of the Bernese Alps which means that you spend a bit of time re-ascending the previous days descents on the second and third days. Whilst this can be a little disheartening, none of the ascents are too arduous and at least you got to enjoy the ski down the day before! This also means that you can escape from any of the huts with relative ease (the Gelten Hut being the hardest but do-able), making it a good lower-level touring option if the weather forecast is a bit suspect.
Some possibly helpful tips for anyone thinking of completing this tour:
Added to our pack range for Summer 2013 we now have Lowe Alpine.† We have 8 packs in total, 4 from the Flite range aimed at runners and gram counters and 4 from the Alpine Range for mountaineering.
My two favourites are the Flite 28, which should be perfect for a mountain marathon
and the Crag Attack II 42, which offers great value for money at £65 for a general mountaineering pack and a great weight of only 800g.
We have received and added to the site our Summer 2013 range from Mammut.
We have the Trion Light range and Trion Alpinist range. Great mountaineering features with the choice of light or tough and burly. Also the Neon Light 12 pack for multi pitch trad climbing.
For climbing we have a couple of new ropes, the Revelation and the Vertex. From hardwear we have the Rockrider Helmet, the new version of the† Smart and the RescYou. The RescYou is a pre threaded pulley system for crevasse rescue. It is worn as† a belt pack and deployed very quickly if needed. An ideal accessory for thos that find the rigging of a pulley system a bit challenging.
Of course we have some clothing from the Mammut Eiger Range and the ever popular Alpine Underwear. And what Mammut range would be complete with out the iconic and newly revamped Base Jump Advanced Pant.
See all the Mammut Summer 13 Range.
I have used a full weight Vapour-Rise pull-on in the past for various winter outings from Mountain Biking to Winter Climbing in the Lakes and Wales, so I was quite excited to see how the VR Lite jacket performed in warmer conditions. Vapour-Rise lite aims to give a highly breathable, wind resistant garment that can be used next to skin or over a base layer in cooler conditions.
My normal layering system is a base layer and wind shirt combination; this seems to work pretty well for me as I run quite warm. I have been using the Rab Alpine jacket wind shirt which is made from the same Pertex Equilibrium as the outer fabric on the VR Lite jacket; I find this fabric extremely breathable with our sacrificing too much wind resistance.
The first thing I noticed about the VR Lite jacket was that it was really comfortable to wear, both next to skin and over a base layer. The collar and cuffs give a really nice seal to stop any unpleasant drafts, and the draw cord on the hem keeps it snug around the waits. I have worn the jacket on a couple of local runs and have found it to be a little too warm, the VR Lite Pull-On would be a better choice for running as the design lends its self better to higher output activities. Although the jacket was amazingly comfortable next to skin I did find the tricot liner to be a little catchy against my bare arms.
The VR Lite jacket really excelled for me when mountain biking and walking, I combined the jacket with a Rab Meco 120 base layer. The Pertex Equilibrium kept a lot of the wind out and was breathable enough to keep me at a comfortable temperature. I am unsure as to how it would stand up to being attacked by thorn bush at speed on a bike though. The other great bit about the jacket was that it does not have a hood, hoods can be a bit of a nuisance when on a bike.
Over all I really like the VR Lite jacket, it balances warmth and breath ability really well.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been pretty keen to make the most of the last bit of winter and have taken advantage of some great conditions and beautiful weather in the Lake District.
I kicked it off on Good Friday with a quick ski trip. A friend had been out a couple of days previously and reported fantastic conditions on the west side of Helvellyn/Raise, so I headed there. Arriving a little later than planned I struggled to park, so made a last minute decision to do a full traverse of the Helvellyn range from Dunmail Raise instead.
Parking up at Dunmail Raise there were quite a few skiers heading out.† Most were heading up Seat Sandal but I chose to skin up Raise Beck instead, a good choice as there wasn’t enough snow to turn this into a terrain trap and skinning conditions were good, but the run down from Seat Sandal looked horrendous! From the pass the route up Dollywaggon was fairly icy and I put the skis back on the pack and bootpacked for a while – I wished I’d taken ski crampons with me. Once it flattened out it was back to skinning and I continued to the top of Helvellyn whilst working on my sun tan.
Lunch on the summit turned into a catch up session when some old friends appeared, small world! Then it was off towards Raise on some pretty interesting windblown snow, ice and sastrugi – somewhat difficult conditions. I watched a couple in the distance get far too close to the cornice over Brown Cove – a definite heart-in-mouth moment and a stark reminder of how easy it is to mess up in winter, even in the Lakes. A quick boot pack down the shoulder of Lower Man with some cool dude snowboarders who were out to shred some knarly lines (!). I’d originally intended to go up Raise as well, but on the recommendation of another skier I decided to drop straight down Brund Ghyll towards Thirlmere.
Fantastic skiing (for the Lakes)! Once off the upper 100m of windblown crust there was a perfect thin layer of powder pretty much all the way to the road. Dodging in and out of the creek I got some decent turns in and even skinned back up for a second run of the best bit. A fantastic day and so nice to be able to ski in the Lakes, the strong easterly wind we’d had through the snow fall had really filled in west facing gullies – I even skied across a fence!
The following weekend we had an early start and headed up to Scafell Crag in search of some ice. After the plod up to the crag our intended route, Steep Ghyll, looked to be in condition so we went for it. However the crux pitch turned out to be a little more unconsolidated than was ideal and after a valiant fight through the chimney from my partner he got turned back by the slabs above, covered in a thin layer of powder. The decision was made to retreat and we started downclimbing and abseiling, whilst being thoroughly checked out by the mountain rescue chopper – who fortunately realised that if they had had a call, it was not for us.
Back down at the base we decided to go for a wander up Lord’s Rake instead and possibly climb something else. Deep Ghyll Integrale looked like a good bet so we climbed that as a consolation prize. It was definitely worthy of its 3 stars – although the climbing for the majority of it is easy, you end up in a fantastic position high above Deep Ghyll itself, traversing a tiny ledge.
Topping out into the sun turned it into t-shirt weather, amazing! We found the remains of a recently released flare on top, presumably what the heli had been there for earlier – I don’t know what had happened but hope all parties were ok. A lovely wander over the top of Scafell dropped us down into Wasdale through some late-afternoon slush, such a beautiful day.
The following day was spent doing some more relaxed cragging in Borrowdale – a huge recommendation for the classic HVS’s on Quayfoot Buttress if anyone’s up that way.
Kevin’s written this excellent review of his Rab VR Lite Pull-On.
I’ve been looking for an alternative to a micro fleece for my 2 day Mountain Marathon running events for some time……and now I’ve found it. This is a very versatile, good looking bit of kit.
My primary use will be for using as a substitute for a microfleece at mid camp. It’s lighter and nearly as warm and comfortable as a microfleece thanks to the Micro Pile lining and nearly as windproof as a conventional windshirt.
I’ve been fell running in the recent cold weather of March/April 13 with just a light thermal base layer underneath and have been plenty warm enough but not too warm. The Pertex Equilibrium has kept the East wind out and the thumb loops have allowed my hands to have good protection so I usually haven’t needed to wear gloves. The Matrix stretch side and underarm panels have given extra breathability and helped to keep my body temperature under control as well as creating a snug fit which I like.
I’ve tried using the Pull On without a base layer and it was warm enough but I did find that it got a bit damp on my back – I was wearing a 15L pack. However it did dry quickly. With or without a base layer it’ll probably be too warm to run in when the temperature picks up. I haven’t had the opportunity to wear it in a shower but would want to have a shell handy to ward off any serious rain.
If you’re after a lean mid layer which gives warmth and windproofing (which can also be used as a baselayer or outer layer given the right conditions) look no further.