Pierra Menta Ski Tour Race

Team 180

70km of skinning and 9700m of climbing spread over 4 days is the basic recipe for the Pierre menta ski alpinism race. As far as competitive ski touring goes the Pierra Menta is a biggie. This year was the 29th edition of the race with racers from France, Italy, switzerland, UK, Belgium, Greece, Denmark, USA, Australia, Czech Republic and Poland. 200 pairs race over the 4 stages for a small amount of prize money and quite a lot of cheese.
The race takes you to some amazing places without much time to look around and gets you to ski down some quite difficult terrain without much hesitation all in the spirit off competition. As the race entry includes all meals and accommodation for 4 days plus half an hour of recovery massage each day and half of the competitors are all in one building you do simply live the race for the duration.
I was partnered with Chris Barnes who I only met for the first time at the airport on the way to the race. I had been taken on as a last minute replacement as his original partner was no longer available. I hoped we wouldn’t be too mismatched as that’s not nice for anyone.

We arrived in the afternoon and went through the formalities of registration, kit check, accommodation and briefing. Met the other Brit teams of Jon Morgan & Ben Bardsley, Ben Tibbetts & Stuart Johnston and Gabbi Lees & Ursula Moore. Great to have an all female UK team in the race.

The start!

Day 1 was 2700m climbing with 4 bootpack sections. The weather was warm and the corn snow was pretty great for skiing on. Start was 7am.   We tried to pace ourselves, thinking of all 4 days and our total lack of acclimatisation.  It was pretty clear from early on that we would be making up the last part of the field, even with some towing done by Chris, but it was great to be in the event under any circumstances and we were not being bothered by the time cut offs. Even though we tried to pace ourselves I was still utterly spent and feeling sick by the finish. Rudely our accommodation was a 150m skin back up from the finish line, bloody extra 600m by the end of the race. Out of 181 male pairs who started we finished 162 on the day.

Day 1 course profile

Day 2 was big with 3000m of ascent and a long 30km to skin. Another warm day and another 7am start. Due to the lack of snow low down in the village the first proper climb of 1050m was 300m up the road before another 750m on snow. Overall the 4 courses were great, but perhaps day 2 was a little contrived however the snow on the descents more than made up for it. Gabbi and Ursula had to abandon on day 2 as Ursula had a hip injury, a real shame but they turned into top notch supporters. Jon & Ben and Ben & Stu were both doing well and ahead of us in the pack. On the 2nd day 176 male teams started and we finished 160th

Typical transition

Day 2 course profile

No real let up on Day 3 with 2600m of climbing. Pierra Menta saturday has a pretty set formula with the race visiting either the summit of the Grand Mont or the Anticime Du Grand Mont. On a good day thousands of people will be on the mountain to cheer on the race which now includes the juniors. The chairlift opens at 5am to begin moving the people and they don’t even charge for it. Now that’s getting behind a race. The weather wasn’t too good which moved the spectators lower down the mountain but the cowbells were still out in force. 170 teams started day 3 and we finished 146, so comparatively we were improving but lets not get carried away.

Boot pack day 3

Day 3 Profile

The final day is a short sprint by the standards of the race but after 3 days of hard racing, 1500m of climbing does not feel like a sprint. Quite a lot of snow had fallen on sat afternoon and evening so the climb through the woods was both atmospheric and tightly packed as everyone made one last effort to hold onto their hard earned positions. Even on this short course the skins were on and off a few times and one final bootpack to end the last climb. Our highest finish of 141st came of day 4 with our overall finish position of 153rd.

Early on day 4

Day 4

The race ends with a meal down in the town with the usual prize giving and speeches by local dignitaries. It’s the 2nd time I’ve done the Pierra Menta and it’s absolutely fantastic. With the amount of skiing that I do each year and the amount of specific training I get in, I’m only just hanging in there with such a quality field but you just have to go for it. Luckily we now have Skimo Scotland putting on races so you can get some experience and training, plus talk to people who have raced abroad so that it’s doesn’t seem quite as daunting. I’ll be at as many of their races as I can make next season with the wind gods hopefully being a bit kinder than they were this year. Thanks to Lyon Equipment for providing me some excellent La Sportiva RSR race skis and a superlight Petzl Sirocco Helmet and Anatom for sorting me out with some Dynafit TLT boots.
Next season (Winter 14/15) Facewest will be selling a very small selection of skimo race kit. It’s very niche but with more people having a go in Scotland we thought it would be good to be able to get at least some kit in the UK. If you want some kit or advice then please give me a call.

New Marmot Packs & A Very Squidgy Bottle!

Our Marmot Spring/Summer 14 range is in and there’s some treats in there for the runners amongst you. Their new Kompressor range is built around the Kompressor Flask, a small and very flexible water bottle designed to mould easily to your hand, be easy to fill, and take up very little space when empty. You can buy it alone, or as part of the Kompressor Zip, a great hand-held pouch containing the flask and a zipped pouch for other essentials – perfect for longer or hot runs. Need more storage? Then go for the Kompressor Speed with both a Kompressor Flask and 2L reservoir for extra hydration, plus more storage for a jacket or map.

L-R: Kompressor Flask, Kompressor Zip and Kompressor Speed

If you’re off on a multi-day fast-and-light hike or completing a mountain marathon this summer, then check out the Kompressor Verve 26 or 32. These lightweight packs will store all you need for an overnight trip, with easy-to-access panel loading and plenty of pockets to organise your kit.

Kompressor Verve 32

Need a light waterproof to stash in one of those packs? The new Nano AS Jacket is the perfect running waterproof, made of GoreTex Active Shell to breathe superbly.  Despite weighing in at only 233g it’s still fully featured, with two large pockets and a stiffened peak on the helmet-compatible hood.

Nano AS Jacket


Check out the whole Marmot Spring/Summer range here, including some great softshell pants and best-selling windshirts.

Arc’teryx Spring/Summer 14 Range

We now have our Arc’teryx  Spring/Summer range in stock and ready to ship. As well as some of the Arc’teryx classics such as the Atom jackets & vests, Arro 22 pack and the ever popular Conveyor Belt, there’s also some great new items.

Carrier Duffle 50

The Carrier Duffle 50 uses Arc’teryx’s ACē fabric – a very tough and highly water resistant yet very light nylon. This has really changed the market as far as duffle bags are concerned, weighing in at a tiny 540g, so you’ll still have the airline weight limit available to put something in it! It will also fold up easily into a small space once you’re at your destination. All of this with a durability and weather resistance to match (or even exceed) more traditional ballistic nylon bags. The Carrier is also available in a 35 litre version.

Men's Squamish Hoody

Both the men’s and women’s Squamish Hoody have been updated for this season, with slightly tougher fabric for greater resistance against rocks or wayward tree branches. The Squamish Hoody is a fantastic windshirt, much more breathable than some Pertex versions and really comfortable to wear, whether you’re climbing, hiking or running. The women’s has also had a pocket change, gaining a harness-friendly chest pocket instead of hand pockets. They come in some awesome colours too! If you prefer no hood, check out the Squamish Jacket.

Alpha FL Jacket

The Alpha FL Jacket is from Arc’teryx’s new Fast & Light range, aimed at alpinists moving fast in technical terrain. The jacket uses the highest end Gore Tex Pro membrane for supreme waterproofness and long lasting durability. By cutting down the number of seams and seam tape, Arc’teryx have managed to massively increase the breathability of the jacket, so it is actually better than a comparable jacket constructed from Gore Tex Active. Pretty impressive!


We have a whole host of new travel / first aid / suncare products from Care Plus. Both very mild and natural products for the young and sensitive amongst us and also the chemically advanced stuff that you don’t want to use but anything else is hell. Just don’t spray DEET on your watch unless you like the Dali Melting Clocks effect!

One product that I was straight into was the Blister Plasters. In this market Compeed has become an actual term as well as a brand and, as we all know, they are ace. Well the Care Plus Blister Plasters are pretty much an exact copy (right down to the box). After some extensive testing I can say that they stick just as well, turn to gel over the mushy bits in the same manner, in fact you would be hard pushed to tell them apart in my opinion. And boy did I need them…

Top tip for getting stuff to stick to your feet, both plasters and tape is to clean and dry the surrounding area and then paint it with Friar’s Balsam (also known as Compound Tincture of Benzion ). Let this dry and it turns to a tacky coating on your skin and tape will stick way better and for longer. Friar’s Balsam is also a light antiseptic which can be used directly on minor cuts but it stings like nothing you have ever experienced. I put it on the above Blister and suffered 20 seconds of total agony as nerves swrivelled and died. Here is a totally unreliable and non medical page from wikipedia on Friars Balsam

Montane Spring/Summer 14 Range

We’ve now got our Montane range in for the Spring and Summer season. Although Montane is one of our smaller brands, they make some really excellent technical clothing and kit and are definitely worth checking out for all the serious runners & climbers out there. Their focus is on performance and they avoid churning out more mass market products, ensuring you’re getting the very best technical items.

Here’s some highlights of the Spring collection – you can see the whole range here.


Montane Rock Guide Jacket

The Rock Guide Jacket is a light softshell designed for technical climbing. What really stands out is the innovative under-helmet hood, that will turn with your head and features slots to thread a helmet strap through. This keeps you protected without your hood getting blown down in a gust of wind or getting bulky when layering with a waterproof.

Jaws 10 Pack

New for this Spring are a range of running packs – the Fang 5, Jaws 10 & Dragon 20. These are highly water resistant to keep your kit protected no matter what the weather’s doing. They use the new Montane Freelight Chassis with stretch in the front belts, to hug the packs close to your body without restricting movement. They all come with two water bottles, curved to fit easily on shoulder straps.

Terra Alpine Shorts

The Terra Alpine Shorts are perfect for those days when it’s boiling hot and you don’t want trekking trousers, but still want something technical on your legs. Stretchy, abrasion resistant, cut for climbing and with plenty of pockets, the Terra Alpine Shorts are ideal for summer cragging, hot multipitches, trekking & general wear. Now we just need some warm weather!

Check out the rest of the Montane range, including some great packs, light waterproofs and softshells, here.

Trail Shirts and Tech T’s

We have a great range of these shirts for Summer 2014. Zipped or unzipped, synthetic or wool blend. Plus some great colours and an Men’s all white one (Marmot Interval Half Zip) for those fighting the sun and the distance.


Free Strap with any Suunto Core

For the month of April we’re offering you an extra strap when you buy any Suunto Core! Simply purchase any Core watch and an extra strap and the strap will be free. You do need to add the strap to your basket separately – we won’t add it automatically as then you wouldn’t get to choose your colour!

The Suunto Core is one of our best selling watches and is a great choice for anyone wanting an altimeter/barometer watch. There’s a variety of different case finishes on offer from the fun Crush range to the stylish Brushed Steel – and now you can mix them up more with an extra strap for free. Pick a different look or a replacement standard strap – your choice.



Avalanche Transceivers and Terrier Location

This article addresses the questions we are frequently asked about avalanche transceivers and dogs. Most of these questions come from UK terrier owners trying to locate their dogs underground rather than those buried in the snow by an avalanche.

A few basics – Avalanche transceivers work on a world standard of 457MHz, so if something can be detected by one model of transceiver then it can be detected by them all.
In proper snow use the 457MHz frequency is reserved for humans only. Dogs and equipment are protected by using a separate frequency which is only compatible with certain transceivers in a special mode. This is to protect people and ensure that equipment and dog transmitters never interfere with a search for humans and are never recovered before humans.
So a proper set up for a dog would involve a separate transmitter and a compatible dual frequency transceiver e.g. Pieps DSP Pro, and a Pieps TX600.

Bellman and Flint produce a Dog location system based on the same 457 MHz avalanche safety frequency. As it’s not designed for use on snow where people may potentially be buried this system uses the human frequency. So NEVER use the Bellman & Flint system on snow where you may risk compromising a search for people.
Any avalanche transceiver that we sell will detect a 457 MHz transmitter, which the Bellman & Flint collar currently is, and the Mammut Pulse seems to be the most popular model. The original Bellman & Flint system actually used a rebadged Pieps DSP transceiver but that is no longer the case.

Avalanche Transceivers are sensitive electronic devices and are not designed to be kept in wet muddy pockets! You need to take care of them. Your warranty will be invalid if your transceiver has been damaged by lack of care. If you look at the Bellman & Flint system it is completely sealed and waterproof for this reason, avalanche transceivers are not. You have been warned.

So you can use a normal avalanche transceiver with a Bellman & Flint collar but it’s not as reliable or convenient as the full Bellman & Flint set up.

Tracker 3 Search Demo

First little video about the New BCA tracker 3 avalanche transceiver.


Mammut Snowpulse Safety Check

Mammat are asking all owners of Mammut Snowpulse bags from Winter 11/12 and Winter 12/13 to check that a part of their system has been properly assembled. All details below. If you have purchased an airbag from Facewest since Aug 2011 and we have your email address then we have sent you an email with the details, asking you to check. We have also included all customers from the 13/14 season just to be sure. It’s a perk of buying online that owners of certain products can be quickly identified in circumstances like these and another reason to register your safety gear with the manufacturers site if possible.

Mammut wrote;

Service Bulletin for inspection of Mammut and Snowpulse avalanche airbags

Dear Mammut Dealer,Follow-up inspections have shown that there is a possible assembly problem affecting individual Mammut and Snowpulse brand avalanche airbags from the Winter 2011/2012 and Winter 2012/2013 production seasons. The problem is an improperly screwed-in connector between the deployment mechanism and the venturi valve. Since Mammut cannot rule out that this problem could result in a loss of function in the event of use, we hereby request that all customers inspect the connection in accordance with the instructions provided and follow the advice given below.

If end consumers identify a problem we advise them to discontinue use of the airbag immediately. If this is the case, please contact Mammut Customer Services to arrange a repair. Please see contact details below.

The Service Bulletin affects Mammut and Snowpulse avalanche airbags with Inflation System 2.0 from the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 production seasons. The attached instructions explain how to determine the production season of your avalanche airbag. Please check all of your stock and displays for products from the affected seasons and inspect the items in accordance with the attached instructions. If you identify a problem with your stock item, please contact Mammut Customer Services either by email at returns@mammut.co.uk or by phone on 01625 508218. We will arrange for the product to be collected and checked at our repair facility in Germany.

The Service Bulletin for inspection does not affect avalanche airbags made before or after these seasons.

We apologise for the inconvenience caused to you and thank you for your patience.

Kind regards

Mammut Sports Group

Seon, 03.03.2014

So please open the link to pdf below and see the images to help you check your pack. Do it now please.


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