Monday, 2 February 2015

Gucci Karabiners: Black Diamond Magnetron vs Grivel TwinGate

Black Diamond Rocklock (top)
Grivel TwinGate (bottom)
Back in 2011 I posted about the  up and coming releases shown at OutDoor 2011. Amongst these was the Black Diamond Magentron karabiner; a locking karabiner with a magnet to keep the gate closed. Emma got me one for Christmas and I have to say it's pretty cool. At the same time I noticed the Grivel TwinGate karabiners on the market at a decent price, and so I decided it was time to revive my gear reviewing with a head to head karabiner competition between these 2 bad boys!


First up then, the Black Diamond Magnetron.The Magnetron karabiners come in 3 different versions; the Gridlock from (£27), the Vaporlock (From £24) and the Rocklock (From £21). The gridlock is a magnetron version of Black Diamonds Gridlock karabiner, the Vaporlock is a small pear shaped karabiner, and the Rocklock is a larger HMS karabiner, all are available with different colour gates and all 3 feature the Magnetron locking system; meaning all you have to do is to gently apply pressure on either side of the karabiner gate to unclip the magnet system allowing the gate to open. On releasing the gate the magnet re- engages and the karabiner locks closed automatically. This is incredibly easy to do, and allows for
Bent spine shape allows for maximum gate opening
easy one handed operation. Applying pressure only one side will not open the lock, meaning the chance of accidental opening is limited. For the purpose of this review my comments will be based on the Rocklock version only. At 87g the karabiner feels light in the hand, with the usual high build quality you would expect from Black Diamond. The shape of the karabiner maximises the gate opening meaning you could easily sneak 2 clove hitches on (I tried this with 10mm rope!). I used a Rocklock on my belay device on a recent climbing trip, and I can honestly say they feel very secure, coupled with an ease of use I haven't experienced with a quicklock karabiner before. I would definitely recommend these karabiners to anyone who wants to use a quicklock karabiner but has never got along with other models.




Now onto the Grivel TwinGate series. There are 2 versions of the TwinGate karabiner; the Sigma and the Mega. The Sigma is a smaller snap gate style karabiner, whilst the Mega is a slightly larger HMS karabiner. To save me having to explain the TwinGate system, please see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPdSBA6Fjig which explains the various ways you can use the karabiner. Personally I have found the TwinGate system a little fiddly compared to other karabiners, the idea of having to fiddle one gate up, whilst holding the other open also, is exactly as annoying as it sounds! At 79g it is lighter that the Magnetron, however it is worth bearing in mind that the TwinGate is is smaller than the Magnetron, which would account for the extra weight. I would also add at this point that the TwinGate has a much smaller gate opening, owing to its double gate system, so don't rely on being able to easily clip multiple clove hitches, large knots etc onto the TwinGates. One massive plus for the TwinGate however is the cost, at £11 each for the Mega or Sigma, you can buy 2 TwinGates for each Magnetron. The question is, would you want to? For me, no, no I wouldn't. I just don't like the TwinGate system, it's fiddly, and goes against the reflexes I have built  up over 10 years of climbing, my reflex isn't to open 2 gates at once, my reflex is to do **something** which opens the gate, however that **something** is a single action, and doesn't involve doing 2 seperate things! Perhaps it is just me, at £11 it's worth you trying it for yourself and not taking my word for it. I will persist with the TwinGate system, perhaps in time it will grow on me.....


Return to duty! Birchen Edge trip Jan 2015

Emma gearing up!
Well it's been a long time since I wrote anything on here, in fact May 2012 was the last time I took the time to write anything on my blog. Why the long absence? I suppose in part it was due to going into teaching, the long 60 hour weeks, endless marking, and copious amounts of planning left little time for a social life, or even anything resembling fun, I lost interest in climbing, mountains, gear and many other things I had previously loved. Recently however I have rekindled my love of the outdoors, due in no small part to meeting Emma, who is not only the most incredible person I have ever met, but also the source of my current outdoors revival. Me and Emma made an agreement; I would learn to ski, and she would learn to lead climb. So to that end we set out to Birchen Edge in the Peak District, in search of Emma's first lead climb. Despite the snow in the Peak District the conditions weren't too bad, if a little cold! After arriving, me and Emma did some last minute gear placement practice, before Emma decided on climbing "Stokers Wall" a VD located on Stokers Wall. Em geared up and
Concentrating face!
zipped up the initial part of the climb, placing a couple of pieces of gear as she did. Towards the top it appeared there were a couple of tricky moves, but despite this Emma climbed up the final part of the climb and finished. It was only later that we discovered the reason for the tricky crux moves towards the top was that she had in fact climbed onto "Stoked" an S 4a climb, oops! But I was incredibly proud to see Em almost effortlessly climb a Severe for her first ever lead, Emma was naturally very happy to have her first lead out of the way, and we can now work towards getting all the leads she requires for her SPA training in April, something which we will both look forward to. For those of you who are interested in reading more about Emma's adventures, she now has a website/blog which can be found at www.Mountaingirl.org.uk . We are heading out with a group of cadets on Sunday 8th Feb, so
Stoked S 4a
hopefully we will be able to squeeze a few leads in during that trip too! So Emma has been working hard on her leading what have I been doing on my side of the deal? Well I've had a few ski lessons, and aside from the fact I'm terrible I'm doing ok! I managed to zip across the entire slope, and the ski lift and wind up crashing on the tubing range however, but I will keep trying and we shall see how I go. Me and Emma have a number of trips this year, through the cadets and on our own, including both America and Morocco (Toubkal), so expect to see a fair bit more action on here than you have for the last 2 years. For those of you who have continued to visit, thank you very much. I haven't forgotten about the gear believe me! I will be reviewing the Black Diamond Magnetron, Grivel TwinGate karabiners, and SPOT GPS tracker system over the course of February so stay tuned!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Ethics on Everest (2012 edition)


The Everest Conga Line

The issue of ethics on Everest is raised every year, usually round about the time the annual deaths occur in the Everest climbing season (blunt way of putting it, but true none the less). For me my interest in the subject came a number of years ago while watching “Everest Beyond the Limit”; a series on the Discovery channel following a number of climbers attempting to summit Everest in 2006. The series became famous for the footage of climbers on the expedition finding a dying climber (who would later be named as David Sharp). David Sharp had attempted to climb Everest unsupported and unguided using a minimalist package from Asian Trekking. He was discovered barely conscious at Green Boots cave; a small shelter containing the body of Tsewang Paljor; an Indian Climber who died on Everest in 1996. It is estimated that before David died he was passed by more than 40 climbers who did not render any assistance to the dying man. The first man to encounter David was Mark Inglis - a double amputee from New Zealand. Inglis stated in an interview when he found David on his ascent, he thought he was already dead, and had continued on. Another climber from the same group (Max Chaya) encountered David on his descent from the summit and attempted to give assistance, along with a Sherpa from the group, but to no avail – David was unable to walk even with assistance and an hour of trying. David died on 15th May 2006. Much of the criticism was (unfairly in my opinion) levelled at Russel Bryce – the expedition leader of the Chaya and Inglis expedition group, because it was felt he did not offer enough assistance to David.
1 week later an Austrailia climber; Lincoln Hall was left for dead on Everest after he fell ill with altitude sickness. His sherpa’s had attempted for hours to get him moving but eventually he was left for dead. It was widely reported in the media that he had died. The next day a team lead by US climber Dan Mazur
encountered Lincoln:
Lincoln Hall 

“Sitting to our left, about two feet from a 10,000 foot drop, was a man. Not dead, not sleeping, but sitting cross legged, in the process of changing his shirt. He had his down suit unzipped to the waist, his arms out of the sleeves, was wearing no hat, no gloves, no sunglasses, had no oxygen mask, regulator, ice axe, oxygen, no sleeping bag, no mattress, no food nor water bottle. 'I imagine you're surprised to see me here', he said. Now, this was a moment of total disbelief to us all. Here was a gentleman, apparently lucid, who had spent the night without oxygen at 8600m, without proper equipment and barely clothed. And ALIVE”

A rescue on a massive scale swung into action with a team of 12 Sherpa’s plus Dan Mazur and his team (who had abandoned their summit bid) worked to get Lincoln down from Everest. He survived.
After seeing Everest Beyond the Limits and seeing the genuine emotion from expedition members who encountered David Sharp, there was no lack of desire to help him, but 2 people can’t drag a dying man down a mountain in the death zone, but 40 people might have been able to. Anyone wanting to read more about the controversy regarding the 2006 Everest deaths, should consider reading “Dark Summit” by Nick Heil, it gives a balanced and detailed account of what happened and why.

Ms Shuttleworth 
I didn’t write this article because of David Sharp, I wrote it to illustrate the parallels between the 2006 season in which David Sharp died (amongst others), and this years deaths. This was sparked after reading about Leanna Shutterworth, a 19 year old girl who has just completed a climb of Everest. What made me angry is not the current culture of people being desperate for daddy to pay for them to become the “Worlds youngest ”, I couldn’t care about that, if it makes you happy then do it. No, what made me angry was on reading the news articles and blog posts from Ms Shutterworth she makes reference to the bodies of dying climbers they stepped over on their way to the summit. 

 "There were casualties from the day before, which was tragic and horrendous.
“There were quite a few bodies attached to the fixed lines and we had to walk round them.
"There were a couple who were still alive.”
[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-18199899]

I had to read this several times for it to sink in; “We had to walk round them”, “Couple who were still alive”. She makes reference that one Sherpa helped one of them but they were “to far gone”. To reference back to the Lincoln Hall incident, is it the case that “too far gone” has become something which people judge differently on Everest, do they want to believe they are “too far gone” to alleviate their own guilt at walking past/around/over them, or are they genuinely too far gone. Lincoln hall was placed in this bracket yet he lived, how many others are judged to be "too far gone" where they could in fact be saved. Easy for me to judge sat in my living room on a warm summers day, but I know myself, I know that were I ever in that situation I would never allow myself to carry on to the summit while there were living people dying behind me. Perhaps there is often nothing that can be done for these people, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try, and I find it worrying how many Everest tourists these days (people with no mountaineering background or skills) devalue human life in exchange for the bragging rights of climbing Everest. 40 people passed David Sharp, if 20 people had stopped, maybe he would have been saved, maybe he wouldn’t. These people Leanna talks about walking around, maybe they were dead already, or maybe if she (and others) had helped then they wouldn’t be. Leanna will get a hard time from the climbing community unless she comes forward to justify herself (difficult to try and do I suppose), UKClimbing.com (lead by Simon….) have already started a frank discussion on the matter: http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=507050&v=1#x6887864, she perhaps doesn’t deserve the stick she is going to get, she is just another ambitious teenager who didn't realise what she was putting her foot in, but should maybe have considered the implications of bringing up such a sensitive issue in this manner whilst in the public eye, many would consider her use of "people dying on the ropes" just a way to emphasise her achievement; I'm not one of them. It should also be stressed at this point that my anger is not directed solely at Leanna, she is simply a public face of the otherwise faceless horde of walkers who seem to disregard human life in favor of achieving their own goals.

Nadav Ben-Yehuda (left) and Aydin Irmak
To offer some contrast to this story, a rescue took place on Everest in the last week by an Israeli climber Nadav Ben-Yehuda. With only 300m to go until the summit, he found a stricken climber (Aydin Irmak) who he had befriended at base camp. Again (as in all cases it seems), a number of climbers had passed Aydin Irmak, and left him to die. Nadav Ben-Yehuda abandoned his climb, hoisted Aydin onto his shoulder and carried him down the 9 hours to Camp 4 where they were both evacuated.

I want to leave on one short phrase which for me summed up the difference between people who walk past dying humans on Everest, and those who stop to help;

Nadav Ben-Yehuda described his decision to stop and help Aydin Irmak as “Automatic”, how many less people would die on Everest if more people described their decisions as such.





Monday, 21 May 2012

Angexis Outdoor - some clarification

Got a quick email and comment that from Jan Vorwerk at Angexis Outdoor which I thought I would share with everyone:


"Hi Chris,

I found your e-mail address on the screenshots of Angexis Outdoor on your blog ;-)

First off, let me tell you that I am very pleased that you like this app and very honored that it appears on day #1 on the 7 days of Android!

This afternoon, I have added a comment, and either I did a mistake (and never posted the comment), or you decided to hide it (which is your right!). I just wanted to double-check that you understood my comment and understand why the the app needs the mobile data network... so that your readers are not mislead.


Also, since you compared it with SPOT: the main difference (beside the price) is that SPOT will likely never send a false alert, since it is manual, but on the down side, it will never send an alert if you are unconscious. Also, SPOT will continue working if you are in mobile-deserts with no coverage at all.
Angexis Outdoor will work in most cases (except in such "deserts" since it needs to "check-in" on a regular basis with the web site)... the downside is that it might send false alerts in some cases (e.g. you lose your phone, it gets broken, you run out of battery, you reboot your phone and forget to stop the app first...).

Hope this clarifies. If you have any additional question, please let me know!

Best regards"

And the comment:

"Hi Chris,

Glad you liked that app... and hope you'll like it even more now that alerts can be sent by SMS.

Just one comment though : even with the SMS feature now, the app still needs (and will need) the mobile network.

The reason is that it is necessary for the app to regularly tell the web site the user's position. If it did not work this way, it would not be very reliable because if an accident occurred out of mobile coverage, it would not be able to send any alert any longer, and the web site would have no clue where the user could well be...

The drawback is the impact on the battery of course...

Hope this clarifies !"

So a nice bit of clarification on why Angexis Outdoor uses the Mobile network, great of Jan to take the time to comment on the software, great App guys, really like it!


Angexis Outdoor is available on the Play Store https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.angexis.outdoor

Sunday, 20 May 2012

New website on the way

I am currently in the process of creating a new website using HTML5. Having used a few HTML5 websites I really like the way it works, Flash can be a bit fiddly at times and even more so on older computers, so much easier to look to build the site in HTML5.

The new site will be going live in the next few weeks, depends how quickly I can get to grips with HTML5, hoping it won't be too difficult!

In the meantime the old site will be live until the new one is ready, below is a little sneak peak of the initial layout of the new site and how things will look, any feedback welcomed as always!




Saturday, 19 May 2012

Angexis Outdoor - updated version 2.0

Last week I reviewed Angexis Outdoor - a mobile app for Android. I made the point that overall the software was good, but it lacked a function to send SMS alerts to contacts, and instead relied on emails being sent. Having seen an update on the Angexis Facebook that they had made a new version with SMS built it, I had to get it as soon as possible! 30 minutes after the update I had version 2.0 (free download from Google Play), and the SMS system works like a dream. I tested it on my girlfriends mobile, the alert sent from my phone featured a website and a 5 letter code. Going to the website SMS.Angexis.com gives you then screen below in the screenshot below. Your contact needs to input the code and the last 4 digits of their phone number to view your location, easy peasy, can be done easily through mobile internet too. The position is shown on Google Maps, but also gives you Lat/Long which can be passed on to Mountain Rescue etc.

The texts are sent in one of 3 ways: Firstly if you stop moving for a period of time (which you can set), secondly if you trigger a manual SOS, or thirdly if you are out of range of the Angexis server. You can set all the timescales involved easily from the simple menu. For more detailed information on how the system works, see my original review below.

Overall: great work guys, you've no doubt had some feedback on the software not having SMS and responded to that creating a version that now features SMS alerts. Excellent!

7 days of Android - stalled

Some on you may have noticed that I stalled on Day 2 - my Android phone currently won't work long enough to review anything. All started after I installed the latest Android software, currently waiting for a window where I won't need my phone for a week or so to send it off - half term soon. Until then, apologies for the lack of Android related reviews!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

7 days of Android - Day 2

The second edition of 7 days of Android features GPS Essentials. GPS essentials is an incredible, well designed, free, piece of software designed to offer all the functionality of a GPS handset, on your Android phone.



How Does it work


The main feature of the software is the GPS dashboard. This is basically a blank canvas that can be filled with all the information you want. There are 45 options for this page, simply select the fields you want displayed and they will be placed into your dashboard. The options available include; Lat/Long, grid reference, accuracy, altitude and many more. This means you can build a custom screen that displays only the information you really use.
Dashboard
For me, I chose accuracy, altitude, Number of satellites, location provider, Lat/Long, Speed, and position, however as previously mentioned there are many more available.

GPS essentials also has a number of other features which are useful for any outdoor user. Firstly you can add waypoints either by manually inputting co-ordinates, or by marking your current location. These can then be viewed in the HUD camera mode. The HUD basically shows your waypoints, in real life. What I mean by this is, if you add a waypoint for a hill or peak, then select that waypoint, you can then look through the HUD and, it will display the waypoint on the screen at the location it marks. It does this by equating your current position to that of the waypoint and shows the mark on the screen - very cool.

You can also import files such as GPX to give you a track to follow. There is also a compass and map (Google maps only, no high detail maps).


HUD display with waypoint (green mark)
How to use


Easy, turn it on, add the information you need to your dashboard, and turn the GPS on. Uploading additional files with tracks etc can also be done by adding them onto the SD card of your phone then importing them. It doesn't need mobile internet (unless you want the Google maps element), but obviously needs your GPS on.

Limitations


The app has no real limits, it does exactly what it says on the tin - and does it very well!

Conclusion


This app is a must-have app for any outdoorsy types who want to use the GPS on their phone in an effective way. It provides all the functions of a handheld GPS, and it's FREE. Great app, 10/10!

Other information


Download here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mictale.gpsessentials&hl=en

Monday, 7 May 2012

7 days of Android - Day 1

The idea of 7 days of Android is to bring you the best outdoors software for your Android smartphone, saving you the hassle of trawling through endless apps on the Play Store.

The first piece of software is Angexis Outdoor - an automated SOS app that alerts base when either; you trigger an SOS alert, or when you have been stationary for too long. Essentially turning your phone into a SPOT GPS messenger.....for free!

Options screen
How does it work: So what actually happens? Well an alert contains my location (using the phone's GPS), and my phone number, as well as a short message saying I may be in trouble. The only drawback of this system is the alert is sent to an email address NOT as an SMS (see later). There are 3 ways alerts are sent;

Manual Alert: I trigger a manual alarm if I am injured and in signal range.

Immobility Alert: I injure myself, am unconscious and not moving. The phone alarms me that an alert is about to be sent, if I don't respond to the alarm the alerts are sent.

Web alert: If I am out of signal range for too long an alert is sent by the Angexis website, saying my last known location and that I haven't checked in.

The timings for each alert can be set by the user (see below), so setting the out of server reach field higher is advised.


Menu screen
How to use: The app is remarkably easy to use. You turn the app on and connect your Google Account. You then allocate contacts from your phone book to be your emergency points of contact (not sure how many you can have but I have 4...).  You then set the timings for your alerts (see screenshot), mine are currently set at 60 minutes, meaning after 60 minutes of no movement or no connection my points of contact will be notified (the server connection one should be higher than it is). Once you are ready to start your trip click "start". There is then a small icon in the task bar indicating that "Angexis is watching over you". And that's it, do you trip, if something bad happens then alerts will be sent. An example of an alert can be seen below. The system uses the phones mobile internet and GPS signals to gain a location and email it through the Google account you set up earlier.







An alert from Angexis
Limitations: Ok so there is a free, effective, SOS tool, that can really add an extra layer of security to any trip...what's the catch. Well unfortunately there are a couple. Firstly the system uses emails as an alert means, I don't know about you guys but my email is not always to hand, and I don't sit in front of it all day. SMS would be a much more effective tool, and would also avoid the phone having to have the Mobile Internet on the whole time. This would also alleviate the drain on battery resulting from the mobile internet being on. Whilst the app seems to manage GPS use intelligently (turning it on and off after each fix), it doesn't seem to do the same with the Mobile Internet. SMS would be a much more effective way of sending the alerts; people always have their phones near them, but rarely on their emails.

Conclusion: I like it, it's free, it works, it's not buggy and unreliable, it IS good. It could be better if it utilised SMS meaning the phone didn't need mobile internet, by all means use mobile internet to connect to the server every so often (for the web alert), but not the primary means of alerting contacts. Well worth noting this is only the BETA version at the moment and has only around 500 downloads, so it is still improving. I will be offering my feedback to the app developers, who have done a great job building a free safety tool that will help turn a smartphone into a SPOT unit. Great job guys!

Other information:

Angexis Outdoor is available for free in the Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.angexis.outdoor

Website is here with a bit of information: http://www.angexis.com/en/









Trekmates Flameless Cook System


Hi all,

Long time no speak, been a busy few months for me; applying for teacher training, interviews etc, a period during which I haven’t been out much at all.





On the plus side; here’s a review of the Trekmates Flameless Cook System (FCS).


RRP £20/£30

Begrudingly I conceded it’s time to replace my helmet having had it for 5 years now, it’s certainly served me well. I headed over to Go Outdoors to buy a Petzl Meteor 3+ (fancied one for a while, and combination of deals in GoOutdoors meant that they were available for £51 – jackpot). While browsing round the store I came across the Trekmates Flameless Cook System section. When I first saw the FCS it peaked my interest, a means of heating food and drink that doesn’t need gas....sounds good. I was faced with 2 options; £18 bought me the Flameless Cook Flask (360ml) http://www.trekmates.co.uk/online-shop/flameless-cook-system/flameless-cook-flask, which came with 3 heat packs, alternatively £27 bought the Flameless Cook Box, which came with 4 heat packs (2 of each size). I opted for the flask, reasoning with myself that if the FCS proved to be a good addition I would return for the box.
Stove in packaging

The system works by using water activated heat packs, which are available in 2 sizes (high power and super power), these are available for £10 (pack of 7 high power packs) or £10 (pack of 5 super power packs). The super power packs are only useable in the Flameless box and not in the flask. Each stove comes with a measuring bottle to ensure you add the right amount of water to activate the heat pack (depending on the size). Each stove or heat pack comes with “loyalty points” you can use on www.flamelesscook.com to buy more heat packs, and other goodies. This is great because it reduces the overall cost of the fuel for the stove as you get freebies every so often.





Good so far…..

So time to test one; the concept is fairly simple:

Stage 1: Separate the plastic outer stove from the metal inner container. Put food/water into the inner metal section

Stage 2: Fill the plastic measuring bottle to the indicated level for high or super (depending on the size of pack you are using.

Stage 3: Add the heat pack into the bottom of the plastic outer stove, add the water from the measuring bottle, and then put the metal inner and plastic outer back together, secure the lid with the clips and wait.

Measure bottle, plastic outer, metal inner, and lid.

I followed the instructions and after a bit of a funny smell initially, coupled with a bit of audible fizzing, and 7 minutes of time, I had 1 piping hot brew. The water was very hot indeed. I immediately emptied the water out into a mug and refilled the stove. Worth noting at this point that I displaced the metal inner section when pouring the water out, took a bit of fiddling to get it back in given how hot it was, but I did it no problem and resealed the stove. After 7 minutes the water was still cold….not good in my opinion, would hope that given the cost of the packs that there should be more than 1 brew per pack. I resealed the container for an additional 5 minutes (13 minutes in total) but still cold….maybe I did something wrong.

Well all in all, the stove is good, it can make a brew, or cook a meal without the need for flames or leaving your tent. Great. Also great idea for group leaders who want have concerns over their groups behaviour around stoves (special needs groups perhaps?). It’s small, light, and does make a good brew with minimal fuss, and whilst it doesn’t seem to be able to make 2 brews, it can keep 1 brew warm for longer. Which brings me on to the negative aspect of the stove, 5 heat packs for £10 = £2 per brew, not ideal. But look at it this way, as an item you don’t use every single trip, or as a convenience item it’s a great piece of kit to have, and there’s not much that can go wrong with it.

I am looking forward to my first morning brew in the tent with the rain tipping down outside, something tells me that when I’m sitting in my sleeping bag, warm and dry, that I will appreciate this item much more. 

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Mountain Leader Assessment

Hi there! it has been quite a while since I last posted as I've been busy getting ready to take my ML (summer) assessment. I took it last week at Blue Peris Mountain Centre in Deiniolen, Snowdonia and passed!!

To tell you the truth, it wasn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It was obviously difficult, but if you have prepared, you will find it easier. It's a 5 day assessment with tests you on your navigation skills, rope work and group work skills. Me and my mates spent the last few months going out most weekends  practicing all of this. The logbook as well is important, you need to ensure you have more than 40 quality days logged or else you will defer.

There is a 3 day expedition, so if you are still using old kit from your D of E years ago, you may struggle. I'm not saying "go out and buy the best kit", but it does help if you do have a decent rucksack, waterproof and sleeping bag. The main emphasis has to be on being comfortable so you can concentrate on navigation and your admin so that you reflect your skills well. If you are flapping about being wet and carrying a heavy bag/not getting any sleep you may find it harder to keep up your concentration. 

Throughout the week you need to remain switched on and concentrated on the task. Always keep an eye on your map and the bearing you're on, as the assessor will randomly ask for your position. This is the same for the night nav, just much harder as it is night time. Which brings me onto the next point, a good head torch. If you just use the one you got free with a tank of diesel from the petrol station, you won't find it as easy as if you had a better one. I used a Petzl Myo RXP, which has a fantastic search beam which comes in handy for finding those cheeky contour features. However, last week the weather was pretty foul and we had a misty night, so the beam just bounced off the mist and we could only see when the wind made a gap. It is for this reason that a good compass (Silva expedition 4) comes in handy for accurate bearings and a definite pacing for 100m allows you to measure distance travelled accurately.

A decent but light tent allows for a comfy night. Me and a friend shared a Vaude Taurus Ultralight and it was really good. Waterproof and sturdy in the wind, which allowed us to get the sleep we needed (during the gaps in snoring). Sharing it out let us keep our packs lighter. 

I carried everything in an Osprey Kestrel 68, including my personal kit and group kit. The equipment you have is pretty comprehensive, but if you have prepared right leading up to the assessment everything has its place and nothing unnecessary is carried. 

This is what I carried:
  • Inflatable sleeping matt (Mountain Equipment Helium 3.8)
  • Inflatable pillow (poundland's own)
  • Sleeping Bag (Marmot Atom)
  • Bivvy Bag (Alpkit hunka)
  • Group first aid kit
  • Group shelter (Terra Nova)
  • Poles and pegs from tent
  • Spare personal clothing (Ron Hill leggings, Smartwool socks)
  • Gloves (Mountain Equipment Guide, Randonee and Touch)
  • Hat (hand knitted)
  • Spare group clothing (Rab Generator, gloves and hat)
  • Food and spare sweets (see earlier post on use of smash)
  • Stove and gas (Jetboil PCS)
  • Waterproof salopettes (Paramo Aspira)
  • Waterproof Jacket (Mountain Equipment Kongur MRT)
  • Sweets and energy gels (Go Gel)
  • Head Torch (Myo RXP)
  • Compass (Silva Exped 4)
  • Poles (Black Diamond Contour Eliptic Shock)
  • Bottles (Sigg and Nalgene)
  • Knife (Edelrid sawtooth - for cutting up food and general camp stuff)
  • Water treatment (Iodine tincture and Neutraliser powder) 
  • Rope (30m Beal climbing rope)
All of my kit has been tried and tested since ML training a couple of years ago, I have replaced some things for the kit above, like a sleeping bag (see earlier posts). The clothes I wore were softshell trousers and Paramo Velez Adventure light as it is what works for me. The list above is not meant to say what you SHOULD have, it is just how I do things, you should make up your own minds.

My best advice is to concentrate and be confident with your bearings and pacing. Also, brush up on your geology, nature, weather and history knowledge to chat whilst you're on the move - however, don't get caught up talking when you should be pacing, you may lose your distance measurement. 

Good luck to those taking their assessment in the future, and HAVE FUN!



Monday, 19 March 2012

A Beacon of Hope....

£70,000 worth of damage done by racist thugs
Hi everyone, I'd like to take a minute to talk about a good cause that I am currently supporting (and will continue to support)

Sam Farmer - an outdoor instructor from Cornwall runs a project called "the beacon of hope project" aimed at giving young people from inner city areas and a variety of backgrounds the opportunity to get into the outdoors.

Sadly Sam has been the victim of hideous racial abuse culimating in a second arson attack which destroyed the project buildings and equipment at an estimate of £70,000. Due to the first arson attack Sam was unable to afford the high insurance premium and consequently the damage is not covered over his insurance.
A massive response on UKClimbing.com has given Sam his own beacon of hope, together we have raised over £3000, with donations of gear, support from other companies has also provided a new website, and support from Wild Country has ensured new climbing is available to Sam.

An amazing response but we need more, if you can spare even a £1 it would help Sam get back on his feet, he is a genuine and caring guy who has been the subject of a disgusting campaign of racial abuse. There is no situation that this kind of abuse is acceptable, and I for one will continue to support Sam in any way I can.

For more information please read: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4515

To donate follow this link: http://www.thebeaconofhope.co.uk/

Thanks for your time :)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Kit for my weekends away....

As i'm in the lead up to doing my Mountain Leader Assessment at Easter, I'm frantically getting into the hills to practice. These weekends away are brilliant for navigation, ropework and group skills; but they are great for fine tuning the kit you take. Over the past few years my hillwalking kit hasnt changed a whole lot, just different rucksacks and bits and bobs. 

Sleeping Bag
I used to use a Snugpak Chrysalis Autumn as my sleeping bag, it was great and kept me warm even when it was wet and is great to snuggle down in on a crappy night out on the Glyders. But it is massive!!! So a couple of months ago i was in Go Outdoors and saw a Marmot Atom for £69.99......its a £300 down sleeping bag!! (Although it is a summer bag and only goes to around 6celsius) So i bought it, because i had read some reviews earlier that week saying how great it is in Alpine climbing for use as a bivvy bag for nights out because its light but still warm. I knew I wouldnt be using it for winter days, but for summer 
ML, where I would like to keep weight and pack size to a minimum - a sleeping bag that packs super small (in a Podsac Spider) and weighs less than a can of coke.

After using it a couple of times; once for a wild camp and once for a bothy, I can safely say that I love this bag. I always carry a Down or Primaloft Jacket in the colder months anyway, so i just wore that to sleep in as well as my clothes.....which i usually sleep in anyway.....and i wasnt cold at all. Combined with my Mountain Equipment sleeping matt, i didnt wake up all night! Unlike my friends, who's matts deflated overnight and couldnt sleep. Then come morning all I had to do was compress it back down and stick it in my Podsac Alpine 50.

Rucksack

I had an Osprey Mutant 38 a couple of years ago, but i didnt like it because of the tiny fiddly buckles on it and I couldnt fit everythin I wanted in it properly. So I bought a Crux AK47, a fantastic bag (when fully packed). I had never had a bag with a fixed lid, so with smaller loads I thought it looked dead weird. I also found the shape of the straps caused chafing around my arm pits which after a couple of days of walking were agony. So I asked for a Podsac Alpine 50 after my friends gave it a glowing review. And i must say, they werent wrong. This is hands down the best rucksack I have ever owned. Its light, its basic, waterproof, easy to pack and the removable lid with roll top is fantastic. Its so comfy too, the foamy straps and back pannel are great for long days and the gear loops on the hip belt were great when i took it to Scotland. I can fit everything I need in this bag and still have room left. My hat goes off to Podsac.

Food

In the past when I did my Duke of Edinburgh, super noodles were the order of the day. They are light, tasty and filling. However, that was when pot washing wasnt an issue (being on a camp site and all) and nowadays, scraping caked on noodle flavouring off my Jetboil in the pouring rain in the mountains isnt very attractive. Tins of beans, curry, and soup really are a thing of the past; aside from the weight, the empty tins need to be removed! And i dont really want a bag of dirty tins in with my kit. 

It was a simple revalation by my lecturer that has kept everyone I know from my University Outdoor Degree happy in the hills. The "Pour & Store" food bag has been the staple of our adventures for the past 3 years and we never go away without them. Theyre re-usable and they allow you to make your own boil in the bag meals as they fit perfectly in a Jetboil. 

Its this stuff (right) that has been a new venture for me and I dont know why. My friend Tom suggested using Gravy granules and Smash in a bag as you'd only hvae to add boiling water and you've got a tasty filling meal. It really is fantastic, a bag of hot stodgy, gravy flouvoured heaven. And its super light so you dont have to worry about how much you take. 

The theme of powdered foods is the order of the day now. Instant Porridge for breakfast with added cinnamon or choc chips provides those added calories and energy for long days on the hill. The morning Coffee is paramount too, maybe spiked with a drop from my trusty hip flask.


My friend Arran also found one of those tins of treacle pudding that you steam. It contains around 900 calories and when combined with custard, gives you a fantastic winter warming pudding. You just need to empty the tin in a pour and stour and you're good. Its slightly heavier, but worth it. Its stuff like this that makes me love getting out and about; trying new ideas and playing around with food.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

DMM's new products for 2012 - part 1

Fresh from its 30th anniversary celebrations in 2011, DMM enters 2012 combining its technical engineering capabilities with an expansive knowledge of all things climbing to showcase an
awesome collection of new products.
 
They have a new range of ice axes, new winter protection, a modern leash system, colour coded screwgate carabiner packs, and a whole new range of camming devices. As always, fulfilling the requirements of climbers throughout the world has been DMM's primary motivation. 




The new DMM axe range is the result of 30 years of technical knowledge combined with valuable feedback from a broad range of climbers. The underlying requirement was to make a set of tools that offer exceptional performance and are built to withstand the rigours of modern climbing by being ‘bombproof’ - sturdy, strong and dependable.
 
They have engineered the light, balanced, and supremely strong ‘T Rated Integrity Construction’ method using full strength, T Rated components throughout, double riveting and high quality materials. We have encased the hot-forged handles with a highly insulated, durable, grippy, fully integrated moulding.
 
The new designs see the classic best-sellers being brought into the present with full strength ergonomic handles, fresh colourways throughout and handrests on the Fly. In addition they have introduced 2 new axes at the top end: The Apex and The Switch - modern tools for modern climbing. The range is an ‘all-mountain’ offering, covering everything from mountain walking and glacier work to Alpinism and modern test pieces. The initial impressions being that they are very similar to Petzl's Nomic and Quark but without getting my hands on them I can't say for sure. They do however look amazing and very smart.




In order to provide more racking options in our active protection range they have combined some of the favourite features from their two existing cams: the tried and trusted 13.75°, single axle head unit of the 4CU, with the justifiably popular stem assembly of the Dragon with its patented thumb press and extendable sling design. The result is a lightweight, versatile, and functional device that caters for climbers who prefer single stem ergonomics, for those who are used to our traditional sizing system, and for those who want to double up their cam racks to offer even more placement options.
 
The range covers placements from 13mm to 100mm in nine colour coded sizes. The colours follow the same sequence as the 4CU, but we’ve reversed the cam lobe colouring to the opposite to the Dragon for easily identification.With the Demon in the DMM range, we offer the worlds premium range of protection, both passive and active, for all climbers and all climbs.

Keep looking for the next parts of this series where I will detail each item.

Friday, 27 January 2012

New DMM ice axes - teaser video

Apex and Switch axes from DMM
Released today was a teaser video from DMM showing glimpses of their new range of ice axes that are due to be released on the 29th at ISPO in Munich.

The video confirms remakes of the DMM fly, raptor, and cirque, and 2 new names to the DMM axes range; the Apex and the Switch. More to come over the next few days but for now just a short video! Stay tuned for more as it appears!



Video and more information here: http://dmmclimbing.com/news/2012/01/showing-at-ispo-munich-2012/

Friday, 20 January 2012

Electronic Mountain Leader - 3rd birthday today!

3 years, 10's of 1000's of views, and over 52,000 words, I'm still here! Whilst I didn't publish my first article until August 2009, I published a series of smaller articles which I deleted, my first ever post on the blog was 20th January 2009 making today the 3rd birthday of Electronic Mountain Leader! These days there is a website, a blog and (launched today) the new DofE blog, not to mention a Copyright on the name, tonnes of web space, and not forgetting a new contributor in Simon.

Thank you to everyone who's visited Electronic Mountain Leader over the last 3 years, and I promise I will continue writing articles as often as I can, once again anyone who wants to contact me with feedback, comments or questions please feel free! Many thanks also to the companies who have supported me by providing products to test!

New Duke of Edinburgh's Award blog and mobile app

You may or may not have noticed the  "DofE" tab that has been sat on the pages bar for the last couple of weeks, it had originally been my plan to integrate what I want to write about DofE on this blog, however it rapidly became clear that a separate blog was needed and so here we are click

There have been 4 major influences in my life which have lead me to become the man I am today; my mum,dad and family, DofE, Air Cadets and my education, all of which have been important to me (family more so than any other). DofE has always been something I have been passionate about, and I been involved in it since the age of 14 - both as a participant and as a leader, the whole idea of the DofE blog is to bring my passion for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award to people who might need some help, the new blog will feature DofE specific articles on all aspects of the expedition section of DofE including kit reviews, video guides and much more. The aim being to try and spread the DofE resources I have spent many hours creating to people who need them! It's still under construction so definitely watch this space and stay tuned!

Scan me (Android only)
I also knocked up a quick Android mobile app using an online app maker, I do have a full app in the works that will hopefully feature a simple GPS feature, as well as articles and exclusive content. The app available through the barcode to the right is just a simple strip down version of the website, the content will update when connected to WiFi or Mobile internet, it's not graphics heavy so it's easy to view the latest posts! It also has Google maps with basic GPS functionality. Any feedback welcome!