Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Eco Gear: Given the green light?

This is my first article on here, so i thought i would do an article on green outdoor gear. 

The easiest and most effective way to be a greener consumer is to buy less stuff. Yes, many of us are gear junkies who love to try out the newest equipment and clothing, but before making any gear choice (green or not) you should consider whether you really need an item or if you already have something that does the job safely and effectively.

When you do need a piece of clothing or gear, look for items that contain environmentally-friendly materials, like recycled polyester and plastic and natural fibres such as bamboo, modal, hemp, coconut, and organic cotton and wool. Some environmentally-friendly outdoor clothing brands to consider include Patagonia, Prana, GoLite, Marmot. Finding environmentally-friendly technical gear is still very difficult; with clothing, look for products that use recycled materials and fewer chemicals. The outdoor industry is talking collectively about eco issues and will hopefully develop product standards and ratings for the benefit of concerned consumers.

If you can’t find a green version of the clothing or gear you need, remember that buying a high quality, dependable item that will fit you and your needs for years to come is preferable to buying a low quality piece that you’d need to repair or replace sooner. Read our reviews, visit sites such as Tribevine and think your purchases through before rushing into buying.  
Also, whenever safely possible, have gear professionally repaired rather than buying a brand new version. Tents, backpacks, clothing, and footwear can often be repaired, altered, or resoled by experienced specialists such as Tundra Repairs in Washington, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Still usable gear, clothing, and footwear also can be bought and sold second hand on eBay and my personal favourite, UKClimbing. You could also donate to a charity shop, or pass it on to a mate or family member. 

Some companies will take back old garments, such as with Patagonia’s Common Threads Garment Recycling with which they recycle worn out fleece, both Patagonia and Polartec, and also their own organic cotton t-shirts. 

 However, according to Mark Held, Secretary General for the European Outdoor Group, the cost of our equipment is set to rise due to the growing environmental crisis. This is apparently due to manufacturers passing the cost of environmentally friendly fabrics and fabric recycling onto its customers. 

What "green" gear is on offer? 

Here is a select few.

Patagonia R1 Full Zip Fleece
Made from Polartec Powerdry, which is
made from 60% recycled fabric from
Patagonia’s Common Thread Recycling
Programme. RRP £100

Paramo Velez Adventure Light
Made from Nikwax’s long lasting
Analogy fabric which won’t leak, even
when punctured. It is also stitched by the
Miquelina Foundation, which provide ethical
production in Columbia. RRP £190

Patagonia Nano  Puff Pullover
Windproof and water resistant with the shell
and lining being made from 100% recycled
fabric, again from Patagonias CTRP.  RRP £130

Watch this space for more on this topic in the near future. 

Monday, 30 May 2011

Budget Hill gear.....false economy?

Budget hill gear has been around in supermarkets and pound shops for years, but is it any good? Once upon a time I would never have considered buying anything that was considered 'budget'. Budget outdoor gear was discussed in hushed tones throughout the outdoor community for fear of being branded a 'cheapo'.However times have changed, and after recently purchasing a small trowel for my wild country toilet kit at a cost of £1, and it actually being good, I decided to investigate further. Over the last few months I have investigated and researched a number of products, and produced a list of my top 10 items;

10: Poundland “Camping Kit bag” From Outdoor Solutions
RRP: £1
The camping kit bag, is a large 10L stuff sack with a drawcord closure. For £1 it is constructed from tough material and certainly not thin and flimsy. This might be of some use for someone looking for a small stuff sack to store kit separate from the rest of your gear, e.g:  stove and cooking bits. Available in your local Poundland.

9: Lidl “Flexible camera tripod”
RRP: £5.99

Whilst not strictly hill gear, this little tripod seemed worth a quick mention. This small unit is essentially a flexible tripod for those people who do not want to pay £30 for a Gorilla-pod. The flexible legs mean you can wrap it round trees, railings or anything else you want. This is suitable for small cameras only, I definitely would not recommend anything bigger, for example a large digital SLR or video camera. It has a standard  tripod screw fit so should be compatible with most digital cameras, if in doubt check underneath your camera, and if your camera has a tripod attachment it will have a small indent with screw threads inside.

8: Wilkinsons “Deluxe Compass”
RRP: £2.28
This compass is well built and surprisingly solid given that it only costs a couple of pounds. The bezel has a smooth action, and the notches in the bezel make it easy to grip even with gloves on. The compass has basic features including; a roamer, and glow in the dark points for easy use in low light. Definitely worth looking at if you want a very cheap backup compass.

7: Aldi “Polarised Sunglasses”
RRP: £3.99
These sunglasses are definately good value for £3.99, and polarised lenses mean no glare. These are actually designed for use while fishing to protect from reflection off the waters surface, however they would work just as well for use on the hill if you were after a pair of polarised sunglasses on a budget. What I would say is they seemed quite a tight fit round my head so definately don't buy these blind. Worth noting however that I have a big head.

6: Tesco “Micro-lite Mummy Sleeping Bag”
RRP: £14.67
This little sleeping bag is ideal for anyone looking for a  lightweight summer sleeping bag. With an extreme rating of +1oC they were perhaps a little optimistic, I would estimate around the 5 oC mark is a more sensible rating. However at 800g it is light, it packs down very small, and is ideal where you are looking for basic functionality and minimal weight. I would be willing to use this in sub zero temperatures if worn in conjunction with a good set of thermals.

5: Poundland “waterbottle and karabiner”
URL unknown
RRP: £1
This item is not currently available online, however a quick browse in your local Poundland and you should be able to find them. It is a metal 'sig' bottle with a small karabiner included. Ideal for fuel or for water, and at £1 they are a good solid little bottle. The bottles hold 500ml so they are huge, but for £1 you could buy a couple!

4: Poundland “karabiner washline”
RRP: £1
This is a good little addition to any outdoorsman's kit. The karabiners on each end of the elastic allow for easy attachment to tree's, tent's or car's to create a makeshift washing line to dry wet kit.

Now we come to the top 3 budget hill gear items. These 3 items I feel are the best cheap pieces of hill gear out there.

3: Tesco “65L rucksack”
RRP: £25
This rucksack is the most expensive of all the items in this test. However I believe the higher cost is reflected well in the features the bag has;
Firstly the bag is very well built, it feels tough. Whilst the website says it is made of polyester, it is actually reinforced with cordura at several important points throughout the pack. This makes all the difference in the quality of the bag, as the main areas where the bag will recieve wear and tear.
Secondly, it is a very simple design but includes all the features you would want from a basic expedition sack; compression straps on the side, central taped seam zip for easy access into the bag, good padded straps, and a good waist belt. I recently assessed a Duke of Edinburgh's Award expedition where all the candidates were using these bags. This gave me a chance to 'test drive' one and see how it felt, I have to say, it’s a good rucksack especially for £25, well worth looking into if you are trying to kit yourself out on a tight budget.

2: Poundland “Camping pillow”
RRP: £1
This has proved to be the best £1 investment I ever made! You aren't buying a pillow, far from it, your £1 investment will reclaim hours of lost sleep, and save you the discomfort of a stiff neck every time you go camping. Gone are the days where I am forced to loosely stuff clothes into a stuff sack to try and make a pillow. This beauty inflates in a couple of breaths and is unbelievably comfortable and really does make all the difference. It has a velvet feel meaning its very soft to lay on. It even has a little notch that lets your head nestle into the pillow for an excellent nights sleep. For £1 you will not be disappointed!

 .....and the number 1 item on my review is……

1: Aldi “Altimeter Watch”
URL not available
RRP: £19.99
And here you have it, a watch with all the features of a Suunto Vector, at 10% of the cost. The Aldi expedition watch has the following features:

Large easy to read LCD display showing:
- Time (12/24hr format)
- Month and day
- Alarm with snooze function
- Altimeter with trip timer
- Electronic compass
- Temperature (°C/°F)

In addition the watch comes with a spare battery and a 5 year warranty. The materials on the watch feel really good, and not at all cheap. The altimeter is usually off by around 100m, and needs recalibrating during the day to ensure accuracy. The thermometer follows the trend of other expedition watches by not functioning correctly whilst on your wrist. And the compass is ok, not accurate enough to walk on a bearing with, but good enough to give you a general bearing when walking. What I would say is the gadgets on the watch and the cost of it, means that they are like gold dust to find. Aldi sell these twice a year (from experience) and when they do, they sell out quick, so keep checking in, sign up to Aldi’s newsletter, do whatever it takes, but if you are looking for a budget expedition watch, you can’t argue with £20 for all the features this watch provides.

In conclusion, some cheap gear out there is better than you think. I’m not sure I would rely on essential kit like waterproofs just yet, however there are definitely some great products out there for very cheap. Well worth looking into. It is however worth bearing in mind that to bring you these 10 good quality products, I had to trawl through a number of useless bits of gear, so treat everything you buy in the budget range with a bit of caution before trusting it fully!

Next time: high quality gear at low prices.....is it possible?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

A new contributor...

After writing his own blog for a while, I have asked my brother Simon to join me on Electronic Mountain Leader. It seemed kind of stupid that with both of us writing our own blogs on gear we shouldn't join together and write 1 blog together.

From this point on Simon will be contributing to the blog with his own reviews and take on gear. We will also be attending OutDoor together, so will give us a chance to really write some great stuff.

Simon is also writing his disertation on environmentally friendly outdoor gear so this will give him a chance to publish some of his findings! Overall this should mean more diverse and more frequent content on here, and gives me and Si a chance to discuss content as it gets written.

Simon can be contacted on Simon@electronicmountainleader.co.uk

Good times.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

New website online!

New website! Woo! Spent quite a while developing some content for a website (as a pose to just a blog). However I never really got into making the site....until today. With it being a wet(ish) weekend I got into doing it and just kept going! The result (I think) is quite impressive. Going forward this blog will still form the basis of my website and will be updated most often. The website will feature additional content in the form of equipment guides, resources and videos. This blog is also part of the website in the form of RSS feeds, and is also linked from the website. The website is still not 100% complete, however over the next few weeks it will be heading towards something like an end result! Website can be found here www.electronicmountainleader.co.uk (Flash enabled browser required!). Any comments appreciated, and thanks for the support!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Outdoors Company

I have been working with the Outdoors Company for a while now, both in my centre based work, and in my work with DofE. I highly recommend the guys at The Outdoors Company, and have always found them to be the kind of staff that go the extra mile for their customers. Mark and Paul have supplied equipment to DofE groups I have worked with for some time and I have always found their customer service excellent. The company does excellent deals on DofE kit, and works closely with companies like Vango and North Face to provide only kit suitable for the needs of DofE groups, there is no upselling kit that is too technical or expensive for the groups. They also customise gear with logos and badges, and have provided high quality work gear including top notch North Face jackets for my places of work for the last few years. I think what sets this company apart from others I have used, is the fact that they not only know their stuff, but also that they enjoy being outdoors and are passionate about what they do. If you are looking for kit for a DofE group, or custom work gear, or anything else, definately check these guys out www.theoutdoorscompany.co.uk

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


I've made a point of not advertising on my blog. However anyone reading this blog should definatley look into joining Tribevine (www.tribevine.com). Tribevine is a free online community based website which allows users to review, rank and discuss outdoor gear. I joined the site a couple of days after it went live. Since then I won the first monthly competition, winning an awesome collection of gear. Tribevine holds a monthly gear competition rewarding the most active users on the site. For me, Tribevine has provided an outlet for my gear passion, and also an opportunity to represent the company at the OutDoor show (see below) I would highly recomend the site as a starting point for any gear hunt. For me Tribevine  As more users join the site gears stronger and stronger providing more detailed analysis and review of gear. Get yourselves on there!

The OutDoor show 2011 - Friedrichshafen, Germany

Well it's official, I am going to the OutDoor show in Germany (http://www.outdoor-show.com/od-en/visitors/news.php). For those of you who might not be aware of what this means, the OutDoor show is the biggest OutDoor gear industry conference worldwide (Nothing like the UK Outdoor show). All the biggest companies worldwide bring their latest innovations outdoor gear. It also hosts the Outdoor industry awards 2011 - one of the biggest competitions for the latest gear innovations. The guest list is closed and available only to trade customers and outdoor journalists. For the last 2 years I have looked longingly at the website and wished I could somehow get there. Well this year is different....
After chatting to Juho at www.tribevine.com , he asked if I would attend on behalf on Tribevine and (along with him) tour the show checking out new gear, and spreading the world about Tribevine. Still after excepting this once in a lifetime offer I didn't believe it until this morning when my tickets arrived!

I am so unbelieveably excited about this I can barely contain myself as I write this! This will be the biggest opportunity to check out the latest and future releases from the biggest outdoor gear companies in the world, as well as a chance to take in the environment, and be around fellow gear junkies. A big thanks to Juho at Tribevine for making a dream come true for me! Hopefully will be joining him for a few days climbing beforehand! I think the website summary of the event covers it perfectly;

Once a year, the outdoor community convenes under one roof.
It comes together at the OutDoor in Friedrichshafen – the point
where the individualists’ trails, the mainstream’s routes and the
specialists’ super tours converge. Be part of it when the branch
gets together to decide where it is going. And experience for
yourself what moves the market outside. On an exhibition area of 85,000 sqm, more than 850 exhibitors from
39 nations present all the relevant brands and a comprehensive range
of services unknown anywhere else in the world. This year’s main
theme – Business Turbo “Fundamental Needs” – demonstrates
how the branch can benefit even further from the boom in outdoor
pursuits. High-tech and design trends are presented by the OutDoor
INDUSTRY AWARD, which is being held for the fifth time.

Awesome gear, top gear professionals, famous OutDoor show parties, What an opportunity.....

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Stubai Atomy screwgate karabiner - first impressions

Another prize in the competition I won on Tribevine was a bunch of Stubai's Atomy karabiners. Since they arrived this morning I have been playing around with them, and I have to say my first impression is "solid". They feel great, one problem for me with lightweight screwgates has been that they don't feel strong enough. This karabiner is billed my Stubai as being one of the lightest screwgates out there. At 60g there are several lighter than it, the DMM Phantom, and Black Diamond vaporlock to name 2. However having held both of them neither feel as good as the Stubai Atomy. Stubai themselves have been a company I have never seen much of, they aren't widely available in the UK, however in Europe they are much bigger, and with products like the Atomy it's easy to say why. Stubai make the point that they could have made this karabiner lighter:

"We could have gone even lighter with an aluminium castor, but we couldn’t compromise on the top performance of brass"
The Atomy is also much stronger in tests that the lighter karabiners out there, making it a good choice for people like me who enjoy having lighter kit, but also enjoy the reassurance of strong kit! The Atomy has an anti snag nose, a smooth screwgate action, and is anodised red (which just looks cool!).

Technical data:

Breaking strain 26 kN / 8 kN / 10 kN
Gate clearance 16 mm
Exterior dimensions 101 x 54 mm
Weight 60 g
Tested to Norm CE EN 12275, EN 362, UIAA 121

Overall I like them a lot! They feel strong, but also lightweight. Not quite as light as my current Zero G Neutron karabiners, however they feel so much more solid, and I definitely think these will find their way onto my rack!

Petzl Ange Finesse - First impressions

I recently won a set of 5 Petzl Ange Finesse quickdraws (amongst other things) in a competition on Tribevine , they arrived this morning from Finland and I excitedly opened the package! The Ange Finesse is Petzl's latest innovation in climbing hardware. The Ange is Petzl's latest karabiner, and is combined with the Finesse;  a 10 mm wide Dyneema® sling. The Ange comes in 2 different sizes the Ange "S" (Small) and the Ange "L" (Large). The different karabiners can be combined with the Finesse to provide a quickdraw tailored to your needs as a climbing. For example:

Ange S on top and bottom, combined with the Finesse sling would provided minimalist weight

Ange S on top and Ange L on bottom with the Finesse sling would provide a good balance of weight and functionality, as the Ange L on the rope end would provide maximum gate opening size.

Ange L on top and bottom, combined with the Finesse sling would provide maximum usability with the large gate opening sizes.

However at a price of over £110 for a set of 5 these are not cheap! But are they worth the money? I guess time and a day at the crag will tell! One thing that strikes me about these quickdraws is that considering how light they are (63g each) they feel quite substantial. The gate opens very wide due to the single strand/post gate, and it has a gate opening size of 23mm (Ange S). The Ange Finesse has some other good features; A small groove in the karabiners keeps the sling in the correct position, Petzl's MonoFil Keylock ensures snag free clipping, and the rubber clip at the rope end ensures the karabiner stays in the correct position.

The Ange S (28g) is not the lightest karabiner out there, is it 2g heavier  than the DMM phantom (26g), 5g heavier than the Camo Nano (23g), however the clean nose, and snag free clipping does make it a smarter choice than both of the above.

Overall, the Ange Finesse seems to be very well designed and built, and I look forward to taking these out for a day to see if they live up the expectations! And definitely incredibly chuffed to have won these!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Petzl Meteor III ....what's all the fuss about?

The Petzl Meteor III is a helmet that seems to have become synomymous with hardcore climbers and mountaineering instructors, but why? What makes this helmet better that the others? And more importantly why is it £70; much more than other high end helmets. Well luckily a friend still hasn't picked his up from my house where it's sat for ages, so in order to discover why it's so good, I thought I would leave my trusty Grivel salamander in the locker and spend my 4 hour climbing session today wearing the Meteor.
The helmet itself is very ventilated; perhaps one of the reasons it's so popular with world class climbers and instructors. The helmet comes in one size (53-61cm),
and is easily adjusted via the clips at the back. Personally I found these buckles dig into the bag of my head a little bit when first putting the helmet on, however it's fine after that. The shape of the helmet is odd, it comes down very low on the forehead (lower than I would normally have my helmet). The thing with this helmet is that when you are wearing it you feel cool, you feel like a real pro. Perhaps it's because of the helmets reputation for being used by the pro's, or perhaps it's because is does actually look pretty cool when it's on. I did also find it keeps my head nice and cool. In the past I had found other Petzl helmets make my head sweat because of the daft foam they insist in padding out the front of the helmet with. The Meteor III however has foam inside more like cycle helmet foam, and at 235g it's incredibly light. I wore it the whole 4 hours with no problems, and barely noticed I had it on!

So in summary.....yeah its cool, and if you can pick it up on offer, definately worth getting, £70 is a bit steep, but it will keep your head nice and cool - a rarity in climbing helmets!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Mountain Equipment Sleeping bags - new purchase....

So the current focus of my time is finding a new winter down sleeping bag. I have wanted a decent one for a while, and I am determined not to spent another winter season shivering through with 3 season sleeping bags. Sometime ago I settled on a Mountain Equipment down bag, purely because I love Mountain Equipment kit and I am yet to be let down by a piece of gear I have bought from them. So based on this I have been looking into various options and currently have a choice of 4, below is a summary of my research into the bags:

ME Titan 850: Comfort limit: -12°C, Extreme: -31°C, £220 RRP, 1495g
ME Zero 750: Comfort limit: -13°C, Extreme: -32°C, £330 RRP, 1190g
ME Snowline: Comfort limit: -17°C, Extreme: -37°C, £370 RRP, 1510g
ME Dreamcatcher 850: Comfort limit: -10°C, Extreme: -29°C, £240, 1685g

So quite a selection and all around about the same (ish) ratings. Looking more closely, the fill weight of the Titan and Dreamcatcher are 850, whilst the Snowline and Zero are 750. The pack sizes are pretty much the same within a couple of cm, so not enough to make a difference. So why are the Zero 750 and the Snowline so much more. Well it comes down to features, the Zero is designed to be lightweight, and has a 300-400g weight saving on the other bags. For someone looking for maximum performance and minimum weight this would be ideal, but I have to ask myself is the 400g (max) weight saving worth the extra money, in my opinion not at this stage of my career, weight is always an issue but I can't justify £90 more than the Titan for a bag that is so similar in other specs. So in this case, the Zero 750 is out. Next looking closely at the Snowline, at £150 more than the Titan and the most expensive option of the group, it has  some additional features that justify that price. The Snowline features a drilite outer to help protect from moisture and snow. It also has higher temp ratings (slightly) than the others. At this stage I am not discounting the Snowline, as it does justify the extra money. The dreamcatcher however will be joining the Zero, as whilst it is the 2nd cheapest, its heaviest, with the lowest temp ratings, therefore Dreamcatcher is out. Then I come onto the Titan. At £220 it's the cheapest, with good ratings, and decent weight. Definately a contender.

So with 2 options that have got through the "interview phase", we come onto the next stage; best price. After lengthy research the best online prices are:

Snowline: £295, http://hillanddaleoutdoors.co.uk/productDetail.php?productId=240&brand=11

Titan 850: £178, http://hillanddaleoutdoors.co.uk/productDetail.php?productId=313&brand=11

Curiously both sleeping bags are cheapest on the same site: Hill and Dale Outdoors Ltd. Good discounts however. The question is; is the discount on the Snowline enough to justify buying it over the Titan? The price difference is £120, and the Snowline price is discounted by £75, and the Titan by £40. The weights are the same, the difference in comfort temp is 5°C, and extreme temp is 6°C, with the Snowline being the warmer bag. The Snowline does have the advantage of the Drilite outer protecting from the moisture of Snowholes, and damp bivi's. The fill power is less on the Snowline however, it uses goose down which provides 20-25% more insulation than duck down. The Snowline also has a higher ratio of down to feathers (Snowline: 93% down/ 7% feathers, Titan: 85% down/ 15% feathers), so is a much higher quality bag.

There is no doubt that the Snowline is the better bag, and for the extra £120 you get a lot. But it is an extra £120....the Titan is a good bag at a great price. I think I have a dilemma now!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

MLTE training books

The MLTE training books have been a stable fixture on my shelf for some time now. While doing my ML and SPA I found myself daily referring to both "Hillwalking" and "Rock Climbing" for answers to nagging questions in my head. "Winter Climbing" is an excellent reference point for winter mountaineering of all types. All 3 books are well written, and full of useful guides, diagrams and information. In my opinion these books are ideal for outdoor instructors working towards qualifications, or just climbers who want a good reference guide. The MLTE also produced a DVD with all the diagrams from "Hillwalking" in order for instructors to use them in training. Each book is broken down into logical chapters, and covers all the aspects of the MLTE mountain qualifications as shown below:

Hillwalking: Mountain Leader Summer (ML-S) and Walking Group Leader (WGL)
Rock Climbing: Single Pitch Award (SPA) and Mountain Instructor Award (MIA)
Winter Skills: Mountain Leader Winter (ML-W) and Mountain Instructor Certificate (MIC)

Great series of books and well worth investing in.

CAMP Air Cam failure - conclusion

A while back I wrote about a friend who had experienced a problem with the CAMP air cam - see below. Andy sent back his set of 5 cams to CAMP for testing. 2 of them failed the strength test and were replaced by CAMP. The 2 cams that failed the test had a batch number of cams that were recalled. These should therefore have not been on sale by Black's in the first place, as they (as all retailers of these cam's) were contacted to inform them that this batch was faulty and should not be sold. Pretty piss poor on Black's part if you ask me? So please if you have any CAMP air cam's, get them checked out, even if you just email CAMP with a batch number to check yours are ok, last thing you need if your cam to collapse half way up a route. Good service by CAMP, and good that they followed this through and tested all the cam's replacing were needed, appalling work by Blacks. Thanks to Andy for passing on this info.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Climbing games book - Paul Smith

From a climbing instructors point of view, when working with groups it is very good to be able to make the session as fun as possible. Incorporating games into a session can be a great way of warming up, coaching, and building on a "toolbox" of skills that the group can draw upon. When I first started leading sessions I knew a few games, but always found it useful to try and pickup more. One evening I googled "climbing games book" and found this. The book is excellent, and was exactly what I was looking for. Each game had different symbols indicating what the game focussed on (e.g. Balance, core etc). It also clearly explains each game. The book is also split into different sections for reference. I have passed this book around all the other instructors at work and  we all agree this book is a cracking piece of literature for an instructor. It is especially good for anyone going for an SPA assessment and looking for a few coaching games, I personally used games from this book on my assessment and the guide running the course was very impressed. The book can be picked up on Amazon.co.uk for £5.07 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=climbing+games&x=0&y=0), and is definately worth investing in!

An example of the books format and layout can be found here (pdf. Format)

Alpine dreaming....

Whilst I have spent a decent amount of time in other countries, I haven't actually headed to the alps. This September will mark the end of that. Looking like I will be heading to the alps, the objective (amongst others) will be Mont Blanc De Cheilon. At 3870m the Peak is a famous for being a great beginners peak. The route we are looking at is an alpine PD, including glacier crossing, basic snow and ice climbing, and some scrambling/rock climbing. Personally I am in no rush to "push my grade", and rush into this. I am looking forward to a nice, chilled few days with a great peak at the end. The peak has a lot going for it from my point of view, not least of which being that the area is German speaking, and I have a decent amount of German! I have been doing

some research into this, and have come up with 3 good points of interest for anyone looking at first time alpine routes in this area.

1) http://map.schweizmobil.ch/?lang=en ; this website gives free access to 1:25k mapping of the Swiss alps. Very useful, and can be printed out in pages.

2) http://www.aacuk.org.uk/membership.aspx the Austrian Alpine Club (UK branch) is worth joining. For £32 (if born 1986 or before, £42 if born after), you get discounted rates at huts, alpine rescue insurance, access to a Bergsteigeressen (Climbers meal), and many more benefits.!

 3) http://www.summitpost.org/mont-blanc-de-cheilon/150218 ; summitpost is awesome, and provides excellent information on routes/peaks etc

In the next few months I will produce a detailed equipment guide of what I'm taking (time to revive the cut away photoshopping methinks....)