Thursday, 16 May 2013

Petzl Helmet Review

I am in a position of having used all 3 of the adult mens petzl climbing helmets. These are the Sirocco, Metero III+ and Elios. They also make a womens helmet, the Elia, and a childrens helmet, the Picchu.
Metero III+: My first petzl helmet was the Metero III+. It is made from expanded polysetser allowing it to be very light (235g!) and well ventilated. Despite its lightweight feel it is quite hard wearing. The helmet is fully adjustable, and after a bit of practice you can even do it with one hand. This type of helmet is abit different from a conventional climbing helmet. The expanded polyester is designed to absorb impact, and not deform then rebound like a normal plastic lid.
Trad in the Meteor III+ (Photo Credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
This means that if you were to get hit my a falling rock it is more likely to break. However, like a bike helmet, if you hit your own head on a rock then it does a much better job than a conventional helmet. This might seem a bit hard to get your head around at first glance. Depending on your fixed point of reference then either the rock or the head can be moving in either situation, but does it work. I bought this helmet as I wanted something that would be able to withstand a side impact, which the meteor III+ does very well. Before this helmet I owned a Grivel Airtech, but it really didn't fit as nicely or cover as much of my head as the Meteor. The Metero features easy to use headlamp attachments. The Meteor is a very good trad or sport climbing helmet. This gets a harry rating of 1 thumb up.
New Elios: I won a new Petzl Elios helmet at the STS in 2012 and since winning it I have used it more than any other helmet I own. It features an ABS shell with a polystyrene liner, protecting both against falling rocks and falling heads. The fitting system is pretty much the same as that of the Meteor III+ and again is easy to adjust.
Elios at Newtyle (Photo Credit: Dom Scott)
The Elios also features headlamp attachments. There are a series of vents down either side of the helmet which can be closed if it is really cold or windy. At 330g (size 2) the Elios isn't exactly heavy either. The Elios feels more durable than the Meteor and is my main helmet for winter climbing and general cragging. The Elios is an all round helmet for the all round climber. This gets a Harry rating of 2 thumbs up.
Sirocco: The new Sirocco from Petzl is a super lightweight climbing helmet, that comes only in orange. It weighs in at a measly 165g and is made from a new expanded polypropelene. I used the Sirocco at the final round of the STS at Glenmore Lodge as a Petzl rep. brought it with him and I asked to borrow it for the final. The helmets lightness isn't just it the special foam used. A new adjustment system has been made for the Sirocco which doesn't use the plastic clips found on other helmets but just relies on some small buckles. This means it is much harder to adjust, but this just shows Petzls dedication to make a super light helmet. The new foam has allowed Petzl to remove the plastic outer found on their other fully foam helmet, the Metero, which has reduced its weight but means you have to have it in orange with foam effect.
Sirocco at the STS (Photo credit:

There are headlamp attachments points, but there are only two unlike the four found on other Petzl helmets. The chin strap has a magnet inside the closing buckle. This is claimed to make it easier to close. I have never had any problem doing up a helmet and seeing as Petzl seemed to have abandoned ergonomics in favour of lightness for the rest of the helmet I think this is a little unnecessary. The Sirocco bends quite a lot when you press on the sides. The Petzl rep. who first showed me the helmet assured me it had been designed like this. The Sirocco is a nice concept and after they have worked out how to put some sort of design on the foam it will be even better, but I don't really see where it fits into my personal climbing. It is very light so it would be good as a competition helmet but if there was a large danger of falling rocks I think I'd rather something a bit more durable. This gets a Harry rating of 1 thumb up and 1 thumb down.

All three helmets have their place in climbing but from my personal all-round British perspectve the Elios is ideal. All of these helmets are available from

Montane Cobra 25 review

I have recently received a Montane Cobra 25 rucksack from

Overview: The Cobra is a 25 litre, lightweight, all round mountain day pack with a single, large, zip closed main compartment and three smaller zipped pockets; one inside and the other two on the outside. There are also two stretchy side pockets, double side compression straps, ice axe/walking pole holders and a number of loops and extra handles.

Looks: The first thing you will notice with any piece of gear is how it looks. Nobody wants their new piece of kit looking like it was made in a shed and luckily the Cobra doesn't. It has a very clean rounded outline with no protruding flaps or bulges, something I really like. The straps also neatly tuck away. The overall look is pretty sleek. Mine is in a grey colour called "Shadow" and I think the contrast with the orange back panel and straps is pleasing to the eye.

Fabrics: The fabric which a rucksack is made from is probably its most important aspect. There are 3 major types of fabrics used in its construction. The main body of the pack is made from a very tough and water resistant nylon. This beads well in rain, and probably means that in the majority of situations you wont require a rain cover (I haven't at least in this fine British summer). The back panel is made from a soft fabric which is claimed to be non-abrasive on waterproof clothing. The side pockets of the pack are made from a stretchy fabric allowing you to squeeze that water bottle in even if you completely stuff the main compartment. All of these fabrics have a nice quality touch.

Build Quality: A mountain rucksack needs to be able to withstand lots of abuse whilst full of kit. The last thing you want to worry about is dropping the contents of your rucksack down an ice route in a storm because you yanked on the zip with a bit too much zeal while trying to get your head torch out. The Cobra rucksack appears to have all its major attachment points sewed on well making a durable and reliable outer, and the zips are solid and easy to handle even while wearing gloves.

Ice axe/walking pole holders: There is a technical holding system on the sack which allows two axes or walking poles to be attached and kept out of the way of limbs.I have tested this function with my Petzl Nomics and it seems to hold them securely enough (it feels more secure if the adze and hammer are fitted).

Chest and waist straps: Most lightweight rucksacks I have seen do not have very comfortable hip belts, but the Cobra does. The padding isn't particularly thick but it is wide, distributing the weight of the pack over a large surface area. The hip belt also features a gear loop and a zipped pocket which is useful. The chest strap is made of an elastic strap with a new type of clip at one end which I hadn't seen before. The clip, being at one end, prevents any hard plastic digging into your chest. I was a bit dubious of this clip to begin with, but after abit of thought and use, I think it is actually good. There are less moving (bending) parts than in a conventional closing system so should be less likely to break. In addition to this, as the shoulder strap stays largely in one place all the time, it is easier to clip and un-clip with one hand. The clip is nicely designed which allows it to be used easily with a gloved hand, which can sometimes be hard with a conventional system.

Comfort: I have used the pack everyday since getting it and it has worked well in all roles. It sits very nicely on my back and the padding makes carrying loads easy. The sack is easy to adjust and largely stays in one place even during more high tempo activities.

Other: The inside zipped pocket has a little hook which you could attach your keys to. There is an internal hydration bladder pouch with a hole in the lid and a slot to hold the hose on the shoulder strap. There is a large heavy duty loop on the back of the sack which Montane claim is to allow you to help your partner on scrambles. It can also be used to carry the sack if it is being used as hand luggage.

Conclusion: I do like this bag, however it is hard to define its main use, and therefore isn't perfect for anything. Its got some features which aren't really needed for a lightweight bag, like waist belt gear loops and pockets, but they are nice to have. It also isn't really big enough for extended multi-day expeditions, although you'd probably be OK for the odd nights bivying (I'm sure someone from UKC will tell me otherwise though). This bag is truly a jack of all trades but a master of none. I give this 1 tumb up, but if you want a do it all rucksack which isn't really very heavy at all then you will struggle to do better.
It is available at with 10% off!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Pete is a common name

I have quite a lot to update you on. Since my last post I have been all over the place. I have climbed in Yorkshire, The Lakes, Wales and Stirlingshire.
I went down to Yorkshire on the 7th and took Anne Peale with me. She has no exams as she is a masters student and was psyched to climb.
Si's Arete (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)
On Wednesday we went to Almscliff. Here I led Z Climb (VS) and Dolphinian (E1). I also did a bit of bouldering. I got quite close to Teaspoon Variation (font 7b-ish) and Si's Arete (font 7a). On both of these problems I can link up to doing the final move, which is a bit annoying. That evening we drove to The Lake District.
We stayed with friends of mine, Pete Holder and Pete Hill. On Thursday we went to the newly re-bolted "The Works" near Coniston. I climbed Stein Pull (M6), the only route on the industrial sector which I hadn't done before. I then belayed Anne and Pete (Hill) up it. The second cave at the works, just to the left of the main cave, now has a route bolted in it. It hadn't seen a first ascent but Pete thought the guy who bolted it would be fine with us trying it. Pete sent me up it so that I didn't blow the onsight by watching him. I managed to flash the route up to the end of the steepest section where I really struggled to get into the next hold. After falling off I managed to find a small intermediate which I could use to allow me to get my feet onto the left wall. I then managed to rip the stein pull on the last move before the lower off, but I managed to do it after getting back on again by being very careful.
Lakes Ethics
The new cave
Next it was Pete's (Holder) turn but he fell off at the same place I did before climbing the last few moves to the lower off. I fell off again at the same place on my second attempt after not getting a good enough hook on the intermediate. Anne and Pete (Hill) also gave the route a go. Pete (Holder) managed to climb the route clean on his second attempt of the day. He has called the route "Lakes Ethics" in reference to the recent bolt chopping and given it the grade M9+. I had one more go and managed to climb cleanly to the very last hold before my axe ripped through the very small thin stein pull. We all moved onto the second  were Pete and I attempted Guardian of the Underworld (M12) and Anne and Pete (Hill) attempted Bloodline (M10).
Pete in the bat hang rest on Guardian
That evening, after a quick check of the weather, Anne and I decided to go down to Wales. Our plan was to climb in the slate quarries around Llanberis as they may just about be dry, and if not there is a small drytooling venue.
The morning brought about a lot of rain so after a breakfast in Pete's Eats, and a look round V12 and Joe Browns, we went to the Dinorwig slate quarries to find the drytooling at Never Never Land. After getting a bit lost we finally found it. Everything was very wet and some lines resembled waterfalls but luckily others were reasonably dry. I warmed up on Monkey Bar Kid (M6+) before climbing The Deerhunter (M7) and the The Ibex Direct (M8). I thought The Deerhunter was particularly good with some fun stein pull moves at the top. I decided against trying the harder line of Bambi (M9+) as there was a huge runout at the top and I couldn't see any holds. I would really like to visit here again, hopefully with someone that has beta on the harder routes. I wonder if I could flash everything in the entire quarry?
The Ibex wall at Never Never Land

Ibex Direct (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)

Monkey Bar Kid (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)
I met up with Helena Robinson in Pete's Eats for a drink. She recommended going to the Great Orme near Llanludlo on the way back to Yorkshire. The Orme is a really cool place to climb with routes starting directly above the road, which you unfortunately have to pay a toll to drive on. I only completed one route, Firefly (E3), despite attempts on Captain Fingers (F7b) and Excursion Direct (F6c+). I backed off Excursion Direct as I didn't bring any nuts for the top of the route, which it shares with a trad route, and Captain Fingers felt quite hard.
The Orme (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)

Captain Fingers (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)
I took Saturday off to clean the car and drive back up to Edinburgh but I was back on it today with a trip to Wolfcrag Quarry and Cambusbarron, both near Stirling. I had wanted to climb sport, but it looked wet, and my second choice was tooling, but I couldn't find a partner.  I climbed a number of boulder problems at Wolfcrag including Edges (font 6C+), Oval Pocket (font 6C) and Side Pull (font 6C+). I decided to see how dry Cambusbarron was on the way past. I climbed here last year and nearly on-sighted my first E4, but fell off thanks to loose rock whilst pulling onto the top of the crag. I was pleasantly surprised how dry it all was seeing as it was under the trees. I had a go at Spanking the Monkey (font 7a). This problem takes a slabby arete on a very much featureless boulder. It requires pure friction climbing and unfortunately the moss of the boulder was still damp, despite the rock being dry, leading to me repeatedly falling off after the first couple of moves. This is definitely one to come back to though. I had a go at the left hand side of the arete of Spanking the Monkey, Monkey Spanking (font 7b). It felt very hard and I could barely get off the ground, but again one to come back to. I climbed a boulder problem called Treehugging (font 3) in my trainers on my way back to the car.
Wolf Crag

Spank the Monkey boulder at Cambusbarron

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Rocks not all that bad

I like all forms of climbing but I do tend to enjoy winter climbing a lot more. The winter season is over now, for me anyway, so I have moved onto rock. Rock days out tend to end with me feeling abit disapointed without climbing as hard as I think im capable of which isnt a particularly nice feeling.
Since my exams finished on Friday I have managed to get 3 nice days out on rock, visiting 7 different crags and climbing lots of routes and problems. These, especially sunday, have to rank among any winter day Ive had.
Saturday saw Sinclair Cooper and I going to Northumberland. We met Roberty Taylor, Claire Holland, Anne Peale and Suzy Howat there too. We began the day at Kyloe Crag. It was a lovely day and the crag was very busy as a consequence. I didn't climb anything particulalry spectacular, although I did solo 3 nice HVS's, including Devils Edge. Sinclair and I decided we were having bait of a failure of a day here so we should move to another crag. Neither of us had been to Ravens Crag before, despite it being directly below Bowden Doors. We had abit of an explore around but everything was very sandy and dirty so we walked up the hill to Bowden Doors. We didn't manage to do very much here despite trying quite hard on a problem in the cave area.

On Sunday I was to climb with Anne and Sinclair. The plan was to head to Dunkeld for some sport but the weather seemed to be favouring Northumberland again. We went to Hepburn, another crag none of us had been to before. On the way there we drove down a really fun road which I even managed to get a little bit of air on. I didn't mean to ofcourse but the hill was slightly more pointy than I expected. Hepburn feels alot more gritty than other county crags, possibly due to its slightly more southern position. I havent visted enough crags to get a good idea of the stratigraphy yet. We spent a long time trying problems on a steep boulder, but none of us managed to tick them. I would usually be able to climb font6b within the first 5 attempts but not today apparently.
(Photo Credit: Anne Peale)

(Photo Credit: Anne Peale)

Little Pixies, Back Bowden (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)

We were all getting a little annoyed with oursleves so we went to Back Bowden. Here Anne managed to climb her first font 7a, Under the Spell. Im not trying to take anything away from here fine effort but its probably very soft for font 7a. We finished off the day bouldering around in our trainers. On the way back to the car we saw some nice lenticular clouds.
Bouldering in trainers (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)
Cool clouds at Back Bowden
 The weather was so nice I thought it would be a shame to just go home so we went to Lindisfarne instead. It was supposed to be high tide a 22:55 so we had about 2 hours to explore the island. We took in the main attraction sof the castle, it was locked though, and the priory before heading back to the car as the tide was starting to get up to the road. This was quite a perfect cragging day for me. Good friends, good climbing, good weather and then something abit different to finish the day. 
Lindisfarne Castle at Dusk (Photo Credit: Anne Peale)

Yesterday I went climbing in the central belt with Philip Curry. We started the day at Rosyth. Philip hasn't climbed much outside before so I led everything. I began with climbing The Waullie, a route I haven't done in a long time, then Sickle and Chemical Warfare, which are new to me. After these we relocated to Aberdour. The crag was quite quiet when we arrived but began to fill up later. We climbed Asinine, Toerag Wall Direct Start, Hallelujah Wall and Slack Alice. It was nice to chat with all the other climbers here as I usually only climb at Aberdour in the rain so just have it to myself. It was nice to climb with Philip too. We managed to do everything very efficiently and quickly.
Slack Alice at Aberdour (Photo Credit: Philip Curry)

Sorry about the essay. This should be 3 seperate posts really.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Scarpa Vapour V Review

I recently acquired a pair of Scarpa Vapour Velcro rock shoes from to test, and here are my thoughts on them.
My previous rock shoes were Scarpa Vapour Laces which I really liked. The velcros are slightly more down turned than the laces and with virbram XS Grip 2 rubber, instead of XS Edge. XS Grip 2 is supposed to be stickier than XS Edge, but not as have a good range of Scarpa Footwear which can be viewed here.
I generally dislike velcro shoes. They never seem to fit right so I prefer laces for extra fitting precision they offer.
I have managed to test these out quite a bit now; on sticky Northumberland sandstone, super polished inner city Dolerite bouldering and steep indoor climbing. I'm glad to report that they are very good indeed.
Scarpa shoes generally fit me very well so if your a Scarpa person, like myself, I can recommend giving them a go. Ill give you a run down list of what I think of them.
Comfort: Yes they are comfortable. I got them to fit quite tight but I dont have to remove them straight after climbing a route, and can easily walk round from the top of the crag or between problems.
Hooking: A major problem I have with shoes, especially the velcro variety, is that they slip off when I try and heel hook in them. I'm very glad to say that I have finally found a shoe that sticks to my heels as well as it sticks to the rock.They also have some rubber over the toe which aids in toe hooking.
Heel Hooking (Photo Credit:Anne Peale)
Rubber: The new vibram XS Grip 2 rubber does seem very good at sticking to everything, even polished little nubins that its all too easy to just gloss off.
Toe Jamming (Photo Credit:Anne Peale)
Precision/Feel: I think these pretty much describe the same thing. I can feel holds really well through my shoes, allowing me to use the best part of said hold easily.
Sizing: In my experience Scarpa rock shoes sizes are the same as street shoes. If you take a 46 street shoes, like me, you will want to drop a couple of sizes for a rock shoes. I therefore go for a 43 in rock shoes.
Edging/Smearing: These shoes seem to edge just about as well as they smear. The sticky rubber feels secure on smears and the slightly down turned profile gives the shoe some nice stiffness on edges. 
Smearing (Photo Credit:Anne Peale)
Durability: I haven't had these long enough to really say how durable they are but my vapour laces have lasted well. I have also used the original XS Grip on my instincts and that has lasted well so I have high hopes for XS Grip 2.
Overall: I really like these. They are much better than I was expecting them to be. I give these 1 thumb up.
You can buy Scarpa Vapour Laces from with 10% off1