Norway's fast approaching, something like two weeks as my Girlfriend keeps pointing out! I'm in ok physical shape, not where iv been and certainly not where I would of liked to have been but hey ho! I have dusted off some old training books and invested in Steve House/ Scott Johnstons new book "Training for the new alpinism" . I got it with a nice bit of discount rom the great guys and girls at Alpkit (now sold out I believe), its a really impressive book, super high quality with great diagrams and photos. One of the greatest features are the interspersed essays from the likes of Steve himself and Ueli, it gives a more real feeling, backs up theory with experience and makes it a more realistic bedtime read!
I'm currently doing three gym sessions a week focusing on strength and flexibility, cardio is swimming, work, cycling, whatever I can get my hands on at the moment. I'm going to give this text a good go and come up with some targets and training plans, I will post plans and ideas as I go along with a running review of the text. If you've been thinking about it, id say get it!
The best part of my job by far in the rope access and training world is getting to offer some real technical advice for off the wall ideas. I was recently contacted by a chap from Kent who after leaving the military established an outreach programme taking young disadvantaged children out on adventures. The following sentence had me hooked: "so I'm thinking about a portaledge for camping in the trees...well is say thinking, I mean making" this was my kind of guy! Its still work in progress but were looking into trawler netting and or hammocks coupled with a sound belay system that would safeguard everyone throughout the night. Hoping for a visit if I can fit it in.
Hoping to get a video up soon and go into depth a bit about some of the kit choices, but here's a couple of photos for now. Some of the kits tried and tested for me like my DMM Super Couloir harness and some its new for the trip like the Petzl Laser speed and speed light ice screws. Specialist Training have provided us with some new DMM Migrant 8.2mm half ropes for the trip to replace some old Mammut half ropes I was using. The ice is looking thin at the moment, temperatures are now consistently bellow freezing so hopefully it will thicken up by Feb but just in case I'm taking some rock gear, half set of DMM Wallnuts, DMM 4CUs and a couple of Camp pitons. Keep your eyes open for the video post soon and some tech tips on here or my YouTube channel.
Here is my clothing system for an Ice Climbing trip to Rjukan in Norway. For those that don't know Rjukan is cold, with fairly little wind or rain. Routes range from single pitch roadside ice falls to huge 9+ pitch valley side icefalls.
Base layers, when its cold but I'm remaining fairly active I like to couple a heavier base layer bottom with a midweight top. I will be using Patagonia Capeline Pro 4 bottoms and a 3 top. I travel with two full sets and if I know I will be going on a long walk in I take both base layers or start the day off with a T-shirt. I swap this once ready to climb to remove any sweat build up.
I almost exclusively wear and trust Smartwool and Teko socks, both do a heavy weight mountain sock which does exactly what it says on the tin. I will have a fresh pair for every day, you simply cant put a price on toasty and fresh feet and yes I know how much socks are these days!
Mid layers are always hard to get right, too warm, too cold. Ive been using a Patagonia R1 for years as my go to mid layer and will also be taking an R1 hoody on this trip, it gives me the extra option of pulling it up as a balaclava.
Insulation is easy when you've tried a light weight Primaloft based smock such as the Patagonia Nanopuff. This will stay on after the walk in pretty much all day under my jacket. Its warm but not too warm, low volume and light.
Over all that lot I will wear Patagonia Knifeblade jacket and pants. Softshell is the best for the type of conditions experienced in Rjukan. Being tall I always opt for a sallopete or brace style pant. I have used the Knifeblade set for about 12 months so far and its held up to travelling, alpine abuse and a few UK trips.
Hands and head, I like a thin skull cap type hat, I've been using a Rab one at the moment coupled with a Buff, this combo seems to hold out all but the worst weather and is super versatile. On my hands I have a pair of Black Diamond Enforcer gloves which I'm yet to use. Last trip I used a pair of Mountain Equipment Randonee gloves. Any waterproof glove with a leather palm and Primaloft will suffice, in my opinion BD are making the best gloves out there at the moment. Whilst climbing I will swap out for a pair of Petzl Cordex Plus gloves which need no introduction (see my previous review).
On top of all that for belays I like a nice snug down jacket or thicker Primaloft jacket, for multi pitch belays I will carry a Patagonia Nanopuff vest to throw on over everything. This is also my go to insulation for the UK.
Lastly I have swapped my old trusty La Sportiva Nepals for a new pair of Scarpa Phantom Guide boots. I will give these a write up on the trip.
Well that's about it, a few other odds and bits like trusty Dachstein mitts in the bottom of my bag. Theres a lot of kit out there, I just happen to be fortunate enough to be on the Patagonia Pro Scheme but I fully trust Black Diamond, Rab and Mountain Equipment kit. My Girlfriend is relatively new to this and is on a super budget, she plans on a guest blog post closer to our trip outlining some of the budget gear and tips she's using on this trip. I will be following this up in the next few days with a blog on equipment.
I've been using the Petzl Cordex Plus glove since 2009, (the dirty pair in the photo), 6 years of mountaineering, rope access and general abuse. I'm convinced these are one of the best general purpose gloves out there and here's why...
Fit: the fit is great, the sizing is very true, I'm typically an XL in gloves but almost always have to put up with shorter fingers. The fingers are in proper proportion to the hand size which is a rarity. The stretch panels across the knuckles let you flex and work with your hands without getting tight backs or achy hands fighting the leather all the time whilst gripping a rope.
Materials: the gloves are described as a medium weight belay and rappel glove, made of goats skin leather with stretch nylon panels and a good neoprene style cuff with Velcro closure. I have thrown some abuse at these gloves, I wear them for ice climbing, mountaineering, belaying, rope access, confined space work and DIY to name a few. Its only in the last month that I have started to go through a couple of the finger tips. My only comment, and it may just be my hand size but the stretch panels are directly across my knuckles. I have no protection if I catch, scuff or strike my knuckles, however this is a small price to pay for such dexterity. The leather is padded on the palm and double layered in high stress areas.
Features: one of the best features of this glove is the carabiner hole, this is so useful, I almost permanently keep them on a small snap gate, even when not working in a harness, its just so convenient. The Velcro cuff is what really sets these apart from Chamonix bin men gloves and truck driver style work gloves. The cuff can be secured nice and snug and prevent any dirt, snow or ice from dropping into your gloves, the stretch properties of the neoprene cuff let you get a good fit without worrying about circulation or discomfort.
Overall: excellent gloves, I wear them for almost everything, I've just got a nice new pair provided by Specialist Training Consultants Ltd ready for a Norway trip in Feb where I will use them as a general climbing glove. It's worth getting a lump of G-wax or similar waterproofing for leather boots and working it in if your going anywhere damp or wet. They retail around £40, mine lasted for 6 years, as far as gear goes it's one of the best investments I've ever made!
After my last trip to Norway back in 2007 I vowed never to under finance or undervalue nutrition as an aspect of planning. During my 07 trip my daily diet consisted of:
Breakfast, quarter of a tin of fruit, half a berocca.
Lunch, 2 chocolate bars
Dinner, pasta tuna
All in all way under what is needed for 7 days solid of climbing in temperatures as low as -15c out of the wind!
Since those scrounged student days I have learnt a lot on the value of food and in particular where it comes from. Although we are still planning on food to take with us we have settled on the Trek range of bars from natural Balance Foods. You may of heard of them with their amazing Nakd bars which are available in most supermarkets. We have chosen their Trek range, bars and flapjacks which have added protein content.
The nutritional value is very good as well as the ingredients being minimal, they are also raw and made in the UK. As well as the standard Trek bar we will also be taking Trek flapjacks.
I am lucky enough to be heading out to Rjukan in Norway for 7 days at the start of February. At the moment every spare second is being spent preparing and training for it. I will be heading out with my Girlfriend, who, other than a summer alpine trip has no experience of ice or snow. As well as being apprehensive of the task in hand I am also extremely excited both by sharing such and experience with someone so special but also the opportunity for me to teach and develop an individual in such an amazing and extreme environment.
As the trip approaches I will be posting about the preparation and the journey I'm on.
Those of you who followed my previous blog will know it dried up some time ago. Since then I have been on many trips, adventures and expeditions with so many great people. Due to my own short sightedness I managed to not blog, before during or after.
2015 is a new year and significant for me, as well as making some work and life changes I'm going to blog again. My blog will have two main themes, one being adventure, mainly preparation, equipment and diary entries. The second theme will be reflection of my practice as an educator, during September 2014 I begun a two year part time Post Graduate Certificate in Education with the University of Brighton. Reflection forms a major part of the study so I will also use the blog for that as well.
I hope you enjoy it and any feedback would be great.
Thanks for checking out my website, my name is Tom Gwilliam an adventurer and educator. Here you will find out about my trips, training, equipment and reflection.