Monday, 14 April 2014

Learning The Ropes

In December Cammy and I had an abortive attempt to break into winter climbing, which ended in an epic at the Cairngorms. Unfortunately due to the abysmal conditions we were unable to climb, instead the snow and ice that had formed had melted over night and we thought it unethical to proceed with our climbing. Instead of climbing the Fiacall Ridge we detoured and had a little fun traversing a slush slope in Coire an Lochain before heading along the Cairngorm Plateau. The wind was unbelievable, gusts at the top were measured to be in excess of 114mph, enough to make every step on the remaining slush a question mark event as to whether you might be blown over.

We loved it.

The plateau was ours, not a sole in sight, a few ptarmigans nestled together at one point, until the wind blew them asunder flinging birds at us in one last desperate attempt to drive us back before we made our final push to summit of Cairngorm. On the way back down, buzzing from the adrenaline, drenched, we passed the station for the funicular railway. Inside sat warm, smiley people drinking hot chocolate wondering why on earth these sodden, bedraggled men were still ploughing on. Really having left our wallets behind we weren't able to afford the fare and had no choice. What a great day, a true expression of the moods mountainous areas can take.

You would have thought that in these situations any sensible being would have been wearing a nice gore-tex jacket, and they were, Cammy was. I was braving the day, without a choice, in the Rab Exodus Softshell Jacket.

This jacket is an unparalleled bit of kit, water-resistant it held the rain off until we left the car park in the morning. It breathed out and in from there on all the way to the top and I was drenched. This is however expected, it being a soft shell and all. Do I regret wearing it? Well no, not really, Cammy in his goretex jacket was as wet as me, the rain was blown in through every orifice of the jacket. Perspiration was also a large factor due to the effort that was needed to stay vertically orientated and make onward progress, dodging bullet-like ptarmigans. So at the end, stripping off in the car park neither of us seemed dry anywhere, true Scottish weather.

One thing the Exodus did do rather better was keep the wind out. Gusts of 114mph may have been the case on the summit, however in the saddles between summits there wind was constant, rushing from the valley floor it sounded like a jet, we crawled through these areas almost on our hands and knees. Yet through all this, I did not feel the heat and morale sapping effects of wind chill.

I feel it is a good jacket and have since used it for climbing in snow and on rock, the large chest pockets are good for carrying maps and snacks. There are no unnecessary features such as taped seams and waterproof zips as you find on some soft shells and the hood fits well over a helmet too. The only drawback is the left arm zip pocket. It moves annoyingly with the weight of a phone, so I put my compass in it, this worked well until I found my compass dangling by my wrist. This pocket tends to open with movement, especially while climbing, with or without something in it. Otherwise an awesome jacket, especially if you, like me, know that putting effort into moving fast is better for warmth than being dry with a fleece.

Traversing the slush slope practicing rope techniques

The author at the summit in the Exodus Jacket

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