Are we back where we started?

There’s always a hoohah when anybody recommends lightweight winter kit on the forums. The outdoor professionals are up in arms, the traditionalists are aghast, those new to winter walking are very confused.

If you take a wander around the museum at the new(ish) Glen Coe visitor centre you’ll see a set of crampons on display. They’re old and well used, the spikes are short, they’re of a flexible construction. These are what the pioneering routes on the Ben and in Glen Coe were done on. In my eyes they’re basically Kahtoola prototypes.

As gear developed the scope of the activity broadened and became more extreme. Rigid boots and crampons allowed us to easily hang by our front points, axes evolved quickly to avoid the purple knuckles of old with shaped shafts and picks specific to whatever grade or medium you were climbing on.

At some point there was a shift in perception and the standard of kit developed for winter climbing became the standard for winter walkers. So what we’ve got is walkers in the Lakes routinely carrying “T” rated axes and 12 point “C2” rated crampons. As good as these items are: pointless.

The advice folk are getting is pish, and it annoys the hell out of me.

I will hopefully be out this winter with a pair of T rated short shafted axes and 12 point Grivels with boots (!), but we’ll be looking for somewhere specific to play with those. The rest of the time it’ll be CAMP axes and Kahtoolas of either flavour. I won’t suffer, I won’t get myself into a “situation” because of the kit.  If I do that it’ll be lack of concentration, sneezing, running to get into the shot with the camera on timer…

That kit I’m (and many others I’m heartened to say) using is closer to what was being used 30 years ago than what is currently recommended in the shops and magazines. It’s now just better made and the materials are modern. So maybe we’re back where we started having taken a big long detour to avoid the queue of traffic at the roadworks, got lost in the sprawling rows of terraced houses, three point turned out of a cul-de-sac, found another road out and emerged back into the flow of traffic behind the big truck that was behind us before we decided to take the detour and waste all that fuel and energy. The truck is from overseas and has a slogan on the doors “Shipping good ideas and quality equipment world wide”. Obviously the pallet he dropped over here was smaller than the deliveries to most other countries with mountains.

Aye, it’s not for the likes of us.


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