TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2012

TNF Verto S4K GTX Boot Test Adventure

If there are two things that all the team at The North Face in the UK have in common it is a passion for the the outdoors and an equal passion about the gear they develop to use in it. It is not a new thing. Showing my age (again) I have experienced it in various forms since the very early days of TNF in the late 70s.The very earliest geodesic tents, their industry standard Gore-Tex clothing, their technical packs and so on. What is new is their recent venture into the world of technical mountaineering boots. To me it is only surprising that they haven't been there before.


Early in 2012 I got lucky (so to speak). Wearing my Gear Editor for Climb magazine hat I got a pair to test out in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco (highest summit Toubkal 4167m) in January/February. I was pretty impressed. I got lucky again when the folks at TNF asked Drew and I, from the Boot Room in Hathersage, and John Barnard and Hugh Dowling, from Castle Mountaineering Club in Sheffield, to join 14 other climbers from other UK retailers and their local clubs to test some new boots...in the Alps. Of course, after about a nanosecond of contemplation we had signed up.

The Verto S4K GTX is one of the new generation of light alpine boots. There are other brands about, but it seems to me to be the embodiment of all the learning from other designs over the years. It is very light but supportive and precise. It is Gore-Tex lined but not insulated so is best suited to general alpinism or Scottish winter stuff. It is less appropriate for big alpine faces where there might be a lot of standing about in high cold places belaying.

Drew stood in front of the err...Dru

Our test trip was based in Chamonix. The aim was to test to boots over as wide a range of terrain and conditions as possible. In the end we covered via ferrata, scrambling, abseiling, trekking without crampons on snow, ice and moraine, front pointing on 50° ice and, although beyond the design spec, front pointing on vertical ice.

It is fashionable to be sceptical and negative about things these days but even others in the group who said that they anticipated that the boots would be s**t after testing thought that they were great. Another interesting measure was that out of the 16 of us plus Gus and Paul from TNF all of whom put on the boots for the first time on the morning of the test, nobody had a single blister!

Inevitably they will not suit everybody, but they certainly are worth checking out. You can try them on in the Boot Room at our Hathersage store, order them online, or read about them in the current Hot Gear feature in Climb magazine. Personally I'm now looking forward to checking out the next in the series, the insulated version.

Thanks to Gus and Paul for organising the event and to local guide Luc Bellon and his friends for facilitating all the action.

When Tom isn't working at Outside Hathersage he can be found writing for Climb magazine, leading expeditions and has has just finished his first book, Judgement Days in a Mountaineering Life.

TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2012
By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Tom Richardson
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TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012

Riglos is heaven (until the next new place)

"Ooh I wonder where that famous something something de la Biceps route is'' I mumble to Pete on arrival into Riglos. A few seconds passed, my eyes adjusting to the new scenery. We had left a grim grey Manchester at four that morning, me nursing both a hangover and a stinking cold, my pupils sore, my body car seat shaped. "Oh...right...eh...gosh, eh maybe that's it up there" I point upwards, my jaw hits the road.

Fiesta de los Biceps, to name it correctly, has got to be one of the most famous climbs in Spain, if not in Europe. A 250m chalky white snake splits the beautiful Visera tower into two, standing proud like a giant in the soft evening glow over the small village below. Remarkably, as if by magic I was feeling better. "Right Pete, let's go and do it now". It probably wasn't a good idea. We didn't in the end, but I couldn't help feeling like an excitable puppy, tail wagging, tongue hanging out, tripping over legs.

A few days later Pete shouts up to me "I've never...EVER...climbed such a steep field of potatoes in all my climbing life". At the time, I'm hanging off Fiesta's top belay, having just finished the last crux pitch with a massive grin on my face, our skinny ropes swaying around my legs into the empty void below. "Don't fall off Pete, you're being filmed. No pressure", as I lamely attempt to use my camera and belay at the same time. "Have fun, it just keeps coming!!" And it does. Steep jug after steep jug, each pitch more overhanging and thinner than the last, Fiesta has to be one of the most entertaining, obscene, exhilarating climbs I have done in a long time. A must for any fit multi pitch enthusiast with a good head for heights!

The climbing in Riglos is crazy. As famously described, it is like hanging around on an overhanging potato field. We did four big routes, two up the Pison (the biggest left tower) and two up the Visera (the biggest right wall). Each route swings from bucket to bucket, knee bar to knee bar, and has such spooky exposure and spaced bolts that one never gets too relaxed or comfortable. Add plenty of sun, red wine and Spanish men = Alex Hughes's idea of heaven. Will I go back - almost certainly. Returning home to wonderful Sheffield, the lingering cold has gone, the sun has arrived and its all about the Peak limestone now. Thanks to Pete B for being an awesome partner, we made a great team. Adios, see you in the rock room x

Alex works in the Rock Room at Outside Hathersage

TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012
By Alex Hughes
Climbing Gear Sales

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Alex Hughes
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FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012

The Yorkshire Relish

By the time I had arrived at Ravenstonedale (in the North-East corner of the Howgill Fells) I was still being indecisive. Do the 50-mile walk to Kettlewell over a couple of days and take camping gear, or go lightweight and do it in one push?

I settled on the second option and set off in the late afternoon expecting a long night. What I did not expect was the snowstorm two hours later on the top of the Howgills. Trainers were hardly appropriate footwear for such cold and slippery conditions, but thankfully my waterproof socks were. Plastered in snow and sliding all over the place I momentarily thought of doing the sensible thing and turning back. The moment passed and I continued south to beyond Sedbergh.

The stars gradually appeared, the temperature plummeted, and a thin veneer of frost /ice formed on the ground and me. On my way to Whernside a high level route above Dentdale proved to be tough going, but I was grateful for the relatively short night. The eastern horizon began to lighten, starts faded away, a crescent moon emerged and distant hills took shape. On Ingleborough the early morning sun gave welcome warmth.

This is a great time to be walking on these hills avoiding the usual hordes of Three Peaks challengers. Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Pen-y-Ghent, Plover Hill, Arncliffe (the original ‘Emmerdale’) and finally Kettlewell completed a fine walk. Now all I had to do was get back to the car! From Kettlewell I caught a bus to Skipton, had a Big Breakfast in Morrison’s, got the fantastically scenic train (via the celebrated Ribblehead Viaduct) to Kirkby Stephen, walked three miles back to Ravenstonedale (pronounced locally as Russendal) and drove 140 miles back home in time for dinner at 8.30.

Chris is Outside's 'Bookman'

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012
By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
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Sunny Scotland

Last week I went up to Scotland for a long weekend with my wife and friends, with the weather as wet and windy in the Peak as it was we made the right call! The weather in Scotland was still, sunny and warm. While we were there we made to most of the cloud free hills and headed up Ben Lui from Glen Lochy. Despite the nice weather the snow was down to around 600 meters and with 'Widget', our friends little Jack Russell, it made it hard work for him!

Ben Lui

As we approached the top of Ben Lui and the snow was knee deep in places which made it hard going, however on the summit there was not breath of wind and the views were spectacular. After wrapping the dog up in a jacket to warm him while we ate our lunch we descended back to the Col and popped up Beinn a' Chleibh before heading back through the trees to Glen Lochy.

Rob is the Manager of Outside Hathersage

By Rob Turnbull
Managing Director

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Rob Turnbull
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