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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2017

Mentok Kangri A Peak in the Land of Passes

Ladakh is a region of northern India that forms the borderland with Pakistan and China/Tibet. In the distant past it was called “Little Tibet” with what we now know as Tibet being “Greater Tibet”. The name Ladakh means The Land of Passes, and it is well named. Politically, it is an area in a state of constant alertness because the never-ending conflicts in Kashmir and the Karakoram border with both China and Pakistan are also not far away.

After acclimatising and sightseeing in the capital Leh (3500m) and visiting some of the areas unspoiled Buddhist monasteries, we set off into the heart of this remote area. It is only inhabited during the summer by nomadic herders and by rare animals such as wolf and kiang (wild ass) year-round. In this area porters are not used to carry gear but rather ponies or mules. They cope brilliantly with the conditions, whether it is altitude, rocky terrain or river crossings. We coped less well than all of them.

Our mules crossing the Yalung Naula Pass (5400m)

After a week of inspirational trekking crossing many high passes and camping in remote valleys, we reached the Yalung Naula Pass (5400m) where we got our first views of the glowing azure blue, 20-kilometre long lake Tso Morari, whose colour famously changes with the colour of the sky and whose surface frequently reflects the image of one of the higher peaks in the area, Lungser Kangri (6600m). These days, sadly, the peak is closed to climbers and trekkers due to its proximity to the Chinese border.

Our goals were on the opposite side of the lake, the 6000m+ summits of Mentok Kangri that provide steep snow/ice slopes that lead to an easier sinuous ridge linking the summits of Mentok Kangri 1, 2 and 3. We made a high camp at 5300m at the only water source on the mountain this year. We were alone there for 3 nights.

Mentok Kangri from high camp

The ice face of Mentok Kangri 2 above us looked steep, so initially we explored a couloir further down the ridge that one of our climbing Sherpas had climbed some years ago. It turned out to be low on snow and high on rock fall, so we abandoned that plan and returned to the original ice face route.

The route initially climbed a series of moraine ridges to about 5600m. Above that a steepening glacier lead to an ice wall of about 45 degrees where we fixed ropes for several rope lengths. Above the ice wall the angle eased but still gave a long uphill pull to the rounded summit. The view from the summit was magnificent, we could see peaks in China in one direction, Pakistan in the other and far below the shining waters of Tso Morari lake.

On the way to the summit of Mentok Kangri 2. The headwall descends on the left

A classic mountain adventure.

Climb Mentok Kangri with KE Adventure Travel. If you're lucky you may even have Tom himself guiding you!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2017
By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Tom Richardson
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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2017

Winter Running Gear 2017

When you're balancing a young family and a busy work life, the time for hobbies can be squeezed out. Despite a very understanding wife, sometimes an hour or two is all I have spare in a day. This makes longer days out climbing or walking tricky, which is why I have started to run a lot more – I can cover the distance quicker! I have found myself becoming increasingly addicted. After an hour or so out fell running I feel like I’ve done something productive, seen some nice views, released the endorphins and then I can get on with the rest of my day doing whatever needs to be done. As the shorter, colder days are now here I have a few essential items that allow me to carry on with my new-found hobby on these cooler winter days.

Ultimate Direction Groove Mono Waistpack

This must be my most used item for short to medium runs. I don’t know how I used to manage with a traditional bum bag as this is so much better! Sometimes all I need is my key and phone but when necessary the Groove Mono can be stretched to carry a windproof, 500ml soft water bottle, an energy bar, gloves and Buff. There is no bounce and with its two Velcro adjusting straps you can make it fit nice and snug without feeling restrictive. You will be surprised how much you can fit in it…

 

OMM Sonic Jacket

This time of year, you will almost certainly need an extra layer on the tops and they don’t come much lighter than this at 60g (except the smock version at 52g!). Although it is not officially waterproof I find it is water resistant enough for most conditions including the odd shower.  It has no hood, but for me that is an advantage I find they just bounce around or flap in the wind unless securely packed away, which then makes it awkward to get them out when you need them. I just prefer to wear a hat! The Sonic Jacket packs up into a very neat stash pocket in the back of the neck about the size of an egg. I also carry this when out on the bike as a spare layer as it is so compact. There is a full zip jacket or pull over smock version, depending on your preference.

 

OMM Flash Tights

I much prefer running in shorts but now it is dark and cold the leggings have come out. I have had my Flash Tights for a few years now and they are still going strong, despite being dragged through heather and bracken. The grip strip at the bottom of the legs stops them riding up and there is a handy little pocket for a key if you need it. It’s hard to get too excited about a pair of leggings, but these have stood the test of time and I have found them durable and comfortable, and there’s not much more you could ask for. Mine also double up for road cycling with my padded summer cycling shorts, as I like to get the most out of my gear!

 

Outdoor Research Surge Sensor Gloves

Light, bright gloves! You can also use your phone with the touch screen sensors to take those all-important Strava photos. They are not heavy, dry very quickly and they are water resistant enough. An essential item for this time of year.

Inov-8 Mudclaw 300 Fell Running Shoes

I am fortunate enough to live very close to Win Hill and find most of my runs involve slogging my way up its very muddy sides. My go-to shoes are the Inov8 Mudclaw 300 for their exceptional grip in very muddy, soft terrain. I also like the rubber compound they use (Dual-C Sticky)which copes well with the occasional slippery paved path. The Dual-C Sticky is soft enough that it fells quite grippy even on Kinder slabs, giving you the best chance of staying upright in wet conditions. I wouldn’t suggest these shoes for harder terrain such as dry hardpacked trails but for off-path routes where the ground is soft or muddy I wouldn’t use anything else. 

I’ve also used the Mudclaws for bigger days in the in the Scottish mountains; let’s call it going fast & light rather than full on running. They are low profile enough so that I don’t feel like I will go over on my ankle and I find they are warm enough with waterproof socks on. They are not a substitute for a full-on boot when carrying a load or moving at a slower pace but when you are going with a fast & light/running mentality they are perfect, and a lot lighter than any walking boot. 

 

Sealskinz Waterproof Socks

Winter running can be cold and miserable. To try and make it less so I use Sealskinz waterproof socks in my running shoes!  For a long time, I was a real sceptic, but I have now been converted. They feel like you are wearing normal socks, keep your feet warm and dry and don’t even feel too sweaty. They also stop your feet from becoming engrained with the black peat that gets under your toenails and in-between your toes – a phenomenon fell runners will know well! They also work well in cycling shoes as they are warm and prevent those annoying puddle splashes soaking and chilling your feet.  If you run every day it's worth having a couple of pairs as they can take a bit longer to dry than your normal socks and no one wants to put on soggy socks! 

Petzl eLite Headtorch

This is more of a safety piece than anything else, and for the 26g it weighs I suggest everyone stash one away even if you are only planning to be out in daylight hours. It weighs less than spare batteries for a standard light weight headtorch. No one wants to rely on a mobile phone as a torch when they get caught short by the dusk.  I wouldn’t suggest this as a main or only headtorch, but as a backup it will certainly get you out of trouble, plus its strobe setting can be used as a safety beacon. There is a red light function so as not to affect your night vision and it is also highly water resistant so no issues if your bag gets soaked.

Petzl Nao+ Headtorch

For running in the dark however, head torches don’t come much better than the Nao+. Light, bright, highly water resistant and comfortable with no bounce (185g & 750 lumens), it is also rechargeable via USB so no need to keep buying replacement batteries. It has a reactive light setting that can automatically adjust the brightness of the torch depending on ambient light, which makes it very battery efficient.  You can quickly override this to give a constant output at different brightness levels if you prefer. There is an app called MyPetzlLight that allows you to manage the setting of the torch via Bluetooth but don’t let this daunt you, if you don’t want to get overly technical you can simply use the switch on the side of the torch to get the pre-set and most used settings and forget about the app altogether! There is a red light on the back of the torch to signal your location, very useful if running in a group and for visibility getting to your trail run, but again this can be switched off if you prefer. You can also get the Accu Nao+ which is a spare rechargeable battery so worth having two if you are out for long events or running regularly.

 

So there you go, with the right kit, running through winter can be just as fun as in the summer. Often more so, as you're less likely to overheat. If you're in the Peak District, the Outside staff are regularly out running en masse. Join our Facebook group for details when, you're welcome to come join us!

 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2017
By Rob Turnbull
Managing Director

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Rob Turnbull
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