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WITH SIMON YEARSLEY

SIMON'S TOP SEVEN TIPS:

FOR SCOTTISH WINTER CLIMBING

  1. A good layering system starts with the base.
  2. Have separate insertion walk and climbing-specific layers (if possible!).
  3. Match your outer layers to the conditions.
  4. Simplify where possible.
  5. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it - sometimes the old ways are still the best.
  6. Glove combination (and management) is paramount.
  7. Even the most weight-conscious climbers can justify a big, simple belay jacket.

 

BASELAYERS

There is often a tendency to focus on the sexy outer layers, but for me, the start point of good and efficient clothing for Scottish winter is the baselayer. My ‘go-to’ baselayer combo is always the Primino range (Women's Primino range), the mix of Merino wool and PRIMALOFT gives a nice comfy next-to-skin feel with fab wicking and warmth (plus the fly on the boxers is in exactly the right place for me, but that’s getting a bit personal!)

The 140 Boxers and 140 Long Johns are great on the legs in most conditions, then either the 140 Zip Neck or - if it’s really cold - the 220 Zip Neck. Also, more recently, I’ve been really impressed with the Hybrid Alpine Hoodie which has the same advantage as the Zip Necks of being able to adjust the ventilation on hot and sweaty walk-ins, but also the hoodie option for when it’s really cold. Plus I love the thumb loop.

 

WALKING-IN OUTER JACKET

Scottish climbing is more often than not book-ended with decent yomps.  I tend to walk into most Scottish winter routes wearing on my top just a baselayer and the amazing Minimus Jacket (Women's Minimus). This ensures you don’t overheat on the walk-in but are protected from any nasty wet stuff (a predominant characteristic of Scottish Winter). The Minimus’ 20 Denier PERTEX® SHIELD 2.5 layer waterproof fabric gives full protection whilst remaining really lightweight and breathable.

When I reach the base of the route I can stuff the Minimus Jacket into the bottom of my pack (it only weighs 190g), swap into a warm, dry, fresh baselayer (another winter top-tip), and then pull on my climbing outer layers. I’ve also used the Minimus jacket at 6600m in the Indian Himalaya and it’s superb as a technical outer layer at altitude!

 

INSULATED LAYER

Climbing outer layers do depend on the conditions, though I normally have the same mid-layer of an Icarus Flight Jacket (Women's Phoenix Flight).  Its PrimaLoft® ThermoPlume synthetic insulation with THERMO STRETCH PRO fleece panels give a really good balance of warmth and flexibility. Plus it’s got the long back which helps eliminate cold spots and the hood which means you don’t need to pack an (extra weight) hat of any sort.

As an alternative. back in 1996, Malcolm and I experimented with the “pile and Pertex” concept – a pioneering technology at the time, and embraced by the then youthful Montane brand. We loved it! For Scottish winter the Montane Extreme Smock had everything: adjustable ventilation for walk-ins, warm when super cold, warm when wet, and simple in design and functionality. Lots of our winter first ascents of the late 90s and early 00s feature photos of us sporting the bright red Montane Extreme Smocks, and I think I have at least three old battered ones in my “old gear” wardrobe!

So, I was so chuffed when Montane brought out the 2019 version of the Montane Extreme smock. Go get one, they are awesome for Scottish winter! This approach has also been broadened and developed to include pieces such as the Hydrogen Extreme and Hydrogen Direct.

 

OUTER SHELL

If it’s cold and dry, then I keep the Minimus as my top layer, but if it’s a more typical Scottish day of snow and rain then the heavier, Alpine Shift Jacket is bombproof. Plus the citrus green colour looks amazing in photos!

If you're looking for something heavy-duty and GORE-TEX, the best option to go for would be either the Alpine Pro Jacket (Women's Alpine Pro) which is made with GORE-TEX Pro material. If you require extra reinforcements around the arms, lower back and shoulders for shoving your way up chimneys then the Endurance Pro Jacket is the best option.

 

GLOVES

Gloves gloves gloves gloves. Scottish winter climbing is all about having the right combo of gloves which give you the right balance of dexterity, flexibility and warmth for your all-important hands. I always take lots of pairs of gloves! Here are my current thoughts for Scottish winter glove:

  • Always use windproof gloves... it’s windy in Scotland.
  • Always have a specific pair for walking in, as they’ll just get sweaty and damp.
  • Always have at least 3 pairs of leading gloves, i.e. gloves which will give really good dexterity and flexibility so you don’t get pumped hanging on your axes.
  • Always have a pair of super-warm belay gloves so you can re-warm your freezing fingers at the belay.

So, for me, it’s 1 x Prism Mitts, 3 x Rock Guide Gloves, 1 x Extreme Mitts. Simple!

Another top tip; have a specific lightweight stuff-sack with your dry gloves in and a different stuff-sack to chuck your wet gloves in... plus always try and dry out your last used pair of lead gloves next to your skin on the belay... and do it properly; next to your skin, not next to your base layer - you’ve got to suffer for your sport!

 

BELAY JACKET

Finally, the belay jacket. Keep it simple, and don’t skimp on weight.  If you're climbing as a pair you'll only need one between you, so the extra weight can be easily justified for the weight-conscious climber.  A belay jacket is designed to keep you really, REALLY warm and let you recover quickly on the belay, not to give a marginal degree of pseudo–warmth. So, go big and warm.

My current favourite is the Ground Control Jacket: a really warm synthetic jacket which means it can take a beating from the elements and it does what a belay jacket should do – keep you really warm.

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