The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Friday, 24 May 2013

Tierra Roc Blanc Jacket review

Tierra Roc Blanc Jacket test & review


I’ve worn the Tierra Roc Blanc Jacket for about 10 weeks this winter, icefall climbing in both the European Alps & the Canadian Rockies – which equates to over 50 days climbing ice & mixed routes


The Roc Blanc uses a three layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell membrane with a brand new top face fabric. Pro Shell is best for extended trips in severe conditions. It’s less breathable than the Tierra Rockette Active Shell, but its solid no nonsense membrane makes it warmer & more durable than the Tierra Rockette Active Shell, which in turn makes it far better suited for trips into the higher mountains in both summer & winter where you’ll encounter the worst in what the weather can throw at you.


The Roc Blanc’s a very good tailored fit, they call it ‘athletic’ but I’m not sure that I’d fit that! It’s great though, feeling very trim with no access, but being well articulated at the same time. When placing the ice tools above your head the jacket doesn’t ride up above your harness. The sleeves are long & a good length, especially for someone like myself who stands up at 6ft. The sleeves again are well cut, so that when you need to stretch out the cuffs stay where they should & don’t ride up your arm. The sleeve cut & articulation is made even trimmer due to the under arm ‘pit’ zips being off-set towards to the front of the jacket & not bulking up the area underneath the arm ‘pit’. 


The jackets well designed & very functional. The lines are clean with minimal excess due to the trim fit.  Two crossover chest pockets provide quick & easy access & a good size to fit a map, spare gloves or knife & abseil tat. Unlike most jackets the Roc Blanc has unique ventilation zips that sit just in-front of the arm rather than underneath the arm which are sometimes awkward to open & close. These zips allow easy access when on the move & when ventilation is a priority. The sleeve cuffs have good strong Velcro fasteners which really wrap around & seal the wrist. The storm hood’s a good size allowing the helmet to fit neatly underneath it. The wired peak keeps off the worst of the weather & gives it a great shape. Neat hood adjusters thread back neatly inside the jacket, but at the same time can be adjusted from outside with gloves on. The zips throughout are totally waterproof, neat & don’t feel like they’re going to fail any time soon! The draw cord at the base of the jacket can be used to tailor the fit even further.


It’s a solid no-nonsense jacket which looks great, is well designed, functional & a lovely trim fit.

Stay safe

Wild Horses 2!

A short piece on our new route this winter in the Canadian Rockies

We headed back up Totem Creek, after a semi rest day climbing over in Field. Our old tracks clearly visible in the unconsolidated sugar snow weaving around the boulders in the creek bed & around Canadian Pines & Silver Birch growing thick & dense up from the banks searching for firmer ground. Wolverine tracks cut across ours in places where the ground was more open & trees less dense. We followed our tracks high onto the left bank to where the sun had the most effect, with the freeze thaw cycle giving us firmer ground again.

Still, the going was easier than when we’d hike in a couple of days previous. The temperatures had been minus 25 & the snow even drier & more unconsolidated with every step breaking through to the ground below. Higher now we could see the top of the route, white ice filling out a huge rock corner just above the tops of the pines.

We had a similar view when we first caught a glimpse of the same ice driving down the Icefields Parkway on the way back from Weeping Wall. We were heading back to Lake Louise when out the corner of my eye I saw the ice, between 2 trees. A split second & only a fleeting glimpse, but Ice all the same. It took a couple of seconds for the brain to process but yes it was Ice & yes I’d never seen it before & no I can’t recall seeing it in the guidebook. Stop!. Dean braked hard & pulled over. He looked across & new I’d seen something…. so he slowly reversed up, while I tried to find the 2 trees again. Stop! There it was the same view, Ice? We think so, formed? We can’t see, accessible? We don’t know, excited? Yes very! We headed straight back to Lake Louise to do some homework.

Now that same view is more obvious & all the questions answered well all apart from one – can we get to the ice? 3 days earlier we hiked in to within 300m of the base of the route & had to turn back, due to a huge snow slope which we thought was unstable & could avalanche protecting it. We headed back down to a sunny place in amongst the trees where we could see the route in full. So close but so far! We ate, drank & sat looking at the route feeling very frustrated at not even getting to the base of the ice & it & what an awesome looking line, but how can we get to it? The more we sat, the more we looked at the right bank leading up into the base of the route. The bank looked a little scoured of snow in places, with a possible line weaving around a rock pinnacle & then down to an unknown & out of sight section getting to the base of the ice. We race back down the hill, excited.

Today it feels different, it’s warmer, there’s a track in, we know the route’s formed, complete & looks amazing. It’s easier walking but the access is still not totally known, we march on in silence. We’re earlier, it’s 5am which we hope will give us plenty of day to play with. We start talking again, as we break off from our old track and onto unknown terrain again. Bad unconsolidated snow again but added to it a firm thick layer below that ‘whompfing’ with every step. We assessed the slope again & I head off alone while Dean holds back. We do this until we reach more scoured ground above & the way opens up. As the sun comes up we can see the slopes below the route more clearly & our old tracks just stopping in the middle of it all. Good decision! Yep!.

We find a flat spot, take the snow shoes off, put crampons on, harness up & get the rope out. The way on still looks good but it’s still the last unknown section out of sight linking our new approach with the base of the ice. We rope up & I head across very slabby looking snow & on over a crest, while Dean follows unclipping the odd wire I place for protection. We swing the lead & Dean heads over another snowy crest & out of sight into the final gully linking the Ice. Will it go? The rope goes tight & I follow. Deans set up a good anchor which I use to access the gully & test the deep & very wind slabby snow. I reach the other side & drill in a screw, continue on & then build an anchor when the rope runs tight. Dean follows, racks up with the rest of the screws & wires, swings by me, looks back & smiles……‘it’s on!’

Adrian Nelhams & Dean Mounsey on the FA of ‘Wild Horses’ WI6, 160m, Totem Tower, Alberta, Canadian Rockies 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Bolt pulled out on Illywacker today!

I headed over to Yorkshire today. 
Great to leave the wet showery weather in the Lakes behind, to find dry rock & the sun shining, it's amazing how often that can be the case - 20 miles further east can quite often make all the difference.

We ended up in the Hollywood Bowl Area, of Giggleswick North.

I wanted to have a look in on the Hollywood Bowl Area, to see what condition the routes were in, as it can often be wet & being overhanging limestone they can seep after a spell of wet weather. I’d heard that some of the routes at both Malham & Kilnsey had started to seep a little.

Hollywood Bowl classics - left to right
Illywacker 7b+/7c, Hollywood Bowl 7c & Kleptomania 8a 

Amazing though, the whole Bowl was pretty much dry, with very little seepage – both Kleptomania & Illywacker, two of the classics where totally dry.
Not all good though, I got on Illywaker & two thirds of the way up at about the 4/5 bolt I came off & ripped the bolt out!!

It was a resin placed bolt which seemed to pull out with very little resistance. 
It’s a strange design.......... you’d image the section of bolt, which is inserted into the resin filled hole to have raised sections? This would allow the bolt to better 'key' into the resin once it's dry giving you a much more secure fix on an outward force?
This bolt seems to be pretty much smooth with the indentations going inwards rather than being raised giving it that secure fix.

Anyway, I had little confidence in some of the other bolts which looked very similar to the one now dangling from my rope that we sorted the gear & bailed!

So a note of caution - the bolts in the Hollywood Bowl Area need some attention! & climb with care if you decide to go there. The bolt obviously needs replacing on Illywacker & maybe the whole route needs looking at.

I’ll see about getting access to the Yorkshire bolt fund or maybe the BMC bolts but it may take a little time to sort. The bolts there could be over 20yrs old so take care.

Safe Climbing