Category Archives: Alpine Climbing

Alpine Gear Review 2016 – Nano Air Hoody, Sum’tec & Lim’ice

Alpine Gear Review 2016 – Patagonia Nano Air Hoody, Petzl Sum’tec Ice Axe/Tool and Petzl Lim’ice screw sharpener!


This winter season I have been using a few new piece of kit for both personal and work trips: Patagonia Nano Air Hoody and the Petzl Sum’tec Ice Axe/Tool, and Petzl Lim’ice screws sharpener. I would like to give a few thoughts about these pieces for those looking for a good insulation piece, a do it all ice axe, and finally, an ice screw sharpener that anyone can use… all from the usual suspects in the outdoor gear industry!



First, let’s start with the Nano Air Hoody from Patagonia.


Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 2.31.09 PMBreathability

This jacket rocks! It breaths very well, is perfect for start stop adventures and as they say “you can put it on and leave it on!.”


Comfort & Fit

I now wear this thing all the time as it feels comfy against the skin. I found that a size small fit’s me perfectly (5’9 and 165lbs with a 39inch chest). I could wear a size medium if I wanted a bit more layering options but I still can get fleece and base layer under this thing no problem;-)


The stretch of this jacket really does make it a piece you will use all the time as you don’t have any restriction of movement whilst climbing and moving in the mountains! And the hood fits fine over a climbing helmet.




I have used this jacket on all my trips this winter and wear it most days around town and it is still going strong. I did tear the fabric a bit on the back with freshly sharpened ice tool but this sort of thing is going to happen if you get out climbing in your gear. Easy to fix… just a bit of seam grip or repair tape and way you go. Why not aim for a jacket with patches and soul!



It is pricey this piece, but worth every buck spent. I am a bit of an ebay junky, so I waited to find a killer deal on the previous season’s colors before buying. That being said I would pay full price for this if I had no other option!


For more technical information on the jacket go to Patagonia’s website!



Good old Chamonix… and was pleased to have the Nano hoody for this trip! Sept 2015



Second up, the Petzl Sum’tec Ice Axe/tool


Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 2.14.55 PMOk, I am a bit old school when it comes to a mountaineering axe! I have a 55cm Mountain Technology straight shafted mountaineering axe I use on my winter skills courses, and general mountaineering trips. The MT axe is awesome for adze work but over the last couple of years I have been looking to bridge the gap between a mountaineering axe and a technical ice tool… BOOM Petzl Sum’tec axe! I was originally inspired to check out the axe by a photo of it in Mont Blanc Finest Routes (page 56) where a climber paired the sum’tec with a nomic! What a brilliant idea… as often you want good tools for climbing but then a mountaineering axe for approaches and descents! Well if that is what you are looking for then this axe for you!




General Purpose

The axe does very well with adze work… i.e. cutting steps, snow belays, etc. It also preformed well on approach slope as it has a solid spike. It is much lighter than my old MT axe… weighing in at 485g. Despite its weight it has a T- rated shaft so super strong for those buried axe belays!


Ice and Mixed terrain

As mentioned the axe is light but even so it still climbs well on ice! I found it to have a bit of weight behind the head which makes for a nice swing and good pick penetration/placements. The pommel is absolutely wicked and makes climbing grade IV ice no problem at all. If you have a similar style slightly bent shaft axe already I reckon you could retro fit the pommel to the axe… it should fit on axes such as the BD Venom, Grivel Evo tech with a bit of ingenuity;-)



Bomber, well made axe that you can replace the picks after heavy use. This means you could have this bad boy for years;-)



Price is pretty standard for this type of axe, but again being able to replace the pick means long-term use!


Due to the weight, and great performance for both mountaineering and ice/mixed climbing this axe has become my go to for most days in the High Atlas!


2015-03-24 08.15.31 (1)

Out guiding recently using the Sum’tec! Thanks for the photo Zach!



Last but not least, Petzl Lim’ice screw sharpener

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 2.40.40 PM


Every been on a steep pitch of ice reached for a screw and then almost had a panic attach because your blunt screw is taking ages to bit into the ice? Been there done that… introducing the Lim’ice from Petzl.

This is an idiot proof ice screw sharpener. It gives clear easy to follow instructions and works a treat to resurrect those old screws you end up trying to only use on your belays! I got mine as a kind gift from one of my clients this winter and it has been amazing! Thanks so much Martin!



  • The best thing is you can replace the file when it finally bites the dust.
  • The thing is compact, so it can be carried in for longer trips! After receiving it and trying it out I had it with me at the hut for any of my climbing trips this winter.
  • And finally, it works with any screw I came across this winter: Petzl, Grivel, BD!


What a clever little tool all us winter climbers could use through out the season to keep us quick on the draw with our screw placements! It cost a bit but I think it is a good investment for seasoned winter climbers!



At home after touching up a recently resurrected screw:-)


Summary of the Alpine Gear Review 2016! Essentially, all the bits of gear above preform very well for their intended purposes, are built for the long haul and are great bits of kit that will serve you well for your alpine adventures! Can’t really think of any cons… sorry!



Categories: Alpine Climbing, Blog, Gear Review, James
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Top Guidebooks for Mountaineering, Climbing & Bouldering in Morocco

The Essentials Guidebooks for Morocco!


Good guidebooks are an essential piece of gear for the climber and mountaineer. Ideally, a solid guidebook will have great concise route descriptions, clean photos with routes clearly marked, a bit of beta on protection, and the necessary information for approaches and descents. Good information on local accommodation, transport, supplies etc. are some of the other elements that make up a good guidebook.


Below are guidebooks we recommend for your mountaineering, climbing and bouldering adventures in Morocco.


Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 12.35.58 PMFor a comprehensive mountaineering guidebook for the High Atlas Mountains we suggest getting Des Clark’s Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas – Walks, Climbs and Scrambles over 3,000m. Des, our senior guide, has lived in Morocco and guided all over the High Atlas Mountains. In this guidebook he brings together his local knowledge and his many years of experience as a guide to give you a great resource for your adventures in the High Atlas.









Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.50.27 AMFor a guide to more technical rock and ice routes in the Toubkal Massif we recommend Toubkal Guia de Ascensiones y Escaladas by David Taura Riera. While not everyone will be able to understand the text in Spanish, the book is worth it just for the topos of the routes. It does also give you good beta on the technical equipment you will need for your chosen route. Be sure to google translate the equipment list to ensure you have the right kit for your trip.








Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.47.33 AMMoving on to pure rock climbing guides, we would recommend the two volume set for the Anti-Atlas mountains: Tafraout – Rock Climbing in Morocco’s Anti-Atlas. These two books contain a life time’s worth of trad climbing and give excellent information for your trip logistics. There are now also mini-pocket guides of the best areas, giving you the top starred routes, and they are also conveniently small enough to shove in a jacket pocket.


For more information on the guides and the Anti-Atlas check out




Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.44.09 AMNow we come to one of my favourite places in Morocco: the big wall limestone area known as Taghia! This gorge has earned a top spot in the international climbing scene with climbers such as Alex Honnald and Arnaud Petit making repeated trips.


For this area we would recommend getting the guide Taghia Montagnes Berberes by Christian Ravier. This book is written in French but again the topos of the routes make it well worth its price. You can also find hand-drawn topos of other routes not included in this guide in the local gites in Taghia, so be sure to have a good look around. The Taghia area primarily offers sport climbing with many well-equipped routes. However, it is worth bringing a set of micro and standard cams and a set of nuts to pad out protection and belay stances for the less well-equipped routes.


For a great article in English for logistics help check out:



Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.56.44 AMWhat about a bouldering guide for Morocco? 2015 saw the launch of the excellent digital guidebook for low to mid level bouldering for the amazing Oukaimeden area of the High Atlas. This guidebook app is available for both android and iphones. All the routes have a topo, grade and GPS co-ordinates so all you need for locating and selecting your route is your phone! We like this guide for its features such as grade selection: choose a practical grade and the slick filtering system will bring up all routes in the area you are in. The guide is published by Rakkup and put together by Imik’sImik Bouldering and Climb Morocco.







Categories: Alpine Climbing, Anti-Atlas, Blog, Climbing Information, Guidebook(s), High Atlas, James, Morocco, Mountaineering
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Project Fear Video – Dave Macleod

Dave Macleod is one of my climbing heroes! His tenacity, focus and limit pushing is amazing. We shared this video a while back on FB, but if you didn’t watch it then…. well on your next coffee break take a few minutes and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!


Categories: Alpine Climbing, Blog, James, Video

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Mikey Schaefer and FORCE Video

Grab a cup of tea and get your climbing and adventure stoke up!


Categories: Alpine Climbing, Blog, James, Video

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Alpine Ridges Adventure Jan 2015

We are currently enjoying bright blue skies, warmer sunshine and stable conditions here in the High Atlas after the stormier weather that brought lots of snow and made for an exciting trip with Dan and Phil this month. Check out the photos from the trip. And be on the look out for the next Toubkal Winter Conditions update coming early next week.


Here is how they summed up their trip:


“It was brilliant, guys. A really excellent trip. By a country mile the Saturday was my best ever day on the mountains. Great from start to finish in every way. You rock!”  (Dan)


“Thanks for giving us a memorable adventure in challenging conditions. Arrived home tired but inspired knowing that I had been stretched in a beautiful environment.” (Phil)






















Categories: Alpine Climbing, Blog, High Atlas, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Winter
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