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Glenmore & The North Face Kit Test

Glenmore & The North Face Kit Test
6 November 2012 No comments

We regularly encourage our staff to get out there and test equipment in the mountains and our partnership with Glenmore Lodge in Scotland allows us to do this with qualified guides in the highlands. In this blog post, Ollie, part of our customer services team offers his account of a 2 day, The North Face gear test, which involved 1 night’s stay at Glenmore lodge & 20 staff camping overnight in the Highlands:

The weather heading up to Glenmore was less than encouraging. It was raining at Ellis Brigham HQ in Manchester when we left and was still raining when we crossed the border into Scotland.

4 hours later and we arrived in Aviemore to a much warmer and dryer climate, and with that it was time to grab some lunch (6 Sausage Rolls in Tesco=35p. Bargain!). Our intrepid leader and outdoor training co-ordinator, Brian, suggested that we should eat up in the Coire Cas car park, this was to be my first experience of Cairngorm and the views did not disappoint!

After lunch we rolled down the hill (Brian’s brakes weren’t in the best shape) to Glenmore Lodge to link up with the rest of the Ellis Brigham crew who had come up from all over the country.

We found them in the dining room, helping themselves to the fantastic selection of hot drinks and muffins that the lodge had put out for afternoon tea. Once everyone had arrived (typically, the staff from the closest store in Aviemore were the last to turn up!) we sat down in the lecture room for a couple of presentations from Glenmore Lodge, The North Face, Grangers and Gore-Tex.

Simon, who head’s up the marketing at Glenmore, explained why they were excited to be working with Ellis Brigham and The North Face.

Simon explained that The North Face were one of four brands who had been identified as potential equipment partners. However the true test of a partner would be achieved through rigourous and prolonged kit testing. The subsequent kit tests that took place by Glenmore instructors resulted in The North Face coming out on top as the instructors were blown away by the kit’s performance. There was unanimous agreement by the Instructors that the equipment easily out performed those of competing brands in the categories of durability and fit. The partnership between The North Face & Glenmore Lodge will be instrumental in developing future ranges in 2013 and beyond based on the constant feedback from the lodge instructors

What followed next was a brief overview of Gore-Tex and then Grangers demonstrated the importance of reproofing waterproof jackets.  Some of this was a refresh to many staff and to others it was a good introduction to the products.

7.pm and it was time for dinner. The kitchen had made an awesome curry which I struggled to get through (the sausage rolls from earlier didn’t help!). We then settled down to watch ‘As it Happens’ and ‘Towers of the Ennedi.’ Even a couple of people staying in the lodge snuck in to have a watch!

The next morning we were up early as a full English was waiting along with a great selection of bits and pieces to take in our Terra 65 packs up on the hill.

We met with the guides back in the lecture theatre and were divided up into groups of 5. We had Bill as our Mountain Guide extraordinaire, Duncan and Jess from Aviemore, Jim from Fort William, Dan from The North Face and myself (Ollie) from Mail Order. Minibuses took all the groups to the Coire Cas car park where we all headed in our separate ways. Our route was to go up the ‘Goat Track,’ go around the ridge, stop for lunch, up to the peak of Cairngorm and then back down to the car park.

Approaching the top of the ridge was when the wind started to pick up. We were equipped with a Point Five The North Face jacket which is perfect for these conditions and was actually designed with the British mountains in mind; the name comes from Point Five Gully on Ben Nevis. We were also given a Redpoint Optimus jacket as an insulating piece.

By the time we had stopped for lunch, we were cooling down pretty quickly so we chucked them on over our wet jackets with no worries. The benefits of a synthetic insulator in these kinds of conditions are massive, whether you decide to wear one as a super warm midlayer or as something to keep you warm when you are stopped. It is best not to wear it on the outside when you start moving again, however; Gore-Tex breathes best when it is humid on the inside and cold and dry on the outside. If you put a warm layering piece on the outside, the jacket isn’t going to breath even if the insulation manages moisture well.

A well-deserved brew was on the cards for when we returned to the lodge before picking up our tents and heading out on an overnight expedition. The minibuses dropped us off about 30mins away from Glenmore. The hike was to take around one and a half hours with us pitching our tents near a bothy one of the guides knew about. This route was a bit more wet than our earlier route with a lot of the paths being more like bogs. Our Point Five jackets were coming on, insulating layers coming off and vice versa. It was reasonably warm and still wet. The track was scenic and followed a river the majority of the way, a few crossings popped up but nothing to hairy. We arrived at the bothy 2 and a half hours later.

We pitched our Minibus 23 and set up our Primus stove. Wayfarer outdoor meals  (my fav being the Lancashire Hot Pot and treacle pudding for desert – yum!) were the food of choice and filled the hole the day’s walking had left empty.

The guides offered up some space in the bothy for us to pile in. The fire was going when we arrived and we were immediately offered some whisky from Jon. He checked our glasses were clean and poured a dram. Glenmore Lodge have a partnership with The Balvenie and take a bottle on overnight expedition! Can their guys’ jobs get any better? Jon stepped up to tell a few ghost stories and Bill told a Robbie Burns poem, first in English and then Scottish. The English was slightly easier to understand.

The snooze button was a bit too tempting on Tuesday morning; “We are leaving in 10 minutes” was what got us moving again. Breakfast was missed but we were impressed with the speed we managed to get packed up and get moving!

We arrived back at Glenmore Lodge at around 10am. A cup of tea and a snack were needed before we were to meet in the stores at 11.30am to get split into groups for dry tooling. They have two towers in the car park which were built in the 60s before artificial holds became popular. They were going to be removed due to a lack of use, however, a surge in the popularity of dry tooling has allowed them to remain open. I am not the most adept climber in the world but, with the help of our instructor, I was able to get through a competition section, albeit with a few attempts needed.

After 2 days I can honestly say with first hand experience The North Face and Glenmore Lodge provided a superb couple of days for us to test out some kit. I can't wait to head up there again when the winter fully sets in.