Mammut Base Jump Advanced Pant – Verdict

Ideal conditions for the Base Jump Advanced

This is going to be my interim verdict, which I will update in the future, and is based on a week of challenging Scottish winter weather: mild, wet and windy. In February, I will compliment this with a contrast of dry, cold winter conditions.

As expected, the success of this trouser comes down to the excellence of its fabric. Technically, it includes all the right components in the right proportions, but it is because of the Schoeller softshell fabric that the trouser really excels. It very much goes to prove substance over style, although Mammut have paid sufficient attention to the latter.

The Schoeller fabric has excellent stretch qualities

Stretch

The first thing I noticed about the Base Jump Advanced was how well the stretch of the Schoeller fabric worked. I layered the trousers over a merino baselayer, and they complimented each other well; I was barely aware of the two. No friction and no rucking up. The Schoeller was very supple allowing easy movement up steep ground. I was very impressed by this aspect, although it was my first foray into softshell trousers.

Conditions typical of 2 out of 6 days

Windproofing

During the few occasions that the weather was dry and windy, there was no need to layer a shell over top of the Base Jump Advanced for extra protection against the wind. In fact, the trousers were very noticeably more windproof than my previous pair, and the wind was very strong when I made this observation – perhaps gusting upto 60mph.

Conditions typical of most of the week - the snow retreated massively

Water resistance

Although the trousers were brand new on use, when I sat on ground one day for a bite to eat, the DWR finish and fabric were well resistant to moisture. James, on the other hand, who did the same, soon complained of a wet backside, which highlighted the effectiveness of the fabric’s resistance. I would have expected some wetting out when directly sitting on the damp ground.

Later in the the week when I allowed the fabric to wet out, it handled well and did not become baggy or droopy, and in all cases, was quick to dry out. That property, if nothing else, is important in a mountain trouser when drying facilities might not be available.

Spikey bit on the zip

Zip on fly

A number of times I got a sharp prick to my finger when zipping up the fly. The zip has a sharp tooth, which when pressed down, is meant to prevent the zip coming undone. However, I found that it is quite easy to grab the zip without thinking and inflict a painful puncture. Throughout the week, I got used to this, and avoided the tooth, but this will no doubt catch out the unwary.

Imagine trying to grab this with a gloved hand...

Lack of zip tabs

It is winter that the success or failure of a garment really becomes obvious when conditions make simple tasks much more difficult. Often I was wearing gloves and wanted to take a camera out of the thigh pocket. This was made difficult by the gloves and the lack of a pull tab on the zip. An additional tab need not be large, but would make a big difference to a normally simple task.

Pocket positions

The thigh pocket proved quite useful because of its position halfway down the leg. When I had no overtrousers on over the Base Jump Advanced, I found it a handy place for storing my camera. However, that said, when I put objects in the two ‘normal’ hip pockets, I found the design caused them (e.g., head torch or keys) to interfere uncomfortably with the crotch – say no more! As said previously, by habit, I don’t carry items in the hips pockets of trousers in case of losing something and for comfort’s sake, but if I did, this would be quite annoying. On the other hand, for shoving a hand in, they are absolutely fine.

Beading on the face of the fabric

Other remarks

As anticipated, I had no need to use the zipped gusset on the trouser legs. Most of the time I wore gaiters to keep snow and mud out. By default, then, the built in crampon protective patches were redundant. Still, they may have their uses in other configurations of clothing. I have also yet to use the trousers with braces, but certainly intend to do so in February. I found layers were continually coming untucked, so imagine that the braces will do much to prevent this.

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Putting in the Vertical Metres

Finally a break in the weather

After the group left, James and I attempted to salvage our week in Glencoe from the vagaries of the weather. This meant we had to go high, because the warm air mass from the south west had been steadily stripping everything right back.

Back in France, it has really struck me how how the cold calm conditions caused by a big concentration of high pressure over Europe has been deflecting depressions northward. Fatal for snow and ice conditions in Scotland. The contrast in air masses is striking: warm and wet versus cold and dry.

Glad to be over with the walk-in and enjoying a bit of sun

High in Glencoe meant Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire nan Lochan, involving pretty much a Munro’s worth of ascent before reaching the start of anything worthwhile. I had steadily been finding my legs over the week, but six days on the trot was taking its toll.

On the first day, Diamond and Church Door buttresses were inevitably black and bare, so we climbed the Grade II variation of Central Gully. At the crux, the anticipated cold front arrived, to whoops of delight from James, but apart from some verglas, the crags did not rime up. The day did turn into a cracker, though, with sunny spells and expansive views. We continued on over to Stob Coire nan Lochan, descending Broad Gully (I) and admiring the mountain architecture.

Checking out the impressive buttresses beneath Stob Coire nan Lochan

The following day was a solo day for me, as the weather closed in again. I made a lonely walk in to Stob Coire nan Lochan with the intention of returning via the Lost Valley. The clag was in, and by the time I reached the upper ridge to the summit, my resolve was weakening. I was tired and the combination of low temperatures, rain and wind was making a yomp over the tops increasingly unappealing.

I decided to descend via a variation of the previous day’s itinerary, downclimbing the top of Central Gully and avoiding the Grade II start. Fine in theory until I discovered the lower part of the gully was incomplete. I tettered across the lip of the rock steps, trying to discern a viable descent and avoid a long reascent to the ridge. Shortly, I decided on the rockier of the options, and with a few deep breaths, committed myself on one ice axe to the downclimb.

The most civilised way to get around Glencoe

From below it was not too bad, but I was relieved to be down, especially as the axe had pinged out at one point. Fortunately, I had had a good handhold…

So, that was essentially the end of a long but worthwhile trip to Glencoe. The weather had been awful, but forced flexibility upon us and called into play several new skills. Most importantly, it meant that I was able to register for my Winter Mountain Leader training with Glenmore Lodge in February.

A Distinct Lack of Winter

Over the last two days, I assisted on a winter skills course for an amazing group of amputees.

Getting to grips with winter skills in difficult conditions

We returned to Buachaille Etive Beag to gain Stob Raineach and go through crampons and ice axe skills, but gale force winds and rain prevented us from fulfilling all aspects. The group got to don crampons and wield their ice axes, though, so were happy.

Yesterday, even milder temperatures forced us to abandon any hope of finding accessible snow, so we took in the shapely local hill of the Pap of Glencoe (Sgorr na Ciche). The group did very well and in descent we got the rope out to protect some unpleasant rock steps and grooves. I enjoyed setting up the anchors and scampering up and down to help the group.

Getting the hell out of there!

The highlight of the two days for me though, was the immense sense of camaraderie between the group, who had been brought together by difficult life circumstances. A couple of standout quotes were: ‘This is surprisingly enjoyable’ (battling the wind and rain) and ‘I think I’ve lost a leg’ (on post-holing in the snow).

I look forward to seeing the group on their next big adventure at the end of the month.

Making the Most of a Bad Forecast in Glencoe

The weather has been problematical of late in Scotland, particularly on the West coast – strong winds, rain and a high freezing level – making for less than ideal climbing conditions and generally challenging for mountaineering.

On the top of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh with the Aonach Eagach behind

James and I wanted to make the most of our time before the two days of group work, but James faced the problem of being without waterproof trousers (en route in the post). Thankfully the weather improved markedly during the morning, so we set off to attempt the Aonach Eagach from the Clachaig Inn. Unfortunately, we did not leave enough time, but enjoyed summiting Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (967m), and then descending via the Pap col with a quick ascent of the Pap of Glencoe (as known as Sgorr na Ciche) itself.

Slightly bedraggled on Buachaille Etive Beag

Today’s weather started off pleasant, but then deteriorated quickly. We considered taking the Glencoe ski lift to get up high, but in the end decided to recconoitre Buchaille Etive Beag for the group on Saturday, given the access from the road and safe slope aspects. It was a good day, taking in Stob Coire Raineach (925m) and Stob Dubh (958m).

We saw Rob Johnson, a popular guide, with a group finishing off their five day winter skills course. They were reviewing ice axe arrests, but it looked pretty miserable in the rain. We had a quick look at avalanche tranceivers whilst they were doing that and then headed back to the car as quickly as possible.

Glencoe is an amazing mountain area, with high, formidable faces that rise sheer from the road. After a couple of days of mountaineering, I am itching for some climbing, but this will have to wait until after the group days and when the forecast is slightly better.

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