Osprey Mutant 38 pack: I’d bought this the day before the flight and on arrival found that two others had exactly the same pack! This probably says more about the lack of choice in the UK with Snow & Rock, Cotswold Outdoor and Ellis Brigham all stocking the same limited range of packs in same colours. This is in complete contrast to the shops in Chamonix which had a great range in typical bright alpine colours. The pack worked well – it’s reasonable light for a climbing orientated pack at 1.3kg, the lid extends and is removable and at 38 litres it’s just the right size though you ofter start full and end up almost empty as you don all your gear. The Z compression straps work well to shrink the volume without sag. On the final summit day I stripped the lid to lose a bit of weight, leaving it and a few bits in the mountain hut.
Mountain Equipment Combin Pants: These don’t see much action in the UK outside of winter but the Schoeller fabric works really well in an alpine environment. They cut wind well, shed water and snow quite easily and have useful pockets. The only minor annoyance was tendency for them to ride down – I’d consider braces next time.
Boots etc. My trusty Scarpa Charmoz were great – a little more nimble than stiff B3 boots – only once when we stopped on the high col of Gran Paridiso did my toes feel the cold. My Black Diamond Serac 12-point crampons are a perfect fit for the asymetrical sole of the Charmoz, though they are now a little blunted from the glacial morraine.
Clothing: I took my usual UK mix of base-layer, ME Astron Hoody softshell and Montane Atomic DT jacket as a shell. The weather so good we spent most of the time on the glacier just in our baselayer – it was so hot as long as you were moving. One lesson is not to wear black – as well as the odd ‘ninja’ comment from the locals, dark colours simply soak up the suns rays. Perhaps there is logic to the bright alpine kit which reflects the sun better – and, of course, makes for better photo’s.