I was looking back over some photos of me climbing in Scotland and the Alps in summer the other day and I noticed something. Year on year my alpine rucksack got drastically smaller and my clothing system got lighter and lighter as my experience went up. My Scottish pack and clothing seemed to stay the same up until about 2014, when it did get smaller it was not by the same margin as my Alpine pack had. Is this me just being British, following my piers or do you actually need more to climb smaller routes in Scotland?
Know let us be clear. Scotland and the Alps are very different climbing venues. Firstly, there is the weather. The weather in the European alps tends be relatively stable and practicable so if you intended to go up high in the alps you will most likely wait for a good weather window, you can predict to a reasonable level of accuracy how long this will last for and therefore take appropriate clothing and equipment. Whereas predicting Scottish weather is like throwing a dart blind folded. There is also the technicality of the climbing, generally summer alpine climbing is moving over moderate ground but lots of it, oversely this is not always the case. As with Sottish winter which tends to be shorter but much more challenging terrain.
Having read the above paragraph, you now start to see that Summer Alpine Climbing and Scottish winter climbing are really two different types of climbing and therefore the kit requirements would be different. However, what about routes in Scotland like Tower Ridge that require an alpine mind set to do or if you want to do back to back moderate routes quickly for millage.
The last time I climbed tower ridge me and my wife took a 30m rope, six quickdraw, one set of nuts and four hexs. In our packs we had a belay jacket, some water and a few energy bars. We climbed the route in two hours and that included the 15 minute wait at the eastern traverse. This is not a brag there are people out there that can get tower ridge done in sub an hour but more an indication of what can be done by lightening your load. Whilst doing this route we past multiple people with huge 40 even 50 litre packs loaded up.
I have been lucky in my career working it the outdoor industry that I have had access to the latest kit that has allowed me to lighten my load but even with the advance in light weight kit people do still seem to drag a lot more in to the base of Scottish winter climbs?
Is there a need for modern fast and light techniques in Scotland? I guess the answer to that one is probably not unless you are training for something big further afield. Most people tend to want to push there technical limit in Scotland so are happy to drag all their gear in to the bottom of a route that will only take a day.
Despite all of this, over the last few years I have started to strip my load in Scotland right back and have attempted to start to enchain multiple moderate routes together. Something that will catch on? Doubt it but what is better than climbing? More climbing and going lighter definatetly helps.