Project Strata was conceived like all the best expeditions: over some grainy photos and topos, a cup of tea and a biscuit in a house in Sheffield. Longtime friend of Rab and co-director of Alpineguides.com, Rich Cross was waxing lyrical about this amazing, unexplored area of Norway deep in the Arctic Circle. It was just like Scotland, he said, but with reliable conditions and vast areas of untapped winter climbing potential…
Luckily for us he was in contact with Ben Winston, who passed on the infectious enthusiasm. Like Rich and Ben, we could see the potential of such an area and so called around our Rab professionals. It didn’t take long to assemble a team and get planning underway.
As the climbers studied photos looking for lines and potential future classics, a canteen chat at Rab HQ led to another exciting development. The design team had been working on a new insulation technology ideally suited to strenuous activity in cold conditions. Equipped with Polartec’s new Alpha insulation, the new Strata range was ready for field testing. And so now the expedition had two objectives: to pioneer new winter routes and test a pioneering new technology.
Four Rab athletes were joined by photographer Ben Winston in Arctic Norway. They had ten days to establish as many new routes as possible and see if this revolutionary new fabric was everything we hoped it would be.
As it turned out, the ‘reliable’ Arctic weather turned out to be rather Scottish. The high pressure that had sat over the area prior to their arrival was replaced by an endless series of warm fronts that brought heavy rain, flooding, warm temperatures and serious amounts of fresh snow up high. Many routes were barred by dangerous avalanche conditions and many others involved the horrible, half thawed turf so familiar to Britons. The variable temperatures also proved a stiff test for the clothing systems, and keeping comfortable and safe whilst working hard for long periods was essential.
The team pressed on regardless, making the most of the breaks in the weather and the rare cold spell that helped to consolidate the conditions. A handful of new routes were established, classics were repeated and everyone agreed that, in spite of the weather, Arctic Norway has incredible untapped potential.
THE STRATA RANGE
Warm & Comfortable
Polartec Alpha is the first breathable synthetic insulation. It allows movement of moisture vertically through the woven insulation layer. Because of the orientation of the fibres, the moisture moves through the batting instead of getting trapped against it.
Windproof & Quick Drying
A Pertex Microlight outer means the Strata range is fully windproof and a standard 80/20 durable water repellent coating. If the insulation does get wet, it is very quick drying - faster on average than standard synthetic insulation.
Lightweight & Packable
By using Pertex Microlight combined with Polartec Alpha we have made a very light and packable insulated jacket. The combination of technologies creates a good warmth to weight ratio in a versatile and simple jacket.
Jeff lives in Chamonix and works as a mountain guide and rescue instructor for the PGHM. Jeff is a highly talented climber across many disciplines and has many major ascents around the world to his name.
Jeff specialises on steep mixed and ice routes and is always the first to volunteer for Rab trips that involve either of these!
Jeff has a great sense of humor, he needs one for the belays he builds. You can read about Jeff's time in Norway on his blog.
Aaron Mulkey is one of our US Sponsored Athletes and is based out of Cody, Wyoming. Aaron is happiest when seeking untouched frozen treasures in the toughest mountain terrain, what he finds fuels his enthusiasm to find the next new route.
So when the opportunity to head to Norway and climb these huge unclimbed lines came up he was more than happy to join the team. Aaron travelled with climbing partners Stephen Berwanger and Tanner Callender to meet up with the rest of the Rab team.
Read more about Aaron, his questing for ice and his time in Norway here.
Libby is one of the most experienced female climbers in the UK and one of just a handful ever to qualify as a British Mountain Guide.
Although she has turned her hand(s) to almost every conceivable discipline from big wall climbing to high altitude mountaineering she is perhaps most associated with UK trad climbing close to her base in North Wales.
Libby is a relatively new recruit to the Rab team and this was her first Rab trip, she was quick to recognise the potential of the area and was one of the first to sign up.
Ally is a Chamonix based climber, skier, alpinist and all round (Scottish) mountain man.
Ally has been a member of the Rab team for a few years now and has become an almost permanent fixture on all of our trips. He brings a wealth of experience and boundless enthusiasm whatever activity we ask him to do, even if that’s sitting on a belay at 2 degrees in heavy rain and wet snow (he’s Scottish and used to it). Read more on Ally’s exploits on his blog.