By Kristo Torgersen
“It starts as rain or snow falling on Scotland’s highest mountain—Ben Nevis. Either as rain or melting snow it percolates the thin layer of peat soil until it reaches the granite rock and unable to penetrate it, runs under the surface until emerging in Coire Leish or Coire na Ciste. The outflows from these two mountain lochans, located well over 3000’ above sea level, make their way spilling over the blue and pink granite rocks of the mountain’s rugged north face until they join together as the Alt a Mhullin continuing on in the valley between Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg.” —Ben Nevis Distillery
These poetic words adorn a bottle of gold-medal whiskey from the oldest legal distillery in Scotland, Ben Nevis—the source of distinguished single malts and the mountain crucible of British alpinism. This is where generations of alpinists, whether in wool knickers or Gore-Tex, developed mountain equipment and cut their teeth for expeditions to the great ranges of the world. It’s a place renowned for terribly stormy weather and long approaches to “short” climbs. It’s a place that honors style and demands an honest Scot’s prudence to climb routes only in “full” wintry conditions. It’s where Yvon Chouinard visited over 40 years earlier to test himself on Scotland’s hardest routes and compare the performance his own curved-pick Chouinard Zero ice tool with the angled-pick design of his Scottish contemporary, Hamish MacInnes. And it’s where Walker Ferguson, responsible for field testing all of Patagonia’s most technical products, has brought us to be guinea pigs with our own latest prototypes.
Above: Jon Bracey navigates the exit on Gemini, Ben Nevis, Scotland. Photo: Kristo Torgersen