One of the many good things about working here at Castleberg Outdoors is that we get some pretty good gear to test, and it doesn’t come much better than a rucksack from our new brand Millet, the Prolighter 25.
I was lucky enough to get two of these (one Men’s and one Ladies) to try on a recent trip to the Austrian Alps where Ruth and I were Running, Walking and attempting some Klettersteige, as the pack is a lightweight mountaineering backpack it was on our walking, and particularly the climbing days when they really came into their own. Weighing in at less than 900g the Millet Prolighter 25 is a super light pack that will hold 25 litres and is ideal for days out in the mountains. It’s a top loading pack with two pockets in the lid and all the usual features you would expect in a pack of this style including haul loops, side compression straps, a gear loop on the waist belt and a very neat looking Ice Axe holder.
For those who don’t know, Klettersteig (German for ‘Climbing Path’), known as Via Ferrata (‘Iron Road’) in the non-German speaking world, are protected climbing routes found all over Europe (and the rest of the world) which enable the non-climber with a head for heights to access some stunning situations and peaks that would normally be the preserve of the experienced mountaineer and climber. Apart from a head for heights, all you need to complete one is a small amount of equipment consisting of a basic climbing harness, a helmet and a Via Ferrata Lanyard which attaches to your harness and consists of two carabiners and a shock absorbing link. Gloves can also be useful to help prevent blisters on certain climbs. The climbs are protected by a steel cable which is fixed to the rock every few metres and when the climbing becomes hard or steep fixed aids (steel pegs) are also inserted to aid progress. As these climbs are in alpine territory I also included a short rope and belay/abseil device as “get out of trouble” insurance.
During the trip the weather wasn’t quite as good as we had hoped but it was never bad enough to stop us getting out and our first trip was on the Dachstein plateau for an easy graded ascent of the Hoher Gjaidstein, 2794m. On arrival the plateau was shrouded in mist and we were unable to locate the route across the glacier but after half an hour of wandering, the mist lifted and we could see our mountain, just a three minute walk across the ice. Beautiful clear skies accompanied an easy ascent with magnificent views although the cloud lowered just as we arrived at the summit, clearing again for the descent. A good day out which had whet our appetite for more.
The next fine day saw us in the Silberkarklamm for a lower level but slightly trickier prospect, no summit this time, Klettersteig Siega is just 140m of pleasure set beneath the Silberkar Alpine Hut in an idyllic location. With 2 other Klettersteige in the gorge this proved to be a very busy area but the challenging nature of the climbing and the very sunny day more than made up for that, after finishing we descended to the hut for ice cold drinks and cakes (huge portions always seem to be served in Austria), a fine end to the day so we left the other two routes for another trip.
The next few days were somewhat damp so we had to amuse ourselves by going on 20 mile runs in the mountains, but that’s another story, and so we were into our second week before we approached our third days climbing, the Austria-Klettersteig Sinabell, 230m up a huge cliff face to the summit of Sinabell, 2349m. After a two and a half hour walk up in the mist, at least it was cool, we arrived at the foot of the crag, the early section was easy apart from one move then traversing followed, this would have been simple if it hadn’t been wet, to a steep and imposing wall which was followed to the summit. On the final steep section they had installed a seat where you could sit and look out over the valley below while you filled out the log book which was there for climbers to complete.
Our final climb saw us back on the Dachstein Plateau for an ascent of the Koppenkarstein, 2863m. This was an excellent ridge climb which included a Himalayan style suspension bridge thrown in for good measure. Another grand day out, although once again the clouds descended just as we reached the summit, lifting again just after we had left.
My view of the Millet Prolighter 25 – this is an excellent lightweight pack, versatile and good for both walking and climbing. In use it is stable and comfortable to the point of not noticing that I was wearing a rucksack. The size is a very generous 25 litres and I was able to easily fit in all I required for a day’s climbing with plenty of space to spare, the rope holder compression strap allows even more to be carried. On wet days it appeared to have some degree of water repellency (although I would always keep anything that required to be kept dry in a drybag).