FREE DELIVERY ON ORDERS OVER €170
Commando Ridge: An Interview

Commando Ridge: An Interview

Jöttnar
Share this article

Interview with Jöttnar Co-Founder, Tommy Kelly.

Tommy is one of the founders of Jöttnar. He’s a former Royal Marine officer who served in the specialist Mountain Leader branch, and saw active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Our recently launched film, Commando Ridge, links past with present and shows how outlook and mindset are influenced by experience.

You mention becoming a Royal Marines Mountain Leader. What is that?


Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists. They’re a small branch with an eight-month selection course, renowned for its beastliness, which unfolds over the Cornish sea cliffs, the Scottish Highlands and Arctic Norway.


Their operational role is reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering, as well as leading and equipping mountain routes and cliff assaults for other follow-on Marines. The branch emerged from the Royal Marine Cliff Assault Wing of the 1950s, who had become the custodians of coastal raiding and vertical assault techniques developed by commando forces during WW2.


You were an experienced climber before the course - did the ML course change your perspective on climbing and mountaineering or teach any new technical skills?


I remember my friends and I teaching ourselves to climb on a sandstone viaduct in Edinburgh where I grew up. I’ve memories of comically placed wires, held in place with nothing other than saliva and hope really. What the ML course taught me was how to do all of this properly, and then through the wider ML community came the progression into winter climbing, mountaineering and alpinism. I was hooked by the bigger, badder terrain, as well as the huge role weather and conditions play. You can get yourself into serious trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing, or aren’t thinking, or haven’t considered the weather. Lots of variables to navigate and contend with, which can combine to give some unforgettable experiences – good and bad! 

Aspirant Mountain Leaders from the famed BBC2 series, 'Behind the Lines'.

Unforgettable experiences, good and bad...

"Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists." 

How does combat climbing and military mountaineering differ from its civilian counterpart?


The military versions are all about efficiency, speed and surprise. Get from the bottom to the top quickly, quietly and via the route least expected.


In an operational setting, the importance of style and ethics - as you see in recreational climbing – is zero, as is any sense of line aesthetic. Combat climbing is a means to an end, namely, getting over obstacles and continuing on your way. And if that means crampons and ice tools for climbing mixed rock and steep earth, or caving ladders, or grapnel hooks then these will be used. You’ll not see anyone choosing a particular sea cliff line or alpine route because of its incomparable aesthetics.

In the white room: Arctic Norway.

The Royal Marines are known for their mountain and cold weather warfare capability. How are these skills maintained? 


The commando brigade, of which the Royal Marines are part, are the UK’s designated mountain and cold weather warfare force, trained and equipped to defend NATO’s northern flank, if required. The MLs within are responsible for the training, tactics, procedures and standards that underpin this.


The Marines deploy to Norway every winter and continuously train in the Scottish Highlands, so as to retain and develop this skill.

Do you manage to do enough climbing still as a founding employee of Jöttnar?

No - although that’s probably the same answer anyone with an obsessive hobby would give. If I’m lucky, the Alps a couple of times a year and Scotland maybe three or four times – plus weekends in North Wales and the Lakes. Although one of the perks of the job is that I additionally get to spend time with the athletes of our Pro Team, which inevitably means more playtime.

I was out on the Eiger with Tim Howell earlier in the summer shooting a film, and got to watch first-hand as he wingsuited down its north face. Pretty cool. And had an outstanding week up on Ben Nevis with Mike Pescod earlier in the year when we caught probably the best conditions of the winter, allowing us to tick some rarely formed routes like Mega Route X and all of the Minus gullies.

Minus One Gully, Ben Nevis.

Mega Route X - living up to its name.

What is the coldest, most unpleasant environment you operated in in the Royal Marines?


The coldest would be Arctic Norway, where -15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. The mountains of Afghanistan were quite chilly as well. Not Norway cold, but operating in small teams and a long way from any infrastructure meant that you really needed to stay on top of your shit.

The most unpleasant, without doubt, is the west coast of Scotland in winter. Temperatures fluctuate around zero, meaning a continual freezing wetness, and wind is pretty much a constant. Cold, wet and windy – that’s a really unholy trinity, and classic hypothermia territory. Although Norway is colder, it’s that same cold that makes rain impossible. It’s therefore a far drier environment, so you can stay more or less comfortable. But cold and wet is a different game. Gushing rivers, sleet, raging wind, bog, darkness and tussock grass – you definitely feel like you’re earning your pay in these conditions.

Have you managed yet to exceed these kind of conditions as a civilian outdoorsman?


In isolated bouts, maybe. I had a particularly memorable night out in the open on top of the Eiger in a storm. It was one of my first big alpine routes and just about everything that could have gone wrong, did. I got away unscathed, but with my tail between my legs.


But fundamentally, any recreational adventuring is about fun and there’s always comfort in the knowledge that you can call it a day. But in a military operational context, that isn’t an option. You stay on task regardless of discomfort and misery. I used to love that though – the commitment to almost certain suffering, and the zen-like ability for acceptance that you then seem to find.

"-15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. "

How did your experiences with military clothing influence your design and performance philosophy with Jöttnar?


Our experience with military clothing and the typical rigours it’s subjected to is an undeniable influence. Both Steve (fellow founder) and I know what it’s like to be 100% reliant upon what you’re wearing and what you’re carrying. Operating in harsh conditions for months on end really does expose any weaknesses in your clothing, and these weaknesses can quickly become problematic and debilitating.

These kinds of experiences act as a default internal reference point, which obviously influences our prototyping and trialling processes. Toughness and performance are critical metrics, and if they’re not met then any given fabric or construction technique will be modified until satisfactory, or abandoned altogether. Over this past year Jöttnar has been chosen as a clothing supplier to a number of specialist military units, which feels particularly rewarding.

Heat, dust, desert, mountain and snow.

Any weaknesses in clothing and equipment, Afghanistan will expose it. 

However, our military past isn’t our only frame of reference. We’ve both been active climbers, skiers and mountaineers most of our adult lives and so we’re equally aware of the performance requirements here as well. The same necessity for toughness and performance is a given, but also for lightness and packability. There’s some incredible fabric technology available, some of which we’ve developed in-house, that allows all of these criteria to co-exist in the same garment.


Although our products are built to be highly functioning tools first and foremost, visual appeal is important too. We concentrate a lot of resource on fit, patterning and colour. It’s important to look good.

Tell us about Commando Ridge and Cornwall more generally. Is that significant to you? 


Commando Ridge is a 200-metre long rock route in Bosigran, Cornwall, at the south-west Atlantic tip of the UK, and rises straight out of the sea. It was used by the ML branch’s WW2 commando forebears as a means of pre-deployment training, as well as the many other cliffs up and down that stretch of coastline. It’s a well-known route within the ML community and I thought it would be a great symbol to use throughout the film.


It was good being back in Bosigran again, which is where a lot of the training during the early stages of the ML course takes place. Seeing the same distant tors and hilltops that we were goosed up and down, as well as the beaches and dunes which were the site of endless beastings made me feel almost nostalgic.


The climb itself on Commando Ridge is straightforward but atmospheric, with the crashing sea all around. For the film, I teamed up with Tim Howell from the Jöttnar Pro Team, who’s also a former Royal Marine ML. It was great fun, especially using the raiding craft to get to the base of the route. But for Tim, I doubt whether being short-roped up a VDiff by me marks the high point of his career so far as a professional climber.


On Commando Ridge. Tim left, Tommy right.

COMMANDO RIDGE

WATCH FILM

Interview with Jöttnar Co-Founder, Tommy Kelly.

Tommy is one of the founders of Jöttnar. He’s a former Royal Marine officer who served in the specialist Mountain Leader branch, and saw active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Our recently launched film, Commando Ridge, links past with present and shows how outlook and mindset are influenced by experience.

You mention becoming a Royal Marines Mountain Leader. What is that?


Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists. They’re a small branch with an eight-month selection course, renowned for its beastliness, which unfolds over the Cornish sea cliffs, the Scottish Highlands and Arctic Norway.


Their operational role is reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering, as well as leading and equipping mountain routes and cliff assaults for other follow-on Marines. The branch emerged from the Royal Marine Cliff Assault Wing of the 1950s, who had become the custodians of coastal raiding and vertical assault techniques developed by commando forces during WW2.


You were an experienced climber before the course - did the ML course change your perspective on climbing and mountaineering or teach any new technical skills?


I remember my friends and I teaching ourselves to climb on a sandstone viaduct in Edinburgh where I grew up. I’ve memories of comically placed wires, held in place with nothing other than saliva and hope really. What the ML course taught me was how to do all of this properly, and then through the wider ML community came the progression into winter climbing, mountaineering and alpinism. I was hooked by the bigger, badder terrain, as well as the huge role weather and conditions play. You can get yourself into serious trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing, or aren’t thinking, or haven’t considered the weather. Lots of variables to navigate and contend with, which can combine to give some unforgettable experiences – good and bad! 

Aspirant Mountain Leaders from the famed BBC2 series, 'Behind the Lines'.

Unforgettable experiences, good and bad...

"Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists." 

How does combat climbing and military mountaineering differ from its civilian counterpart?


The military versions are all about efficiency, speed and surprise. Get from the bottom to the top quickly, quietly and via the route least expected.


In an operational setting, the importance of style and ethics - as you see in recreational climbing – is zero, as is any sense of line aesthetic. Combat climbing is a means to an end, namely, getting over obstacles and continuing on your way. And if that means crampons and ice tools for climbing mixed rock and steep earth, or caving ladders, or grapnel hooks then these will be used. You’ll not see anyone choosing a particular sea cliff line or alpine route because of its incomparable aesthetics.

In the white room: Arctic Norway.

The Royal Marines are known for their mountain and cold weather warfare capability. How are these skills maintained? 


The commando brigade, of which the Royal Marines are part, are the UK’s designated mountain and cold weather warfare force, trained and equipped to defend NATO’s northern flank, if required. The MLs within are responsible for the training, tactics, procedures and standards that underpin this.


The Marines deploy to Norway every winter and continuously train in the Scottish Highlands, so as to retain and develop this skill.

Do you manage to do enough climbing still as a founding employee of Jöttnar?

No - although that’s probably the same answer anyone with an obsessive hobby would give. If I’m lucky, the Alps a couple of times a year and Scotland maybe three or four times – plus weekends in North Wales and the Lakes. Although one of the perks of the job is that I additionally get to spend time with the athletes of our Pro Team, which inevitably means more playtime.

I was out on the Eiger with Tim Howell earlier in the summer shooting a film, and got to watch first-hand as he wingsuited down its north face. Pretty cool. And had an outstanding week up on Ben Nevis with Mike Pescod earlier in the year when we caught probably the best conditions of the winter, allowing us to tick some rarely formed routes like Mega Route X and all of the Minus gullies.

Minus One Gully, Ben Nevis.

Mega Route X - living up to its name.

What is the coldest, most unpleasant environment you operated in in the Royal Marines?


The coldest would be Arctic Norway, where -15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. The mountains of Afghanistan were quite chilly as well. Not Norway cold, but operating in small teams and a long way from any infrastructure meant that you really needed to stay on top of your shit.

The most unpleasant, without doubt, is the west coast of Scotland in winter. Temperatures fluctuate around zero, meaning a continual freezing wetness, and wind is pretty much a constant. Cold, wet and windy – that’s a really unholy trinity, and classic hypothermia territory. Although Norway is colder, it’s that same cold that makes rain impossible. It’s therefore a far drier environment, so you can stay more or less comfortable. But cold and wet is a different game. Gushing rivers, sleet, raging wind, bog, darkness and tussock grass – you definitely feel like you’re earning your pay in these conditions.

Have you managed yet to exceed these kind of conditions as a civilian outdoorsman?


In isolated bouts, maybe. I had a particularly memorable night out in the open on top of the Eiger in a storm. It was one of my first big alpine routes and just about everything that could have gone wrong, did. I got away unscathed, but with my tail between my legs.


But fundamentally, any recreational adventuring is about fun and there’s always comfort in the knowledge that you can call it a day. But in a military operational context, that isn’t an option. You stay on task regardless of discomfort and misery. I used to love that though – the commitment to almost certain suffering, and the zen-like ability for acceptance that you then seem to find.

"-15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. "

How did your experiences with military clothing influence your design and performance philosophy with Jöttnar?


Our experience with military clothing and the typical rigours it’s subjected to is an undeniable influence. Both Steve (fellow founder) and I know what it’s like to be 100% reliant upon what you’re wearing and what you’re carrying. Operating in harsh conditions for months on end really does expose any weaknesses in your clothing, and these weaknesses can quickly become problematic and debilitating.

Heat, dust, desert, mountain and snow. 

Any weaknesses in clothing and equipment, Afghanistan will expose it. 

These kinds of experiences act as a default internal reference point, which obviously influences our prototyping and trialling processes. Toughness and performance are critical metrics, and if they’re not met then any given fabric or construction technique will be modified until satisfactory, or abandoned altogether. Over this past year Jöttnar has been chosen as a clothing supplier to a number of specialist military units, which feels particularly rewarding.


However, our military past isn’t our only frame of reference. We’ve both been active climbers, skiers and mountaineers most of our adult lives and so we’re equally aware of the performance requirements here as well. The same necessity for toughness and performance is a given, but also for lightness and packability. There’s some incredible fabric technology available, some of which we’ve developed in-house, that allows all of these criteria to co-exist in the same garment.


Although our products are built to be highly functioning tools first and foremost, visual appeal is important too. We concentrate a lot of resource on fit, patterning and colour. It’s important to look good.

Tell us about Commando Ridge and Cornwall more generally. Is that significant to you? 


Commando Ridge is a 200-metre long rock route in Bosigran, Cornwall, at the south-west Atlantic tip of the UK, and rises straight out of the sea. It was used by the ML branch’s WW2 commando forebears as a means of pre-deployment training, as well as the many other cliffs up and down that stretch of coastline. It’s a well-known route within the ML community and I thought it would be a great symbol to use throughout the film.


It was good being back in Bosigran again, which is where a lot of the training during the early stages of the ML course takes place. Seeing the same distant tors and hilltops that we were goosed up and down, as well as the beaches and dunes which were the site of endless beastings made me feel almost nostalgic.

On Commando Ridge. Tim left, Tommy right.

The climb itself on Commando Ridge is straightforward but atmospheric, with the crashing sea all around. For the film, I teamed up with Tim Howell from the Jöttnar Pro Team, who’s also a former Royal Marine ML. It was great fun, especially using the raiding craft to get to the base of the route. But for Tim, I doubt whether being short-roped up a VDiff by me marks the high point of his career so far as a professional climber.

COMMANDO RIDGE

WATCH FILM

Interview with Jöttnar Co-Founder, Tommy Kelly.

Tommy is one of the founders of Jöttnar. He’s a former Royal Marine officer who served in the specialist Mountain Leader branch, and saw active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Our recently launched film, Commando Ridge, links past with present and shows how outlook and mindset are influenced by experience.

You mention becoming a Royal Marines Mountain Leader. What is that?


Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists. They’re a small branch with an eight-month selection course, renowned for its beastliness, which unfolds over the Cornish sea cliffs, the Scottish Highlands and Arctic Norway.


Their operational role is reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering, as well as leading and equipping mountain routes and cliff assaults for other follow-on Marines. The branch emerged from the Royal Marine Cliff Assault Wing of the 1950s, who had become the custodians of coastal raiding and vertical assault techniques developed by commando forces during WW2.


You were an experienced climber before the course - did the ML course change your perspective on climbing and mountaineering or teach any new technical skills?


I remember my friends and I teaching ourselves to climb on a sandstone viaduct in Edinburgh where I grew up. I’ve memories of comically placed wires, held in place with nothing other than saliva and hope really. What the ML course taught me was how to do all of this properly, and then through the wider ML community came the progression into winter climbing, mountaineering and alpinism. I was hooked by the bigger, badder terrain, as well as the huge role weather and conditions play. You can get yourself into serious trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing, or aren’t thinking, or haven’t considered the weather. Lots of variables to navigate and contend with, which can combine to give some unforgettable experiences – good and bad! 

Aspirant Mountain Leaders from the famed BBC2 series, 'Behind the Lines'.

Unforgettable experiences, good and bad...

"Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists." 

How does combat climbing and military mountaineering differ from its civilian counterpart?


The military versions are all about efficiency, speed and surprise. Get from the bottom to the top quickly, quietly and via the route least expected.


In an operational setting, the importance of style and ethics - as you see in recreational climbing – is zero, as is any sense of line aesthetic. Combat climbing is a means to an end, namely, getting over obstacles and continuing on your way. And if that means crampons and ice tools for climbing mixed rock and steep earth, or caving ladders, or grapnel hooks then these will be used. You’ll not see anyone choosing a particular sea cliff line or alpine route because of its incomparable aesthetics.

The Royal Marines are known for their mountain and cold weather warfare capability. How are these skills maintained? 


The commando brigade, of which the Royal Marines are part, are the UK’s designated mountain and cold weather warfare force, trained and equipped to defend NATO’s northern flank, if required. The MLs within are responsible for the training, tactics, procedures and standards that underpin this.


The Marines deploy to Norway every winter and continuously train in the Scottish Highlands, so as to retain and develop this skill.

In the white room: Arctic Norway.

Do you manage to do enough climbing still as a founding employee of Jöttnar?

No - although that’s probably the same answer anyone with an obsessive hobby would give. If I’m lucky, the Alps a couple of times a year and Scotland maybe three or four times – plus weekends in North Wales and the Lakes. Although one of the perks of the job is that I additionally get to spend time with the athletes of our Pro Team, which inevitably means more playtime.

I was out on the Eiger with Tim Howell earlier in the summer shooting a film, and got to watch first-hand as he wingsuited down its north face. Pretty cool. And had an outstanding week up on Ben Nevis with Mike Pescod earlier in the year when we caught probably the best conditions of the winter, allowing us to tick some rarely formed routes like Mega Route X and all of the Minus gullies.

Minus One Gully, Ben Nevis.

Mega Route X - living up to its name.

What is the coldest, most unpleasant environment you operated in in the Royal Marines?


The coldest would be Arctic Norway, where -15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. The mountains of Afghanistan were quite chilly as well. Not Norway cold, but operating in small teams and a long way from any infrastructure meant that you really needed to stay on top of your shit.

The most unpleasant, without doubt, is the west coast of Scotland in winter. Temperatures fluctuate around zero, meaning a continual freezing wetness, and wind is pretty much a constant. Cold, wet and windy – that’s a really unholy trinity, and classic hypothermia territory. Although Norway is colder, it’s that same cold that makes rain impossible. It’s therefore a far drier environment, so you can stay more or less comfortable. But cold and wet is a different game. Gushing rivers, sleet, raging wind, bog, darkness and tussock grass – you definitely feel like you’re earning your pay in these conditions.

Have you managed yet to exceed these kind of conditions as a civilian outdoorsman?


In isolated bouts, maybe. I had a particularly memorable night out in the open on top of the Eiger in a storm. It was one of my first big alpine routes and just about everything that could have gone wrong, did. I got away unscathed, but with my tail between my legs.


But fundamentally, any recreational adventuring is about fun and there’s always comfort in the knowledge that you can call it a day. But in a military operational context, that isn’t an option. You stay on task regardless of discomfort and misery. I used to love that though – the commitment to almost certain suffering, and the zen-like ability for acceptance that you then seem to find.

"-15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. "

How did your experiences with military clothing influence your design and performance philosophy with Jöttnar?


Our experience with military clothing and the typical rigours it’s subjected to is an undeniable influence. Both Steve (fellow founder) and I know what it’s like to be 100% reliant upon what you’re wearing and what you’re carrying. Operating in harsh conditions for months on end really does expose any weaknesses in your clothing, and these weaknesses can quickly become problematic and debilitating.

Heat, dust, desert, mountain and snow. 

Any weaknesses in clothing and equipment, Afghanistan will expose it. 

These kinds of experiences act as a default internal reference point, which obviously influences our prototyping and trialling processes. Toughness and performance are critical metrics, and if they’re not met then any given fabric or construction technique will be modified until satisfactory, or abandoned altogether. Over this past year Jöttnar has been chosen as a clothing supplier to a number of specialist military units, which feels particularly rewarding.


However, our military past isn’t our only frame of reference. We’ve both been active climbers, skiers and mountaineers most of our adult lives and so we’re equally aware of the performance requirements here as well. The same necessity for toughness and performance is a given, but also for lightness and packability. There’s some incredible fabric technology available, some of which we’ve developed in-house, that allows all of these criteria to co-exist in the same garment.


Although our products are built to be highly functioning tools first and foremost, visual appeal is important too. We concentrate a lot of resource on fit, patterning and colour. It’s important to look good.

Tell us about Commando Ridge and Cornwall more generally. Is that significant to you? 


Commando Ridge is a 200-metre long rock route in Bosigran, Cornwall, at the south-west Atlantic tip of the UK, and rises straight out of the sea. It was used by the ML branch’s WW2 commando forebears as a means of pre-deployment training, as well as the many other cliffs up and down that stretch of coastline. It’s a well-known route within the ML community and I thought it would be a great symbol to use throughout the film.

On Commando Ridge. Tim left, Tommy right.

It was good being back in Bosigran again, which is where a lot of the training during the early stages of the ML course takes place. Seeing the same distant tors and hilltops that we were goosed up and down, as well as the beaches and dunes which were the site of endless beastings made me feel almost nostalgic.


The climb itself on Commando Ridge is straightforward but atmospheric, with the crashing sea all around. For the film, I teamed up with Tim Howell from the Jöttnar Pro Team, who’s also a former Royal Marine ML. It was great fun, especially using the raiding craft to get to the base of the route. But for Tim, I doubt whether being short-roped up a VDiff by me marks the high point of his career so far as a professional climber.

COMMANDO RIDGE

WATCH FILM

Interview with Jöttnar Co-Founder, Tommy Kelly.

Tommy is one of the founders of Jöttnar. He’s a former Royal Marine officer who served in the specialist Mountain Leader branch, and saw active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Our recently launched film, Commando Ridge, links past with present and shows how outlook and mindset are influenced by experience.

You mention becoming a Royal Marines Mountain Leader. What is that?


Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists. They’re a small branch with an eight-month selection course, renowned for its beastliness, which unfolds over the Cornish sea cliffs, the Scottish Highlands and Arctic Norway.


Their operational role is reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering, as well as leading and equipping mountain routes and cliff assaults for other follow-on Marines. The branch emerged from the Royal Marine Cliff Assault Wing of the 1950s, who had become the custodians of coastal raiding and vertical assault techniques developed by commando forces during WW2.

Aspirant Mountain Leaders from the famed BBC2 series, 'Behind the Lines'.

You were an experienced climber before the course - did the ML course change your perspective on climbing and mountaineering or teach any new technical skills?


I remember my friends and I teaching ourselves to climb on a sandstone viaduct in Edinburgh where I grew up. I’ve memories of comically placed wires, held in place with nothing other than saliva and hope really. What the ML course taught me was how to do all of this properly, and then through the wider ML community came the progression into winter climbing, mountaineering and alpinism. I was hooked by the bigger, badder terrain, as well as the huge role weather and conditions play. You can get yourself into serious trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing, or aren’t thinking, or haven’t considered the weather. Lots of variables to navigate and contend with, which can combine to give some unforgettable experiences – good and bad! 

Unforgettable experiences, good and bad...

"Mountain Leaders are the Royal Marines’ mountain and cold weather warfare experts, as well as reconnaissance specialists." 

How does combat climbing and military mountaineering differ from its civilian counterpart?


The military versions are all about efficiency, speed and surprise. Get from the bottom to the top quickly, quietly and via the route least expected.


In an operational setting, the importance of style and ethics - as you see in recreational climbing – is zero, as is any sense of line aesthetic. Combat climbing is a means to an end, namely, getting over obstacles and continuing on your way. And if that means crampons and ice tools for climbing mixed rock and steep earth, or caving ladders, or grapnel hooks then these will be used. You’ll not see anyone choosing a particular sea cliff line or alpine route because of its incomparable aesthetics.

The Royal Marines are known for their mountain and cold weather warfare capability. How are these skills maintained? 


The commando brigade, of which the Royal Marines are part, are the UK’s designated mountain and cold weather warfare force, trained and equipped to defend NATO’s northern flank, if required. The MLs within are responsible for the training, tactics, procedures and standards that underpin this.


The Marines deploy to Norway every winter and continuously train in the Scottish Highlands, so as to retain and develop this skill.

In the white room: Arctic Norway.

Do you manage to do enough climbing still as a founding employee of Jöttnar?

No - although that’s probably the same answer anyone with an obsessive hobby would give. If I’m lucky, the Alps a couple of times a year and Scotland maybe three or four times – plus weekends in North Wales and the Lakes. Although one of the perks of the job is that I additionally get to spend time with the athletes of our Pro Team, which inevitably means more playtime.

I was out on the Eiger with Tim Howell earlier in the summer shooting a film, and got to watch first-hand as he wingsuited down its north face. Pretty cool. And had an outstanding week up on Ben Nevis with Mike Pescod earlier in the year when we caught probably the best conditions of the winter, allowing us to tick some rarely formed routes like Mega Route X and all of the Minus gullies.

Minus One Gully, Ben Nevis.

Mega Route X - living up to its name.

What is the coldest, most unpleasant environment you operated in in the Royal Marines?


The coldest would be Arctic Norway, where -15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. The mountains of Afghanistan were quite chilly as well. Not Norway cold, but operating in small teams and a long way from any infrastructure meant that you really needed to stay on top of your shit.

The most unpleasant, without doubt, is the west coast of Scotland in winter. Temperatures fluctuate around zero, meaning a continual freezing wetness, and wind is pretty much a constant. Cold, wet and windy – that’s a really unholy trinity, and classic hypothermia territory. Although Norway is colder, it’s that same cold that makes rain impossible. It’s therefore a far drier environment, so you can stay more or less comfortable. But cold and wet is a different game. Gushing rivers, sleet, raging wind, bog, darkness and tussock grass – you definitely feel like you’re earning your pay in these conditions.

Have you managed yet to exceed these kind of conditions as a civilian outdoorsman?


In isolated bouts, maybe. I had a particularly memorable night out in the open on top of the Eiger in a storm. It was one of my first big alpine routes and just about everything that could have gone wrong, did. I got away unscathed, but with my tail between my legs.


But fundamentally, any recreational adventuring is about fun and there’s always comfort in the knowledge that you can call it a day. But in a military operational context, that isn’t an option. You stay on task regardless of discomfort and misery. I used to love that though – the commitment to almost certain suffering, and the zen-like ability for acceptance that you then seem to find.

"-15 to -30°C would be the norm. Add wind to those kinds of temperatures and you know all about it. "

How did your experiences with military clothing influence your design and performance philosophy with Jöttnar?


Our experience with military clothing and the typical rigours it’s subjected to is an undeniable influence. Both Steve (fellow founder) and I know what it’s like to be 100% reliant upon what you’re wearing and what you’re carrying. Operating in harsh conditions for months on end really does expose any weaknesses in your clothing, and these weaknesses can quickly become problematic and debilitating.

Heat, dust, desert, mountain and snow. 

Any weaknesses in clothing and equipment, Afghanistan will expose it. 

These kinds of experiences act as a default internal reference point, which obviously influences our prototyping and trialling processes. Toughness and performance are critical metrics, and if they’re not met then any given fabric or construction technique will be modified until satisfactory, or abandoned altogether. Over this past year Jöttnar has been chosen as a clothing supplier to a number of specialist military units, which feels particularly rewarding.


However, our military past isn’t our only frame of reference. We’ve both been active climbers, skiers and mountaineers most of our adult lives and so we’re equally aware of the performance requirements here as well. The same necessity for toughness and performance is a given, but also for lightness and packability. There’s some incredible fabric technology available, some of which we’ve developed in-house, that allows all of these criteria to co-exist in the same garment.


Although our products are built to be highly functioning tools first and foremost, visual appeal is important too. We concentrate a lot of resource on fit, patterning and colour. It’s important to look good.

Tell us about Commando Ridge and Cornwall more generally. Is that significant to you? 


Commando Ridge is a 200-metre long rock route in Bosigran, Cornwall, at the south-west Atlantic tip of the UK, and rises straight out of the sea. It was used by the ML branch’s WW2 commando forebears as a means of pre-deployment training, as well as the many other cliffs up and down that stretch of coastline. It’s a well-known route within the ML community and I thought it would be a great symbol to use throughout the film.

On Commando Ridge. Tim left, Tommy right.

It was good being back in Bosigran again, which is where a lot of the training during the early stages of the ML course takes place. Seeing the same distant tors and hilltops that we were goosed up and down, as well as the beaches and dunes which were the site of endless beastings made me feel almost nostalgic.


The climb itself on Commando Ridge is straightforward but atmospheric, with the crashing sea all around. For the film, I teamed up with Tim Howell from the Jöttnar Pro Team, who’s also a former Royal Marine ML. It was great fun, especially using the raiding craft to get to the base of the route. But for Tim, I doubt whether being short-roped up a VDiff by me marks the high point of his career so far as a professional climber.

COMMANDO RIDGE

WATCH FILM

Written By
Jöttnar

Are you in the right place?

Please select a store

Free Express Global Delivery option

Responsible Sourcing & Manufacture

Dedicated Customer Support

Lifetime Warranty

The cart is empty


Total

€0,00 EUR

View your Bag

Are you in the right place?

Please select a store