The North Farce

I fully believe in credit given where credit is due but I also believe in constructive criticism when your experience is less than you would expect, especially from a world renowned mountaineering company such as The North Face.

Around two years ago I made the decision to begin exploring Scotland, two years after my decision to leave a decade and a half career in the armed forces. Part of my plan was to begin climbing every one of the famous Munros and to do this I would most definitely require the correct kit and clothing. After a year of dipping my toe into re-visiting the smaller tourist hills I climbed as a child I began the Munros. Quickly, I saw that my general clothing wouldn’t cut it when the weather turned for the worst on the bigger peaks.

Around Christmas 2018 I subtly made family aware that I was about to invest in a North Face jacket that I had seen and knew would be perfect for the wet and wild climbs. Such a jacket would be pricey but through proper care I knew it would last me a lifetime. Fast forward to January 2019 and my hints had worked… I was graced with gift cards for The North Face through my family’s annual secret Santa ritual.

Armed with additional funds I was able to upgrade to a better jacket than that which I originally had my eye on. My new choice was the Mountain Light Triclimate jacket in a striking green colour (Botanical Garden Green to be precise). It was stunning and has it all! Double-layered Gore-Tex outer, detachable down filled inner, detachable storm hood, arm-pit vents, velcro cuffs etc etc… it was perfect! Two jackets in one but pricey at £350! Queue the order.

After a mix-up in the ordering process, which saw mine cancelled and re-ordered when the stock for the whole of the UK was under thirty garments, I finally got the jacket three weeks late. By now I was eager and excited as I had never spent this much money on a piece of outdoors equipment for myself and was raring to go.

Now, jacket picked, order dilemma overcome, climbing day and hill selected, I was off! After days of wearing the jacket dog-walking and the likes I finally got a small climb under my belt. I returned to the last hill I tackled unsuccessfully in 2018 (Merrick) and gave it another bash (again unsuccessfully – vlog here). The weather was perfect for trialling the jacket, sleet, snow, wind, rain, the works, and it kept me warm and dry throughout. A few weeks later I set sights on another hill and this time a Munro. After a 03:30 start, one hour drive and a discrepancy in the weather forecast, I climbed Beinn Narnain which is located in the Arrochar Alps on Scotland’s west coast. I was extremely happy with the £350 jacket’s versatility on Merrick and looked forward to its performance on this Munro. Being able to add and remove the down-filled inner, coupled with the extremely water-repellent dual layered Gore-Tex, was a God send when the Scottish weather decided to throw sideways rain and sleet my way on the summit.

It really felt like the jacket I had been after all this time. Another Munro off the list and finally a jacket that could tackle it all. Bliss! Right?

Back at sea level I stripped off the layers, swapped the boots for something more comfortable and placed the jacket tentatively in the boot of my car (well I had just spent £350 on it). After heading home I began the ritual pleasure of turning my equipment around for the next outing and thats when I saw it! “NO! Surely not?? This can’t be!!”

When I lifted the jacket from the car I saw a horrible fraying on the inside of it. The seam on the inside right shoulder appeared ripped but a closer inspection found that it was the nylon material next to the stitching that had actually failed and began pulling away. The stitching itself was holding, it was the material that was tearing, and tearing badly.

Shoulder Fray!

I couldn’t believe it and felt almost like the jacket was cursed. First the order, now this? It didn’t feel right, I mean these people make jackets that go to the top of Mount Everest, right? A trip to the top of a Scottish Corbett then a Munro should be nothing. Absolutely gutted and I thought the jacket would last at least twenty years too. Pah!!

So now I have to go back into The North Face and put the jacket through their return process which I hope is a lot better than the ordering one.

£350 down, three weeks late, two hills climbed and I currently sit back at square one.

At the time of writing this I have began the process of returning the jacket to The North Face in Glasgow and really don’t want to see what dilemma comes next however my faith holds that they will be able to repair the fault.

I will be sure to keep you updated with any progress made at all during the “repair or replacement” procedure but would live to know if you have ever had any issues with kit made for mountains? What have your experiences been?

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