Any trouser that gets used for mixed and alpine climbing will have a hard life. Despite my best intentions I often find there is more than an element of ‘thrutchy-ness’ to mixed and alpine climbing. So when the Jöttnar Váli Softshell Pants first arrived I had a slight concern that they might not fare too well in some of the more ‘full contact’ situations that they would be subjected to. I need not have worried. Jöttnar’s superb build quality and choice of fabric have ensured that the Váli’s survived a spring and summer’s worth of alpine and multi-pitch rock climbing pretty much unscathed.
Constructed from a Scholler 3XDRY fabric that breaths superbly and has proved quick drying and water resistant the Vali weigh in at around 420g for my size small. I have had jackets and trousers made from similar Scholler fabrics and without fail they have proven to be superb soft shells, often exceeding expectations with regard to water resistance. The fabric in the Váli is slightly stretchy too which helps make for an exceptionally comfortable and free moving trouser. In fact I was quite happy using them for technical rock climbing and like many excellent pieces of kit the acid test was that I forgot all about them whilst climbing. They are available in three colours the ubiquitous black and then a blue (Anchor) and a brown (Brindle), it is nice to see some lighter colours which are always a bonus in sunny alpine conditions as they reduce overheating compared to black (and stop you looking like the Milk Tray man!).
- Pockets: there are two zipped hand-warmer pockets and a rear zipped pocket. I rarely if ever used the handwarmer pockets – once you’ve got your harness on they are difficult to access and anything in them tends to foul the leg loops. The rear pocket worked well for a minimal wallet/lift pass and never impeded my harness. My personal preference would be for a thigh pocket as I find these useful for a topo, energy bar etc and they remain always accessible.
- Reinforcements: double layer knees which are cleverly cut/articulated so they move without binding, a tough crampon/ski edge scuff guard which comes a proper length up the leg (unlike some token gesture scuff guards that seem to be for show or people who are very dainty on their feet!). The seat also has an additional layer but it is more a lining than a reinforcement. The waist band is lined to enhance comfort too.
- Zippered and draw corded lower legs that are properly trim for climbing (I actually had to go and get them out of the kit bag to remember if they were zipped!) Like many elements of the Vali the cut here makes them great for climbing – not too flappy around the calf like some trousers that also cater for the skimo brigade. The draw cords allow you to snug them around a mountain boot or hitch them up to your knees for that ‘plus fours’ look to cool down but I found it most useful when switching to rock boots in the mountains keeping the trousers out the way for all that delicate footwork (or mincing as certain partners suggested!).
- Vents: there are two zippered and mesh covered vents on the thigh designed to help dump excessive heat when walking in or skinning up. I tried these under a variety of conditions and they do make a difference – more noticeably so if there is a breeze – but I can’t help feeling that they add complication for minimal benefit. When it was truly roasting on the walk in or out from a big route I’d hitch the Vali’s up to my knee using the cinch at the ankle to get more cooling.
- Belt and Braces: both are supplied and work well. The braces sit well on the shoulders with no tendency to slip off and are easily detached if required. To be honest I relied on just the belt most of the review period – it eases the process of answering calls of nature if you’re a bit layered up but the braces are easy to unhook for such duties too.
Besides some soakings in the the Lakes (which proved the Váli’s quick drying credentials) the first proper outing was a quick spring trip to Chamonix. Two days stood out using the Váli. First a straightforward ascent of the Tacul via the Contamine Grisolle with a return back to the Midi in roasting conditions. The Váli worked brilliantly from the early chill to the afternoon oven, comfortable under a harness and with a sac on. A few days later on an intended ascent of the Contamine on Pointes Lachenal (which turned into an ascent of Harold et Maud) the Váli were great on the more technical climbing providing great freedom of movement, the equal to any ‘cragging’ pant. Durability wise by the end of the summer they were still looking good despite some thrutchy offwidth action on Majorette Thatcher (not sure how I was suckered into that pitch!) – there is one small hole on the backside caused by a young lady’s ice axe in the cable car but that’s it. Being fairly lightweight and compact it was possible to stuff the Váli into a pack and walk into huts/bivis in the afternoon heat in shorts and then switch to the Váli on arrival.
Overall the Váli proved supremely versatile for spring and summer alpine use and have become my go to legwear in the mountains. Add a thigh pocket and make the available in euro fluro eucalyptus colour and they’d be even better. They dried rapidly and could be easily washed in the campsite sink if needed so making them perfect for extended trips. With a pair of thermals underneath I reckon they would work well into the autumn and hopefully some Scottish action this year if the weather gods are kind!
- Great fit and stretch
- No thigh Pocket
- No euro fluro colourway 😉
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!