During the uprising in January this year in Tunisia, Mme Joelle and I finally sewed up the first production sample of a new down jacket: The Immelman. Revolution in the air outside, and another in preparation inside the Atlas Alpine walls.
One week after the fall of the Ben Ali regime, I presented the Immelman at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City.
This is not really a regular down jacket, and if I am correctly informed, it’s the first and only down jacket, that offers a 100% Range of motion in all directions. Actually you can transform your arms into counter rotative wind mills, and plow ahead without any movement in the form fitted body section.
And this is actually the minimum one can expect in an Alpine down jacket, designed for climbing, because the bottom line is to get your arms up, hammer in your exes and get some traction.
The project was started where we left the Split-S, using the same compartment system, which fixes the down totally on the body side with two lateral compartments, and the 3 inside/outside compartments on the sleeves.
What we did was to connect the inside sleeve fabric directly to the fabric on the lateral compartment fabric, and then cut this in ONE long piece…..And that’s a “hands up” from Valandre!
The jacket is quite long, well covering the back even if bending down. The sleeves are articulated, and the body section is form fitted into a more “sports” look and feel to it.
One important point is to offer great ventilation/heat regulation, by constantly adjusting the zipper position. Totally closed when in the shade, and precisely open and temperature adjusted once in the sun. This point also works for long early start routes.
So the insulation system behind the zipper has to offer a great and precise capacity to seal up where the zipper is closed, yet separate easily where the jacket is opened to ventilate. We solved this by designing a “down seal” on each side of the zipper and drawing back the zipper 3/4inch (2cm) from its edge. As the zipper closes, the two seals compresses, and blocks any penetration of cold air, even in strong winds.
But this system is totally useless and even dangerous, if the zipper snaps/snags (???) .If this happens, you can easily find your self in trouble. We made several different prototypes to try to figure out how to do this, and finally found the solution as the revolution rolled ove the streets in Tunisia. A system that effectively works.
Keeping hands warm is also important, so we did not think pockets but hand warmers. This raises one question: where is all the warmth? If not directly on the inside of the down jacket but directly in contact with the body heat.
Therefore the pockets/hand warmers are two “tunnels” that, once the pocket zip is opened, allows you to let your hands traverse the down membrane completely. A very efficient system as well as ultra light, as the pockets are only a piece of micro light fabric sewn onto the inside fabric in the jacket.
Ok…if we make a ‘Hands up” down jacket, better have a harness system: The main zipper is a double curseur, allowing to zip up the jacket from below and use a harness, and therefore the semi-elasticated waist closing system, is placed well over the waist point, where the harness is designed to be.
The neck collar, with an incorporated down filled hood, has been form fitted, to offer a super comfortable and totally natural fit around the neck.
On the inside, you have two zipped pockets (low left and right) and one big fold in pocket running all across the back. Using a cotton on the inside of this pocket, so once folded in, the Immelman is transformed into a cotton pillow. We know that cotton is heavy, but it will be more stable, as a nylon on a nylon ground/surface easily slips and slides.
I have personally tested it to -18F (28C), witch is the limit, so a -4F (-20C) is more realistic. Testing it, I had no problems with the main zipper, and the hand warmers……WOW!
The outside fabric (silicon coated polyamide ripstop) is manufactured bua Asahi-KASEI in Osaka where thanks to Mr Kurokawa it is produced in a slightly metallic green color. And since we now play with colors, we dropped the orange color for the Valandre logo, instead we embroided it in Silver……A silver dollar jacket!
340g of down – 51 compartments – total weight 963g in XL
French retail price 540 EUROS
Field testing the Immelman
The winter 2012 saw here in Europe, polar cold decent from Siberia covering the western European continent completely. Heavy snow blocked road transportations all over Europe, and temperatures hit serious negative values.
In the north east of Romania, there is a gorge called Bicaz and in this gorge, there is a face called “Hells neck”. In the days of February 15 to 22, Emil Camerzan and Leslie Fucsko, opened a new route named “ZEITGEIST” – A German word for “TIMESPIRIT”. Briefly it’s 420m of overhanging limestone, with 11 pitches of artificial climbing and 2 pitches of A4, some free climbing and two pitches of alpine mix at the end of the route.
The perfect conditions to test the articulated Immelman concept down jacket, as it is designed to perform in these, technical climbing conditions. And the holy ghost, sprayed freezing conditions of daytime -10°/15°C (15°/5°F) and night time -20°/26°C (-5°/15°F), on these 420m (1377 ft) overhanging limestone, allowing a serious field test.
Leslie and Emil exited the 420m (1377 ft) overhanging route after 7 days. And as they did not report having a cold at the exit, we presume that the Immelman did well in the daytime once needed, and that the Lafayette and Mirage, allowed them to rest well at night.
Hats off to Emil and Leslie, for this remarkable artificial winter climb.