There are few items that immediately pry me away from my tried, tested and true favourites; the gear that I take into the mountains when I just want to climb, when I’m not testing new gear or trying out new ideas. But I received a piece this winter that is so good it has accompanied me on every outing since I tore open the box: Mammut’s Ultimate Nordpfeiler Jacket.
Long sleeves and a trim cut move with you. Photo by John Price Photography
The Nordpfeiler (North Pillar) immediately impressed with a slim, tailored fit. There’s enough room for a mid-layer, or maybe two light ones, but there’s not much extra room otherwise. The sleeves are similarly low-bulk, ending in low-profile cuffs with an elastic, stretchy insert. Lengthwise, the sleeves just reach my wrist but thanks to a great cut and inherent stretch in the material, they never pull up. Hem length is adequate, not quite butt-covering but long enough to stay put under a harness during acrobatic drytooling moves. The collar is high enough to protect from wind, and is cut in such a way that you can pull the hood on over a helmet without needing to unzip.
The hood is simply superb. You can twist your head in any direction and it moved with you, feeling almost like not wearing a hood at all. Photo by John Price Photography
The hood is simply exceptional. It pulls on and off easily, but still provides full coverage. Head movement is completely unrestrained, with absolutely no binding up, down or sideways. It’s the closest I’ve experienced to not wearing a hood at all: the new standard for hood design, in my opinion.
The more I think about it, the more this jacket’s fit impresses me. It really is very, very well cut.
Material is a Mammut exclusive version of Gore’s Windstopper, which I was initially skeptical about. My previous experiences with Windstopper jackets were, indeed, windproof but also quite hot and clammy. The version in the Nordpfeiler is also windproof but also breathes so well that I don’t actually find much use for the pit-zips. DWR-finish is great, and the jacket will easily withstand light rain. The face fabric is smooth and abrasion-resistant, resisting pointy rocks and sharp tools, plus when using the Nordpfeiler as a mid-layer, the jacket slides easily under other layers. Though durable, the fabric is soft, quiet and the inside is even comfortable against bare skin.
Any downsides? The two hand pockets are kind of useless, inevitably obstructed by either backpack straps, harness waistbelt, or both. The dual-slider main zipper also has me confused: this isn’t a belay parka, I have no need to open it from the bottom.
The Nordpfeiler fits great, performs exceptionally and is built to last. It has become my go-to softshell and comes along on every outing, from rock climbs to long days on ice.
Pros: fit, hood, breathability
Cons: hand pockets
Overall: Mammut call this “the best…jacket for high alpine use” and I have to agree.