Haglöfs Skarn Q Hood – Climbing Gear Review


Another review I’ve written for Climbing Gear Reviews….

Originally posted on Climbing Gear Reviews:


Kasia gives us the rundown on the Skarn Q Hood (Q being the name Haglöfs give to their female specific products)  softshell jacket from Haglöfs. How was it?

Performance ****

Quality *****

Haglöfs Skarn Q Hood - a great jacket for alpine climbing. Summit of Pic De La Grave, Ecrins, France. Haglöfs Skarn Q Hood – a great jacket for alpine climbing. Summit of Pic De La Grave, Ecrins, France.

According to Haglöfs the Skarn Q Hood is a ‘versatile and durable, full stretch soft shell jacket with excellent comfort’. I have to admit after trying the jacket, walking, cragging and climbing in the alps it pretty much does what it says on the ‘tin’.

I’ve been testing the women’s size medium in the ‘Firecracker’ colour. From a technical point of view this jacket is certainly a winner when it comes to comfort. The decent cut (articulated sleeves and dropped rear hem) and 4-way stretch certainly doing its thing. The arms and body being made from the same…

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Edelrid Zodiac Helmet – Climbing Gear Review


Check out my latest Edelrid Helmet review for the Climbing Gear Reviews website :).

Originally posted on Climbing Gear Reviews:

edelrid-01-4c-bg-20Edelrid Zodiac Helmet

With improvements in fit and style and massive weight reductions, helmets are an increasingly common sight at the crag these days. Kasia Baldwin tests out the Zodiac Helmet from Edelrid…




Edelrid Zodiac Helmet - comfortable and lightweight, great for rock climbing. Edelrid Zodiac Helmet – comfortable and lightweight, great for rock climbing.

A helmet is a personal thing and in my opinion if you get one that actually suits you it’s like winning the lottery. Okay so perhaps I shouldn’t go that far, and in truth whether you look good or not, that certainly isn’t the deciding factor on which one to get – though I still insist on a quick glance in the mirror when trying one on! As always your priorities when buying a helmet are that it fits and that it’s built for purpose. You can find out more here: 


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A day on Tryfan

North Wales on a good day is fantastic and luckily for me and Kev, we hit a perfect weather window at the weekend . Saturday was forecast a bit of rain first thing in the morning and fingers crossed blue skies for the rest of day. Blue skies and a cold frosty ground – love it.

We left Huddersfield around 9am and hit the base of Tryfan in the Ogwen valley about midday. A late start but it meant we’d missed the rain and clag. The plan was Tryfan and perhaps the Cneifion Arete if we had time. That was really wishful thinking so after Tryfan we headed round to descent Devil’s Kitchen – still a fantastic outing. Landing back at the car just after 5pm. The clear skies and bright moon meant we hadn’t had to use our head torch until we got to the car to sort out kit – always a bonus.

The view from midway up Tryfan

The view from midway up Tryfan

Ice near the top

Ice near the top

Kev on Adam - or is it Eve?

Kev on Adam – or is it Eve?

The scrambling up the Tryfan edge is something I’ve done many times before and I love it, as you always tend to find a slightly different route each time. This was however the first time I’d been up in ‘winter’. Whilst it wasn’t full winter conditions we did don our crampons near the top for a better purchase when climbing the rime covered rocks. We’d carried them so might as well use them and not risk an ankle breaking slip! Once at the tops the sun had softened the ice and the crampons were back in our rucksacks. There were a few small groups at the top when we got there but out choice of descent was quiet so we only saw one couple of climbers once we’d scrambled up and reached the summit  Glyder Fach via Bristly Ridge.  Topping out the sun was setting and we took a few photos as the light faded and the sky showed tinges of pink amongst the wispy clouds.

Sun setting behind the summit of Glyder Fach

Sun setting behind the summit of Glyder Fach

The Cantilever Stone

The Cantilever Stone

The final downhill plod to Devil's Kitchen

The final downhill plod to Devil’s Kitchen

We descended the Devil’s Kitchen in the dark. We could certainly feel the temperature dropping as it got darker. Overall a great day plodding about in the hills. Still wonder if I’ll ever manage to catch a proper Welsh winter so I can finally tick off some ice routes…

Single Pitch Award – about time really…

The Single Pitch Award (SPA) is a climbing qualification for those wanting to teach climbing outdoors on short rock faces where one rope’s length is enough. 

SPA Refresher

Me and Dave at Ilkley Quarry

I first did my SPA training back in 1998. I then got a desk job and climbed on and off till 2005 when I decided to do the training again. It’s now 2013 and it’s about time I did the SPA assessment. I’ve climbed long enough but felt my weakness was lack of group supervision.  For this reason I’d decided to get my CWA (Climbing Wall Award) qualification first. This meant I could teach indoors and getting group supervision experience was a lot easier as I could fit it around the 9-5 job.

So I qualified for my CWA in December 2010 and now in 2013 I’ve finally plucked up the courage to bite the bullet and finally book my SPA assessment. It’s coming up soon and yes I’m nervous. I feel like it’s going to be similar to a driving test where one silly mistake means I have to defer and won’t pass. One slip of the tongue or a moment of panic and nerves meaning I forget a small but vital detail.

Yesterday I did a mini refresher with Dave Sarkar from Three Peaks Mountaineering at Ilkley quarry. During the day I realised that I did need the refresher – that all important reminder of those climbing tasks you do so infrequently when like me you’re not taking groups out on a regular basis because it’s not actually your main job.

Whether I end up getting extra work at weekends as an outdoor instructor next summer (when I eventually pass) – doesn’t really matter I guess – as at least I’m learning and remembering useful techniques for my own personal climbing. However I do hope I pass so that I can put this ‘demon’ to bed that has been hanging over me since those first training days over 15 years ago.

Fingers crossed – I’ll let you know how I get on!

UPDATE: 2nd December

Well I did it – I passed my SPA yippeee. I was so nervous the week running up to the assessment that I certainly didn’t get a full nights sleep as thoughts of scenarios and what I should do kept popping into my head. I did my assessment with Adventure Unlimited who are based in the Peak District.

We spent the first day at Burbage North to concentrate on personal climbing skills and ways to ‘escape the system’ and finished off at The Edge in Sheffield to go through some indoor scenarios. On the second day we went to the Titantic area at Stanage – an area I’d never been to before. The weather on the first day had been cold but with blue skies so I’d hoped for the same on the second day – alas it was overcast and drizzly. However that didn’t stop us setting up group abseils, top ropes and bottom ropes for group use. As there were three of us on the second day I felt it was quite hard not to try and compete for the best spots to rig our ropes – a bit of creative – but safe – planning was in order so we could all make the most of the environment.

Whilst the assessment is an opportunity to show of my experience and prove that I was up to the job – Simon and Jules who were our assessors were great in still teaching us alternatives. I’ve got this far, but I’ve still got a lot of learning to do!

Running again

Running numbers

It’s great to have a year where I feel like I’ve got back into running…it had a slow start, but finally hooking up with Leena and Kevin we created the unofficial ‘Wednesday Night’ running club. You can guess how we came upon the name!

So yes, usually we meet up on a Wednesday night to go running. The summer months were the best – longer nights, which meant longer runs in a vest and shorts over deserted moorland in and around West Yorkshire and the Lancashire borders. Now that the nights are drawing in I’m learning about muddy headtorch runs. I don’t quite yet have the confidence to bound across new territory in the dark (following paths I know or Kev and Leena’s familiar tracks) and my pace is slower as I try to leap across tree roots and slippy leaf strewn Yorkshire stone paths.

Highlights so far this year are the Peris Horseshoe Fell Race in North Wales – which me and Leena ran the half version – as it was our first official fell race. Kevin did the full version and in a good time. Most recently we ran the scary, spooky and mostly fun Chevin Chiller – a Halloween circular run in the Chevin woods – all 6.66km of it with ghouls and werewolves directing us around the course with the odd howl.

I’m not yet ‘fell’ running to beat times and to exert myself till I pop. I’m just enjoying getting out with friends and seeing places I might not usually get to see – whilst at the same time keeping fit for those bigger mountain days…

By the way feel like I need to mention James P and James F that make the odd guest appearance to our running sessions when the mood and time allows!



Playing in the mountains alpine style

Given the opportunity to tag along on an alps trip I couldn’t refuse…

We set off (driving) from home on the 20th July to catch a ferry to Calais. We headed to Chamonix via Luxemburg (cheap fuel) and Switzerland in order to save on the French road tolls – a little stop off in Lille helped to break the journey up.

There were no set plans, so we could make the most of the weather. We set up camp at the Mer de Glace campsite and on our first full day in Chamonix we got supplies, cable car pass and then stretched the legs with an afternoon run up the mountain side just off the Route Des Montets having driven through Argentiere to get there.

Our first alpine warm up route of the trip  was the Cosmiques Arete (23rd July) in fantastic sunny conditions.


Kev on the crux wall section of Cosmiques Arete

The next day we caught the first lift up and bagged the Chere Couloir on the Mont Blanc du Tacul in not so sunny conditions and with a few teams already en-route.  I led the crux ice pitch and we decided not to top out once we’d led the main ice pitches so we could abseil down and find time to do route two of the day. 

Teams on Chere Couloir

Teams on Chere Couloir

Route 2: The Traverse of Pointe Lachenal – a nice steady route until you get to the chossy, loose (must wear a helmet) chimney. Which as the guidebook suggests must be a lot easier when iced up and holding it all together. The weather did improve and we topped out to blue skies, able to then head back in time for the lift to Chamonix.

The 25th became a rest day and an opportunity to get some fresh supplies. My legs were feeling it not having been in the mountains for a couple of months. We did find time for a short boulder near the campsite in the evening before packing for the next day. Planned agenda was day 1: Dent du Geant (4013m) followed by a bivvi and then on the second day the North Face of  the Tour Ronde.

So on the 26th we caught the lift up from Chamonix to the Hellbronner cable car so we were in a better position to start the trek to the Dent du Geant. Conditions again were good if not a little too warm. I felt tired on the walk (slog) in to this route and couldn’t wait to start the climbing sections. Once we were actually climbing we ignored the fixed ropes and decided to claim the route in a more traditional way – keeping the big boots on. The final slab section was fantastic and a crux corner would certainly have been easier in climbing shoes or by using the fixed rope. I have to admit I didn’t use the fixed rope but may have used two fixing points for my feet! It’s hard to smear in B3s.

Climbers on the top section of Dent du Geant

Climbers on the top section of Dent du Geant

On the summit

On the summit

It was great to have summited a 4000’er – just a shame the view from the top was a little cloudy! We then did two abseils (60m ropes) to the bottom of the climbing section before gathering our packs and heading down the choss towards the glacier and back to the Hellbronner station stairwell for the  night.

My first bivvi in the alps – we set our alarm for 4am. Fully clothed I climbed into my sleeping bag and bivvi bag (using my new Neoair thermarest – love it by the way) and tried to get some sleep under the clear starry skies.

Looking at the Dent du Geant from our bivvi spot

Looking at the Dent du Geant from our bivvi spot

Waking up at 4am we decided that it hadn’t got cold enough over night to try the North Face of the Tour Ronde (we’d also heard reports the previous day that a pair had backed off it due to it not being in condition) and re-set the alarm for 6am, to make sure we were out of the way for when the lifts re-opened. When we did finally crawl out of our bags everything around us was wet with condensation so we had to wait for the sun to make its way round in order to dry everything before packing up for our Plan B route.

Plan B was the South West Ridge from the Col d’Entreves which turned out to be a fantastic and exposed route. Kev took the lead as we roped up Alpine style, working on a short rope basis when tackling the short crux sections – one being a fun short corner crack. The weather that day was clear blue skies so we were able to take in the beautiful surrounding views.

Kev on the exposed South West Ridge from the Col d'Entreves

Kev on the exposed South West Ridge from the Col d’Entreves

As it was a short route we were able to headback to the Hellbronner lift in plenty of time to make our way back down to Chamonix. At the time we didn’t realise that the Hellbronner only runs a ‘climbers’ lift at the start and end of the day – as during the day it runs as a circular tourist lift without stopping. Luckily there were about 3 pairs of climbers waiting so the lift attendant let us jump on earlier than he should have done when there was space.

28th July – Originally we had planned on this being a rest day but the weather looked like it was coming in the day after so we got up early to catch the lift to climb the Rebuffat route on the Aiguille du Midi south face. Alas we only got up to the mid point station (Plan Des Aiguilles) due to high winds and the top station being closed. We waited a couple of hours in case the situation might change but it didn’t. So heading back down Plan B became some bolt clipping at Le Foron – the crag is made up of a number of steep walls that look deceptively small from the road.

Climbers on Le Foron

Climbers on Le Foron

The next day – my last full day of the holiday – it rained lots and lots – so we spent the day in Chamonix town centre, eating, shopping, drinking coffee and trying the posh cakes.

The posh cake shop

The posh cake shop

A bit of tourism to cap off what had been a fantastic trip – missed climbs now on my future hit list…

Visit my Flickr account to view more photos from this trip.

A nice guide book I bought whilst out there was: Mont Blanc classic & plaisir by Marco Romelli

Dorsal Arete

I was still recovering from a full day on the Ben and we had to drive back home. Never wanting to waste a day in Scotland we decided to head up to Stob Coire An Lochan in Glencoe to see what was in.

We travelled lighter than the day before – taking a single rope and a limited rack. The main purpose of the day was to get those legs moving again and to see some mountains before heading South.

The steep steps up to the crag made for a steady slog.

The slog up to Stob Coire An Lochan

The slog up to Stob Coire An Lochan

We reached the base of the routes in about 1hour and 45minutes. A group were learning basic winter skills and someone was topping out on Twisting Gully. Although some of the gullies had been climbed that day we decided for a relaxed day on the classic Dorsal Arete as the state of the snow on the way up had been quite soft.

Climber topping out on Twisting Gully

Climber topping out on Twisting Gully

We moved together alpine style with Kevin on lead and just enjoyed the day, the route and being out in the mountains. There was only one other pair of climbers on the route and we soon narrowed the distance between us. There was no wind and no spindrift, brilliant – okay no sun either but you can’t have everything.

Me on Dorsal Arete

Me on Dorsal Arete

Topping out we were glad we’d made the effort and not just traipsed around Fort Bill before heading home. Though we had had a late start after a cake and coffee stop at the Nevis Sport Cafe – needs must! Dinner before heading home was at the Clachaig – no beers this time but good food as always…Just got to plan the next trip now.


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