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7a lead attempt at Kalymnos – about time really!

Telendos from Masouri

Telendos from Masouri

I first went to Kalymnos in 2013 and whilst I top roped a couple of 7a’s I still wasn’t getting on the sharp end of the rope above 6c.

I can do the moves, I have the technique – just lacking on the head front mainly. I’ve a background in UK trad climbing and I guess I’ve always worked on the principal that leader never falls…it’s more or less been that way for the last 20 years!

Well in 2013 I’d watched a female climber work the route DNA 7a in the Grande Grotta and I knew I’d be coming back for a go myself.

I’d had a few successful top roping attempts on 7a routes at Malham Cove since the 2013 trip so I knew it’s a grade I could achieve. So 2015 – the opportunity to head over to Kalymnos with 14 other friends came about and DNA was on my tick list. I spent the start of the week ‘warming’ up and getting used to the rock – or practicing my 7a lead avoidance techniques.

The boys were working a 7b in the Odyssey sector – Amphora 20m. I tried it on top rope and my first attempt was pretty smooth at the start – just running out of steam near the top. My second go was totally rubbish, still not fully recovered from the exertions of the first attempt. I let the boys carry on with their redpointing and resorted back to easier grades for a couple of days.

It wasn’t until the end of week that I finally jumped on DNA. I’d led a soft touch 7a on Magoulias Wall at Summertime (Toni) the day before with one rest on the rope – the last clip before the top – looking back I could and should have led that clean. The head not willing to push through till failure.

DNA day! Partnered with Matt who was also keen for a go we warmed up on Happy Girlfriend 5c+ and Monahiki Elia 6a+. After a bit of rest and chatting to a couple of climbers (Rachel and Simon) using DNA to warm up I opted to go first. Quickdraws were already in situ so that was one less factor to worry about.

Rachel gave me a few pointers and I was on lead! I seemed to sail up the first section where I’d seen other climbers struggle with the start and got to just above the 6th clip. My arms were starting to feel it and my head gave way – I dropped. I took a fall – albeit a small one but it was a starting point. After a decent rest I moved on and reached the ‘sitting’ rest I should have pushed on to.

Sitting down on the job

Sitting down on the job

After an eternity I moved on again and then struggled to find the right moves for me just below the 7th clip. Simon suggested going right but from here I struggled to find something decent for my right foot and was ‘crimping’ with bent arms  – the next clip in front of me, but not feeling able to let go and clip. I panicked and grabbed the draw – pulled up, clipped and sat on the rope! Arghhh so close.

After a decent rest I then climbed through to the chains. I’d reached the top of a 7a under my own steam – ok it wasn’t a clean ascent but as a first attempt this was a good starting point for me and has left me psyched to start pushing things. Finally after all these years. I just wished I’d tried the route earlier in the week and worked it a bit more. It will be mine – along with others…need to find a 7b to aspire to now.

Enjoying the descent

Enjoying the descent

A huge thanks to Matt for belaying, especially whilst I sat down on the job and took in the views and to Rachel and Simon based in London, for taking the pics, providing me with beta and lots of moral.

Other highlights from the holiday were climbing the multi-pitch route 3 Stripes, deciding Gin and Tonic isn’t that bad (attempts to keep the mosquitoes at bay) and simply having a great time with friends.

We stayed at the Philoxenia Hotel – booked directly and flew with BA from Heathrow.


Just good to get out


After last week’s moorland run my left ankle was left a little swollen. Doesn’t hurt but doesn’t feel quite right either so not sure what I’ve done there.

So since then I’ve only played indoors, climbing. Two sessions at The Depot bouldering wall in Leeds and one roped session at Awesome Walls in Sheffield. Trying to get some training in before my climbing holiday in Kalymnos.

Whilst it’s been fun playing indoors it still doesn’t come close to escaping into the fresh air – especially after a day in the office.

So last night – as the ankle seemed better for a rest – I headed out for a 10km run near where I live.And I loved it.As the ankle still felt a bit weak I wasn’t out for a speed session – just some fresh air and me time – taking in the views and living off the buzz that running gives me 99% of the time.


I’m human and of course running can seem like a complete slog at times!

Now that the evenings are lighter for longer I’m looking forward to more post work runs for that buzz 🙂

On t’moors – Black Hill and Laddow Rocks trail running

Cloud inversion

You don’t always get the sun shining on a Bank Holiday Monday so it would have been rude to not head out running on Easter Monday.

Me and the local team – Steve, Karen and Leena – met up to try a route out of the latest Peak District Trail Running guide published by Vertebrate Publishing. We opted for the Black Hill route that starts at Crowden on the A628.

The guide gives the following run stats:
Distance: 13.4km
Ascent: 455m
Max Altitude: 582m
Typical Time: 1:30 – 3:00 hrs

As me and Steve both seemed to have the remnants of a lingering cold, we made excuses early to treat this as a social day out running, exploring somewhere new and an opportunity to just enjoy the weather with good company. We’d also decided before setting off to head to the pub in Holme afterwards for a well deserved ‘recovery’ drink! I’m sure you’re starting to get an idea of our priorities that day.

Crowden to Black Hill
We set off under low cloud cover. We already knew a cloud inversion was happening as me and Leena had driven through it to get to Crowden having dropped down to the valley via Holme Moss.

Initial climb from the Crowden car park

Initial climb from the Crowden car park

It’s a steady climb up Hey Moss to White Low and then over to Black Hill itself which stands at 582 metres high. As the trail guide reports there isn’t really a defined path to follow once you hit the moors. Just boggy moorland and tussocks to hop among as you weave your way upwards. Breaking through the cloud we were greeted with blue skies and fantastic views across the valley. Felt truly spoilt.

Running out of the clouds

Getting higher and further away from the receding clouds

Stopping for a photo and a quick bite to eat at the summit we then headed back to Crowden via the Yorkshire Stone slabs of the Pennine Way.

Summit fever madness!

Summit fever madness!

On the approach to Laddow Rocks the terrain starts to become more technical and especially so on the descent just after them. So there’s a little bit of everything on this run. Bogs, tussocks, mud, fords to cross, flagstone path, rocky outcrop descents, and great views on a clear day.

Leena was the first bog victim

Leena was the first bog victim

Heading back down

Heading back down

Got to stop and admire the views

Got to stop and admire the views

Success - all back at the start

Success – all back at the start

Back on ice – Indicator Wall on the Ben

Indicator Wall

This time last week I was high after returning from a long weekend in Scotland with my mate Kieran. Whilst we’ve known each other for 16 years this was the first time we’d ever been away ice-climbing together.

We drove north on Thursday and decided to attempt Minus Three Gully IV, 5 ** on Ben Nevis on Friday. As we’d never climbed ice together we didn’t want to push the boundaries.

We left the North Face lower car park at about 7:30am, the new path is a vast improvement and it seemed to takes us no time to reach the upper car park. Trundling up to the CIC hut the North Face seemed pretty quiet and the sky got darker…either the partial eclipse that was due, the rain clouds rolling in or both!  We left the CIC hut after a drink and some food at about 9:30 / 9:45am and headed up to the snow line to gear up. Once we set off proper the drizzle came in – not the snow flurries we’d ironically hoped for. It seemed all a bit too warm.


Clag, black rock and drizzle on the Ben

Clag, black rock and drizzle on the Ben

Once we got to the base of Minus Three Gully we could see it was no longer in nick and the base of Orion Direct also looked too thin to get started. We saw at least one pair heading up to climb Point Five Gully so we decided to back track and move up around Observatory Buttress – heading higher in search of ice.

Kieran checking the guide book for options

Kieran checking the guide book for options

In the end we opted for Indicator Wall V, 4 *** not the warm up grade we planned but as there was already a pair of climbers on the route we decided to join them before our options and motivation faded. The other climbers were already well on their way so didn’t hinder our efforts. Kieran led the first pitch. I’d not led on ice for well over a year so was more than happy to warm up on the tail end of the rope. A great little pitch with about 2m of steep what felt like vertical wall.

I eyed up the second pitch – a bit of a steep start with a small bulge to pull over and then slopes that looked to ease off. I went for it…contemplated whether to place an ice screw on the steep section once I was committed, but carried on instead of wasting time to the easier ground. I’d already protected the belay and knew I was out of practice. I was holding on too hard on the steep section to start faffing with ice screws. I headed right looking for the chimney..it looked banked out – not really chimney like – so headed higher climbing the bulges to reach an ice wall at the start of the snow slope above.

Kieran headed up and climbed through. At the top of the snow slope he contemplated climbing through the start of the 4th pitch but decided not enough rope. My turn to reach him and then finish the route for us by leading the 4th and last pitch. Topping out on the summit I saw two walkers at the Ben Nevis trig point and another pair of climbers topping out.

The wind was blowing on the summit and the visibility was poor. Not a blue sky day for us that Friday.

Me and the view! Classic summit shot!

Me and the view! Classic summit shot!

We both enjoyed the route – especially as it was a route we’d not planned to climb that day. We used ice screws all the way. Only Kieran managed to find a rock placement at the first belay point. Pitches 1 and 2 were the most technical.

We retreated via the zig zags / Red Burn rather than Number 4 Gully.

Indicator Wall is 140m and was first led in February 1975 by G. Smith and T. King.

Greeted with blue skies at the end of the day

Greeted with blue skies at the end of the day. Looking back at Ben Nevis.

Creag Meagaidh

The next day alarms were set for 5:15am and we headed to Creag Meagaidh in the hope of tackling The Pumpkin V, 4 ****. The sun was beaming on the drive there and on the walk in under clear blue skies I ended up stripping off to a vest base layer and shades! This didn’t bode well. One of Kieran’s mates had climbed The Pumpkin earlier in the week – it seems the warm weather we’d witnessed on the drive up on the Thursday had helped to strip things.

A thin looking Pumpkin

A thin looking Pumpkin

So instead of our original plans we down-graded and ended up soling The Sash II * 240m ‘A pleasant but uninspiring route which is often in condition’. The description seemed to sum it up really – just get ready for a bit of calf burn as well!

Can you spot Kieran on The Sash?

Can you spot Kieran on The Sash?


Whilst the route wasn’t the most inspiring – it was good practice for my lazy left arm swing and the glorious view at the top made it all worth while. We decided to stay high on the decent instead of heading back down to the path we’d walked in on so we could appreciate the views and sunshine that little bit longer.

View from top of Creag Meagaidh

View from top of Creag Meagaidh


Heading back down from Creag Meagaidh

Heading back down from Creag Meagaidh

A tad windy on them there moors

I was free this weekend and instead of getting stuck into some DIY on Saturday – the better day of the two – I headed out over the Marsden Moors  – taking in part of the Heritage Trail (Orange Route) – for a 14km run.

The weather was sunny with blue skies by the time I set off in the afternoon, but…it wasn’t half blowing a hoolie! The Met Office had predicted gusts of around 45mph – I think they were right.

Here’s the route I took

Marsden, Pule Hill and Pennine Way

My Suunto Ambit watch calculated 14.2km about 8.8miles

The windiest section if you look at the map above was the section nearest to Oldham along the Pennine Way. The least sheltered side.

Here’s a link to a mini video showing how windy it was on my Instagram account:

I wore my La Sportiva Anakondas but could have got away with my Ultra Raptors as it wasn’t as wet/muddy as I thought it would be. Whether it was just super windy or I was tired from my social run with Leena the night before…I was shattered by the end of it.

A fab day out though – especially when greeted with views like this on the way and at the end…

Looking back towards Pule Hill

Looking back towards Pule Hill

Butterley Reservoir

Butterley Reservoir

Haglöfs Skarn Q Hood – Climbing Gear Review

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

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 :).

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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