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Having had fun with the big and chunky Frictions, here’s a lighter option from the German geniuses, these are the Hanwag Approach II.

There are a few elements which show that it’s aptly named; this isn’t a simple trail shoe, it’s designed as a proper approach shoe and the features are all there to see out of the box. There’s asymmetric lacing and a big rand just like a rock shoe. The upper is a mix of leather and cordura to make it robust, with a Gore membrane.  Add to that a Vibram Cross sole unit and you’ve got all the makings of a shoe suited for scrambling and low grade climbing.

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It all sounds good in principle, but how does it get on when you hit the hills?

Well, a good scrambling shoe is a tough one to get right. If you make it comfy to walk in, it won’t be so good on the rock. If you make it stiffer to give support on small edges it won’t be comfy to walk in. Hanwag have gone for the middle ground here, so the ride is a little on the stiff side for the walk-ins but it pays off when you hit the rock.

The fit is good for me, and the lacing holds the shoe in snugly which gives precision on the rock. Scrambling performance is excellent, the Vibram Cross sole unit has a nice little smearing pad at the front which gives great grip on smooth rock. It’s not quite sticky rubber, but it’s great for easier climbs. I’ve happily soloed V.Diffs in these.

Hanwag Approach

On the hill tracks they are fine if a bit stiff, although I expect they’ll soften off a little over time. I wouldn’t choose this shoe for a multiday backpack, but it’s great for a day trip for some hard scrambling. The grip is excellent on rock and reasonable on wet grass, although the small lugs can get easily smoothed out in muddy conditions so be careful if you’re bog trotting.  Heat retention is a minor issue for me due to the sturdy upper and the Gore liner. I’d prefer a non-membrane version, but I say that about everything, I’m just not a fan of Gore liners.

I wouldn’t  recommend these for the average hill plodder, there are other shoes out there that are better suited for that kind of stuff, but if you’re looking for something to wear for a jaunt up Tower Ridge or a day out on the long Leachas, then the Approach will do just fine.

Like I said, approach shoes are tricky beast and Hanwag have done a fine job of that balancing act. If you like you days out to be rocky and hands-on, stick these on your try-on list.

 

Hanwag Approach

Yes, it’s been a month and I’ve still not posted the tent stuff I promised. I’ve been a bit busy. Having a day job kinda gets in the way of this stuff. I’ve also managed to fit in two weeks holiday, which was excellent but in no way involved mountains other than looking wistfully at the Cairngorms from Loch Morlich.

The pesky medial ligament is healing slowly, a bit too slowly according to the physio so I’m off to see an Ortho chap. We’ll see what he reckons. It’s improved enough for me to be hitting it on the bike in an effort to claw back some hill fitness. I’m really missing wandering the tops though.

In the meantime, there’s no excuse for me not to catch up with the ever present backlog…

 

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You’ve got that song in your head now haven’t you?

I’ve had a few questions on email about my review methodology recently so it’s time to set it out, if only so I can then reply to future emails with a link.

My review process is simple: Something arrives, I throw it straight in the go-to box. It then take it and use it on trips until I have a good idea what I think about it. Then I use it for a while longer so that I know if it’s useful in different seasons, then I might loan it to some other people to get their view. Eventually I will form a final opinion and I might even, if you’re lucky, write it up. Not everything makes it onto these pages. The average or uninteresting is left behind, life’s too short to spend time writing up stuff that’s just average.

You’ll see some sites out there that manage to post reviews a couple of days after the press releases go out. The most testing they’ve done is passing a sample round the office and taking a photo on the grassy bit behind the car park. You know who they are. That’s not my style, which makes me less popular with PRs and gear manufacturers because I take ages to turn stuff around but at least you get a review that’s based on the real world you live in, rather than an advertising company’s wonderland where everyone conquers stuff and every mountain is extreme.

The other big question I get is do I get to keep the kit? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A lot of stuff has to go back.  Either way,  I make it clear at the outset that my review will be independent and honest. Letting me keep the kit does not ensure a positive outcome, so if the provider doesn’t like that then I won’t accept the gear. I have no affiliation with any company and no-one pays me to do this stuff.

I try to represent the real people out there who just want to pick the right stuff to spend their hard earned money on to get the best out of their outdoor experience.

There we are, my tent well and truly pitched.

Talking of tents, I’ve got a backlog of those that I need to write up. Stay tuned.

 

Edelrid Shark

This site is like the toilet in Mousetrap, you pop a marble in at the top and you have no idea when and where it’s going to come out.

It’s July and it’s 26 degrees outside, time to talk crampons.

The Edelrid shark is a crampon that’s designed to do it all. It’s convertible from full-auto to semi-auto, to strap-on. The idea is that it’s one crampon for all your footwear needs regardless if they are B1, B2 or B3. If you change boots, you just change the crampon configuration to match. Pretty clever. They’re made from steel, have built in anti-ball plates, a smart buckle system and weigh in at around 860g.

Edelrid Shark

Switching out the attachments is pretty easy, there’s a L-shaped key in the bar that you slot in, all you have to do is set the length, choose the right hole to suit your boot and slot it in. The soft straps mould well to your boots and the fit is snug. The auto clip has an adjustable tension bar at the back and to convert to full auto you just remove the front straps and plastics to leave the bail. It takes a few minutes practice to get proficient at swapping the configuration around without jabbing yourself in the hand. Those spikes are sharp.

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Edelrid Shark
Edelrid Shark

As usual, we have to ask the big question: how does it all work out in the real world? Well, the Shark is a  good all-rounder. It’ll work well for walking and general mountaineering in icy conditions. The buckle system is good, it’s easy to release even when caked in ice, but it won’t slip when you’re wearing them. Once it gets steeper, there’s good support and the 3d shaping on the front points makes them pretty bitey. Support is good enough for low to mid grade ice climbing. If you’re looking to tackle more technical ground you’ll want a more specialised set of spikes but that’s the whole point,  these are do-it-all crampons. The number of people who climb to a high standard in winter is relatively low. Most people don’t need screw-in monopoints or suitability for drytooling.  For the vast majority of punters who just plod up munros and maybe dabble in a bit of low grade gully ice bashing, the Shark makes for a cost-effective flexible solution.

If like me you have a wide range of footwear in your winter wardrobe, then the Shark makes a fine answer to the age old problem of which boots with which crampons. I’ve used them exclusively over the last winter and got on really well with them on everything from stiffened boots to soft mids and the weight is low enough for it not to be a drag on those days when they live in your pack.

It’s a fine time of year to go and pick some up in the sales too.

Edelrid Shark

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The Liebster award. Ring any bells? Me neither.

David Lintern posted about it here, and nominated me in the process. As far as I can see it’s the bloggers equivalent of a chain letter. Anyone who knows me will know I’m a curmudgeon who doesn’t usually truck with that sort of thing, but in this case I’m inclined to go with it.

Why? Well, David is a good chap for a start, it would be churlish to ignore his request.  Secondly, it’ll maybe give some exposure to blogs that not everyone is familiar with. Thirdly, it makes a nice change from gear reviews and me moaning about my knee.

Here are my answers to David’s 11 questions:

1 Favourite island, why and when did you last visit?

It’s got to be Skye for me. The Cuillin are an endless source of joy in terms of both walking and climbing. Not only that, the Quirang is awesome in wild weather, Portree is magic on a weekend and there’s tons of places worth seeing, both wild and cultured. It’s like the best bits of Scotland have been squashed into a wee space.  It’s been three years since I’ve been there, mainly because I’ve been working on a grand plan for an epic there and I want the conditions to be right, so I’m waiting and watching.

2 Best book about the outdoors and why?

Tough one this, there are so many.  I’m going to cheat and pick two. Bill Murray’s Mountaineering in Scotland, purely for it’s inspirational value. He evoked a world that was so attractive for me. For the second, it’ll be Psychovertical by Andy Kirkpatrick. No-one else captures the conflict between being a parent, a husband and a climber better than he does, not to mention the intensity and focus of solo climbing.

3. Why blog?

It’s partly a log book of the interesting trips to help me jog my memory. The gear stuff is purely to help people make some choices and maybe save them some money and lessen the slope on the learning curve. Over the years, many others have inspired me with route suggestions, photos, ideas and trips, so I want to pass that on.  If I’ve inspired one person to head out to the mountains or at least given them some route inspiration, then I’m happy with that.

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4. Solo or with others?

Most of my trips are solo, but the vibe is totally different with a group and I like that too. When I’m alone, I can do my own thing at my own pace and randomise things as I go along.  Not to mention fannying about with cameras to a point that would make most companions grumpy. When I’m with a group it’s all about the people. There’s chat, banter, laughs. A shared experience is a different thing. Don’t limit yourself, do it all.

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5. Have you ever had an encounter (not necessarily ‘close’) with a big predator outdoors and if so tell us about it.

No big predators for me, but I did have a serious conflict with a capercaillie once in Glen Derry. It won.

6. How many knots do you know and which ones?

Probably more than anyone needs, I’m a knot nerd. In terms of knots that are actively useful, the rethreaded figure 8 is the one I tie the most, purely to tie in for climbing, I never use a bowline.  I’ll use figure 8s and clove hitches for belays. The munter hitch is handy if you’ve dropped your plate. For abbing, a double overhand on the rope ends, the odd Prusik on occasion. Oh, and the double fishermans is good for joining cord on gear and everyone should know how to tie an Alpine Butterfly, cos it’s a lovely knot.  For camping, the truckers hitch is handy. I could go on, but I imagine most readers have already moved on.

7. When were you last scared outdoors and why?

I won’t count cragging, because there’s a frisson of fear in there almost all the time.  Less so when I’m soloing, oddly. I did have the fear this year, traversing across the middle of a heavily snow laden gully in less than good snow conditions. I have a healthy fear of avalanches.

8. On trail or off trail?

A bit of both. If the trail is an aesthetically pleasing one, I’ll use it. If not, I’ll make my own. You could climb tons of hills in Scotland via the tourist route and miss a whole bunch of wonderous mountain architecture. If you’re in it for the ticks then crack on, but if you’re in it for the mountain experience, you need to get off the track.

9. What is elegant route planning to you?

A rare and random happy accident. Many plans are made, but the route I walk often changes when I’m on it. I like to improvise, and I’m often distracted by things of interest which can lead to serious detours. I rarely stick to the original plan, but my favourite routes invariably involve some technical challenge like scrambling or easy climbing,  with a camp in a high and wild summit, then a gentle descent through the glens to help my aching knees. If the route avoids views of windfarms then so much the better!

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10. How many tents do you own and how many should you own?

I decline to answer that on the grounds that it’s embarrassing. You can never have too  many tents.

11. What was your earliest/youngest significant outdoor experience?

Growing up in Aberdeen, like many my first walks were up Bennachie, but the one that really sticks in my mind was my first solo trip, up Clachnaben. I was a teenager and the sense of freedom it gave me was enormous. My love of scrambly summits was born that day.

So there you have it. An interesting exercise. I’m going to pass the baton on now, to these lovely people:

Petesy, Tookie,Davy, Phil, Neil, Jon, Sandy, Kelvin.

My elevenish questions:

  1. What was it that first got you into outdoor activities?
  2. You’re on a multi-day backpacking trip. Which luxury item do you take?
  3. What’s the most physically challenging trip you’ve ever undertaken?
  4. Lager or real ale?
  5. What’s the best thing about camping?
  6. What’s the worst thing about camping?
  7. What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
  8. What’s the oldest piece of gear you have? Do you still use it?
  9. Headphones on the hill, yes or no? If yes, what’s playing?
  10. If you could only climb one mountain, which one would it be?
  11. When will be your next big outing?

If you’re reading this and fancy a bash, feel free to respond in the comments!

  • July 3, 2014 - 3:23 pm
  • July 4, 2014 - 9:41 am

    MT - Good stuff Tookie, I’m liking the way this has turned out. Great choice of nominations too!

  • July 4, 2014 - 8:37 pm

    andy - Great stuff, Michael. And you bumped into a capercaille in Glen Derry! Didnae know there were any in that area. Was coming off Beinn Each a few weeks ago and I heard a low guttural call in the forest area when going back to my car. It might have been one of ‘em. Didn’t stop to investigate!

  • July 5, 2014 - 6:53 pm

    Marc S - 1. Walking with my parents from 7-15 years old.
    2. Chocolate.
    3. Scrambling up Gordale Scar near Malham rope free. More challenging for me because I only have 50% use of my right arm.
    4. Both!
    5. Views.
    6. Condensation.
    7. I wish the advice to get out walking again had been given 20 years earlier.
    8. A 70’s orange polythene survival bag which I now use as a footprint for my tent.
    9. Sometimes, Pink Floyd.
    10. The Eiger
    11. Tomorrow.

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