Masthead header

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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.

Edelrid Shark
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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.

It’s been a while since I did one of these, due to my ever-busy calendar and general dis-organisedness (I’m sure that’s a word) I managed to miss the Spring/summer 2014 stuff, but I had a jaunt up to Perth the other week to see Gus in his new improved larger dungeon of delights so lets look at what to expect later in the year.

This is the Haglofs Fall/Winter 2014 range.  Well kinda. I’ve mixed in some of the Spring/Summer 14 stuff too, given that we missed it first time round and it’s relevant cos it’s in the shops now.  Buckle up, there are some real crackers in here…

We’ll start with the Mountain range, designed to go high and hard and first up is the Roc Spirit, which comes in 3-layer Gore Pro. It’s 40Denier polyamide  face fabric, with 70D reinforcement in all the right places: the shoulders, forearms, waist and hood. They’ve made a clever cut to eliminate seams on the shoulders, sides and sleeves to minimise chafing and wear points. There’s a wired-peak helmet hood, pit zips and harness friendly pockets, along with reach high arms and shaped gusseted cuffs. All in all, a serious mountain jacket. Blokes pictured below in luminous yellow and the ladies Q version in blue under that. I’ve got one of these to try out, so I’ll post up a full review once I’ve given it a thrashing.

Haglofs Roc Spirit
Haglofs Roc Spirit Q
Next is the Roc Fiction, a Gore softshell offering, made with 70D fabric for durability. Very similar features to the Spirit but in softshell; the minimised seaming approach, along with a helmet hood, high pockets, reach high arms and gusseted cuffs.  If you like your softshells, this is looking like a good hard-wearing option. Blokes in dark blue and the Q version in the cyan.
Haglofs Roc Fiction
Haglofs Roc Fiction Q

If you’re heading somewhere cooler, the Roc Ice is standard issue 3  layer Gore, with 30D face so it’s soft and light, the inside is stuffed with Quadfusion+ insulation, which is warm even in damp conditions. Same rules apply with seam placement, there’s a wired helmet hood and handwarmer pockets, along with a big pocket up on the chest and internal mesh pockets to stop your fizzy pop freezing.  The pit zips have mesh backers and there’s no insulation there, so you get good movement and moisture management, the lower shot explains all. I’m a big fan of insulated shells in the winter and this looks tasty.

Haglofs Roc Ice

Haglofs Roc Ice

Onto legs and good news for hobbits, the Roc Hard bib is now available in short leg. These are completely bomber and the removable knee pads are smart, great for uncoordinated guys like me when ice climbing.

Haglofs Roc Hard bib

There’s also the Roc pant, in 3 layer Gore Pro, with  40D Polyamide face and 70D reinforcement at the knees and seat. Full side zips, drop seat and a fly (hoorah).  The knees are articulated and the lower leg has Keprotec kick patches.

Haglofs Roc Pant

The Skarn winter hood is a winterised version of the classic Skarn, which comes in Haglofs own membrane-less Flexable softshell. As a material, I love it. When I got my first Viper jacket I was hooked, everyone should own at least one Flexable softshell, it’s a great balance between breathability, stretch and weather resistance. This chappy sports a helmet hoot, gusseted cuffs and articulated joints. Looks good for late season scrambling and climbing. The companion Skarn Winter pant is below, in the same material with Keprotec reinforced kick patches, articulated knees, internal gaiters and an integrated belt. I reckon these might be a very fine set of winter breeks.

Haglofs Skarn Winter hood

Haglofs Skarn Winter Pant

In insulation, the Sector (or monkey jacket as I like to call it) has had an update. It’s made with Polartec Thermal Pro so you get great warmth to weight ratio, but there’s some sneaky Powerstretch reinforcement in there too for longevity and stretch. Mens in monkey colour and blue and the Ladies Q versions below.

Sector

Haglofs Sector

For down insulation, the Essens vest and hood are a wonder combination of Pertex Quantum and 800 fill power down (all ethically sourced and traceable, which is standard for Haglofs) 50g in the vest and 91g in the hood for a size large. They squash down to tennis ball size and are very warm for the weight, perfect for throwing in your pack when you’re not sure how cold it’ll be.  The Magi (on the right in blue) is the bigger brother, in Pertex Quantum and Microlight, with additional synthetic insulation on the shoulders along with the down. There’s 340g of 800 fill power down in there, which is more than some sleeping bags. Super toasty and ideal for winter camps.

Haglofs Essens

Haglofs Essens Q

The Barrier Pro Hood is also Pertex Quantum, but filled with Quadfusion+ synthetic insulation. That combo makes it cheap, light and warm even in damp conditions. This could be ideal for 3 season camp insulation.

Haglofs Barrier Pro

The Triton is a midlayer piece, made from Powerstretch Pro with a Thermal Pro torso section. That means durability and stretch in the arms and shoulders where you need it, along with warmth in the core for a minimal weight. The hood fits under a helmet and the wee holes help with venting breath.Seams are flatlocked and offset and there are thumbloops to keep it in place when you’re reaching high for those axe placements.

Haglofs Triton

Onto the Trekking range and we have the Ares jacket which has an old skool huntin/shootin/fishin feel to it, but it’s 2.5 layer Paclite with a 70D face, so it’s sturdy but light and more technical than it looks. The hood is a rollaway and the pockets are big, so plenty room for your shotgun shells. The colours make me despair, but there’s a huge market for green and broon and if you’re stalking a deer, I can see why luminous yellow might not be the best choice. The ladies do get a nice berry colour.

Haglofs Ares

Haglofs Ares

The Barrier jacket is Pertex Classic Eco with Quadfusion insulation. If you don’t need the uprated spec of the Barrier Pro I mentioned earlier, this is a very affordable wee insulation piece and they sell them by the van load. I counted 12 on one of my commutes into work last winter. Mens, then ladies below which also shows the vest variant.

Haglofs Barrier

Haglofs Barrier Q

We also have the Barrier pant and knee pant, which are designed as quick pull on insulation for the legs. It seems odd, why would you want insulated shorts?  Well, Gus reckons the knee pant is great for just pulling over your muddy bike shorts andjumping the car to head home after an evening on the trails. I can see how that would work. I reckon they might also offer some lightweight camp insulation for those autumn nights when down trousers are overkill.

Haglofs Barrier Pant

The Gecko Hood is another Flexable softshell, this time with a fleece backer.  Expect stretch and wind resistance with good breathability and some warmth. Mens, then ladies Q versions below.

Haglofs Gecko

Haglofs Gecko Q

The Astro is a good wee staple microfleece and it comes in both pull-on and jacket formats. Ladies first, then chaps. The orange colour is called Danger. That’s me sold.

Haglofs Astro Q
Haglofs Astro

The Swook Hood has a knitted finish to it,with a high loft lining, so it feels soft and warm. The hood is lined with microfleece too, which is a nice touch. It looks like a fleece hoody you’d wear to the pub, but the standard of finish is high;  the seams are flatlocked and offset to avoid chafing when wearing a pack and the waistcord is one hand adjustable. The ladies below also show the Swook jacket if you’re not a fan of hoods. Below that is the Pile Hood, which is a classic Polartec pile fleece, but with the same attention to features.

Haglofs Swook

Haglofs Swook Q

Haglofs Pile Hood

I’ll be honest, the Trekking range always used to be a bit of a comedown for me. We’d go from the ultra techy, supercoloured joy of the Mountain or Intense ranges onto some long cut, forest green jackets with loads of pockets.  No longer,  for in the Trekking range lies a source of wonder and delight, known as the L.I.M series.

L.I.M stands for Less Is More, and the ideology behind it is to have products that are simplifed in terms of design and features, to be as functional, light and packable as possible. That’s right up my street. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve hit gold here.

The LIM III jacket is stripped down goodness. It’s Paclite, with 20D face. The hood is fully adjustable, the seams are minimal, there’s a single chest pocket, elasticated cuffs with a thumbloop and a drop tail. It rolls up and packs into it’s own arm.  Simple, light, packable, genius.

Haglofs LIM
Haglofs LIM

The LIM Parka is similar, but longer cut and made with 30D face. Haglofs describe it as the ultimate packable jacket. They may have a point. Also purple and orange together. Extra points there I think.

LIM Parka
 The LIM Active  jacket is 3 Layer Gore Active, made with 30D face. There’s a fully adjustable hood, with a peak. Pockets are mounted at mid height and are mesh backed to be used to vent the jacket. The cuffs are gusseted with velcro adjustment and there’s a drop tail. It has all the technical features you need in a light little package and what seems like decent durability.

Haglofs LIM active Q

The LIM Barrier Pro is a minimalist version of the one we looked at earlier. The outer is 7D polyamide, so it’s very light, stuffed with Quadfusion+ for insulation. Super packable quick drying warmth for a tiny weight penalty. Yes please. The one of the left is Gus’s own, which is a very good indicator that it’s worth checking out.

Haglofs LIM Barrier Pro

This was the standout piece for me: the LIM Essens. I already had a very high opinion of the Essens, but this is even better. 7D ripstop Polyamide outer, with 71g of 800 fill power down. This sample has different colour inner fabric which makes the down much more visible. I like it, but the production models will have matching fabric inside and out. I’ve got one of these in for test and I’m very happy about that, I might just be in love.

Haglofs LIM Essens

The LIM Power Dry hood is also worth talking about. It’s Polartec PowerDry made in a grid structure to give maximum moisture management while retaining heat. You can see through it on the pic below, it’s super thin but the grid makes it warm to the touch. You need to seek one out to fondle to get the idea. I’ll report back once I’ve given mine a workout.

Haglofs LIM Power Dry hood

LIM Power Dry Q

LIM Power Dry

The LIM Tee is a polyester baselayer, lava treated to be less stinky and with no shoulder seams so it doesn’t rub under a pack. Most importantly, it comes in Irn Bru colours. Sold!

Haglofs LIM tee

LIM also has a footwear range. The alignment with ASICs continues and that’s showing through. The LIM Low comes in both Gore and non-Gore variants, with a 5mm drop with loads of mesh for moisture control and an outsole that has rubber mixed with rice husks for better grip in the wet. There’s also a Mid in both Gore and non-Gore, which I really like the look of. Light and grippy is the combination of champions and then you’ve got those colours. As Millie would say, awesomesauce.

LIM footwear

LIM Footwear2

We’ll wrap up with a quick word on packs. The LIM Susa 20L is getting a new 40L big brother. My back is too long for these packs, but I’m told a longer back version is coming.

Haglofs LIM Susa

So that’s your lot for the moment. I’ll endeavour to sort my calendar out to keep you in the loop more regularly in future. Lots of highlights here, but the LIM series in particular is lighting my fire. I have a bunch of kit in for review so keep an eye out for that as I get round to using and abusing it.

 

  • June 25, 2014 - 12:30 pm

    Alastair Brunton - The barrier knee pant looks really useful for ski mountaineering. As long as it covers your knees and you have ski boots on most of the places where your body loses heat are covered. Also means you wont tear them apart with ski edges when you ski with them on.

  • June 25, 2014 - 1:31 pm

    MT - Aye, that’s a good point. I reckon there’s good mileage in those.

My sunrise alarm went off at ten to four. I stuck my head out of the tent to see wall-to-wall clag. Back to bed.

By six, the mist had lifted and it had brightened up a bit so I got the breakfast on. I could see the full length of the ridge I’d traversed the day before.

Stob Ban

I stood and munched porridge and had the obligatory two cups of coffee, then I got packed up and I was Oscar Mike.

The summit of Sgurr an Iubhair was clagged in and it was blowing a hoolie. I had chosen wisely last night. I had the choice to carry on round to Am Bodach or to branch off over the devil’s ridge. I checked the forecast and it said it was gonna be clearish for a couple of hours, then hosing down again till evening. Nah, not again. I turned north, dropped down into the bealach and started up the ridge, casting an eye back over the east, second guessing myself as I went.

Ring of Steall
Sgurr a

Despite it’s name, the devil’s ridge is very straightforward. I suppose it’s a bit narrow, but there are far scarier outings to be had in the Scottish hills.

Sgurr a mhaim devils ridge

The clag had stayed off the top as I came along then ridge, but when I topped out it was standard issue cairn in the mist territory. There was a huge slab of snow hanging in Lag Gorm, I could see why the MCofS were advising caution, there was a lot of white stuff still around. There was a quick break in the cloud, just enough for me to see the next batch of rainclouds heading my way from Glencoe. I paused for a quick photo for the kids and then set off down the Sron. This was where it had gone wrong previously, a simple nav error in thick mist that had left me with an injury that had recurred for years.

Sgurr a mhaim devils ridge

I dropped down below the cloud and could see the way ahead, I was on track. I bumped down through the quartzite with red stained snow suggesting some kind of massacre had taken place here.

Sgurr a mhaim devils ridge
Sgurr a mhaim devils ridge

I took a skid in a patch of loose scree and there was a stretching sensation in the right knee, then zap, pain shot up my leg. Not again. The remainder of the descent was slow and I was glad of my poles. The sun broke through the showers and it warmed up a little. I plodded down slowly, on the right track this time but it was still steep. I passed the first person of the day, on his way up at the deer gate and was greeted with the traditional ‘you must have been up early’ which always makes me smile.

I hobbled down the last stretch back the car as the sun warmed my back. Two for two; Sgurr a’Mhaim was winning.

Sgurr a mhaim devils ridge

So more rest, elevation and ibuprofen? I got home to three smiley faces and big slab of home made strawberry cream cake. That was all the medicine I needed.

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  • June 12, 2014 - 7:33 pm

    Bigbananafeet - Gotta work this weekend and I’m starting to get cabin fever again but reading those posts put a smile on my face.

    The hills are starting to look nice and green now.

  • June 13, 2014 - 9:01 am

    MT - If I can raise a smile, I’m happy with that!. There is lots of greenery around now but still fair slabs of snow when you get up high, I reckon there will be a few snow patches that last the full year.
    We really need to get a meet sorted, but the new physio has revised the diagnosis. It’s now a suspected torn meniscus and an inflamed ligament too. The next meet I organise is likely to be in the pub!

  • June 16, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    Bigbananafeet - A Clachaig/real ale meet? Sure we could find some gentler walks in the area with out the ascent/descent.

  • June 17, 2014 - 7:32 am

    MT - Ah, I like your thinking. Someone needs to do a guide to pubs for the discerning hill goer. The only problem with the clachaig is the limited camping options, I’m allergic to the red squirrel, but I’m sure we can figure something out….

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