Words by Will Condie
To truly celebrate the return of Haglöfs to the warm embrace of Trekitt we decided to band together and head to the Black Mountains for a spot of kit testing, because let’s face it, if we haven’t used it then how can we recommend it to our customers.
After receiving a generous amount of test gear from Tim, our friendly Haglöfs Area Sales Manager, Dom, Dave and myself (Will) were all itching to get it on and get going. So on Sunday 4th September 2016, we met up with Bob from Contour Outdoor who was going to be our guide for the day.
Bob (Left), Tim (Right)
After the obligatory bacon butty breakfast supplied by Pauline at White Haywood Farm, we were briefed by Bob, split into pairs and given the task to navigate to the first location.
Dave trying to hide his secret stash of Mama’s homemade brownies before anyone saw
So with team “Double D” in one corner (referring to Dom and Dave) and Myself and Tim in the other, we set about planning the first leg of our day. After some initial scratching of heads and dragging up of some rusty navigation knowledge we had the route sussed. It was however reassuring to have Bob on hand to verify our planning.
Dom and Dave with a helping hand from Bob
Dom and Dave to lead us out of White Haywood Farm towards our first checkpoint, Coed Farm. It’s only a short walk to Coed Farm, but with the gradient going against us it wasn’t long before we needed to “dump some heat”. It was time to test out the classic Haglöfs Rugged II Mountain Pants, and yes these pants are rugged and perfectly suited for any mountain terrain but were proving to be a tad warm for our walk. Don’t worry though, because Haglöfs have given these brilliant trousers a pair of large thigh vents for such an occasion, and on opening them it feet like someone had just turned on the air conditioning.
Once at the old farm everyone gathered around for our next lesson and set of instructions from Bob. This was my opportunity to spring into action and I started jumping and climbing all over the place trying to find a nice vantage point from which to take some pictures.
This is where Bob showed us how to kill a man using a single blade of grass, it can also be used as a map pointer
Dave (left) & Dom (Right)
Bob’s handy pacing business card
Armed with our next set of instruction and a good lesson from Bob on the difference between and magnetic bearings and grid bearings, we set off in search for the next checkpoint. Still, in the shelter of Black Hill, the prevailing wind was minimal with a bit of morning chill still in the air. This made for perfect conditions for the lightweight, technical Fleece we had been given; the Alder hood is made from Pontetorto Technostretch that has a lofted waffle gird backing that not only keeps you warm when you need it to, it’s also highly breathable with excellent wicking capabilities helping to maintain that homeostatic feeling of comfort on this gentle part of our walk.
At the car park/picnic area at the tail end of the Cat’s Back, we stopped for some lunch, assessed the weather and plotted our next route accordingly.
From here we could have crossed the Olchon Valley floor and made our way up on to Hatterall Ridge and join the famous Offa’s Dyke path. However, after consulting the weather report we decided that it would be best tuck in and follow the road north-west and join the veiled footpath leading to the head of the valley.
Two thirds of the way up we stopped off for another insightful lesson; how to pack for a day on the hill. This was a bit like teaching Granny to suck eggs as we all know how to pack for a day out in the hills, but as they say "every day is a school day" and it was useful to learn something new and pick up useful tips from someone as vastly experienced as Bob. We also looked at best practices for hill safety and first aid, all very useful stuff.
Back on our feet we pushed on and made our way to higher and flatter ground. Once we reached the top we tracked west across the moorland, practising leading from the back in poor conditions, which even in good conditions wasn’t proving easy. We were aiming for the well-trodden path (not marked on the map) that follows the ridge from Hay Bluff to Black Hill’s trig-point.
On our arrival, we ducked down behind one of many eroded gullies and Dom and Dave donned their Essens Mimic Hooded Jackets and refuelled once again. Warm and full of snacks, we sat while Tim explained what the Essens Mimic is all about. If you aren’t familiar with Haglöfs as a brand I should probably explain that the Essens range is their selection of micro baffle down jackets. So Essens Mimic is rather obviously a jacket that mimics a down jacket, hence the name. Each baffle of the Essens Mimic is individually filled with a new type of blown synthetic insulation that performs just as well as 700 fill power European duck down for warmth and weight. Essentially you get the easy care of a synthetic insulated jacket that has the look and technical ability of a down jacket and let me tell you, it’s a pretty damn impressive bit of kit.
After our little rest on the highest point of Herefordshire, it was now time to enjoy some of the most spectacular views that our county has to offer whilst playing about on all the rocky outcrops that litter this ridge.
Back safe and sound at White Haywood Farm, the legend that is Pauline, welcomed us back with the best tea and scones found in the Black Mountains; Just what the Doctor ordered.