Monday 27 December 2010

Ice climbing in The Lake District. Low Water Beck. December 21st 2010.

Well, Christmas has been and gone and albeit temporarily (we hope) the absolutely fantastic winter conditions too! There have been a lot of winter ascents done recently on many of The Lake District's mountain streams. Ice climbers have been out in profusion - everywhere!

Iain and Kirstin from Kendal Mountaineering Services were out Tuesday last week and decided to take a look at Low Water Beck - a fine little grade 3/4 ice climb near Coniston.

Some Lake District winter climbs are well known about and hence get a lot of traffic. One wonders - should you get up early to get on the route first - or leave it til a little later - and get on the route when the crowds have gone?

Anyway, after a not early start we eventually arrived at the foot of the main section of Low Water Beck at around mid-day. This first shot shows two people on the main pitch and yes - for those in the know, the lower chap was wearing a Whillans harness and he was also climbing with straight shafted knuckle bashers as well. He must have been hard as nails!

However, what you don't see in shot one is the pair who were in front of us and, as there were a total of six people either on or about to get on to the ice climbing route, we elected to check out some short ice cliffs about 300M to the right of the main falls and come back later when things had quietened down - a good move!

In shot two, Iain climbs up a rather thin grade three pitch to set up a top rope so that Kirstin could have a go. In places here, the ice was only a few cms thick so, it was very delicate climbing. Once at the top, Iain set up a belay consisting of three warthogs and a bulldog considering this necessary as rock anchors were miles away and the turf was only moderately frozen - not surprising really as over the last three weeks there has only been one period of freeze/thaw.

We enjoyed a few hours of climbing on this short ice wall and in shot three Kirstin enjoys a slightly thicker line of ice. Kirstin was climbing using Iain's DMM Flys which are excellent T rated axes for all round use in any winter climbing scenario.

During this time Iain was watching the foot of Low Water Beck and had noticed that no-one else had walked in - in fact most people were leaving.

So, at about 3pm, we wandered over to see what was what and we could see only one person who was about to disappear up the top pitch.

The main part of the Low Water Beck ice climb consists firstly of an easy angled scramble up to the start of the main pitch. At this point the grade three summer scramble of Low Water Beck breaks out right but the ice climber is confronted by a 70 foot pitch rearing up into a groove leading to the top stance below the final pitch.

Despite the battering this grade three pitch must have had over the previous four days, there was still plenty of fine ice and the picks of Iain's Rebels went much better into this ice than that of the previous venue - but of course here, the ice was at least 20x thicker!

The pitch was very pleasant climbing; and Iain was soon up to the stance below the final pitch - having placed a few ice screws along the way. He had to be careful though, not to dislodge any ice on to Kirstin down below.

In shot five, Kirstin has ascended the main pitch and is climbing the easy groove above to Iain's stance.

By this time, the light was fading rapidly!

In the last shot, Iain climbs rapidly up the final pitch having gone under and behind the boulder on the right through a fine little ice cave.

The grade four section of the Low Water Beck Ice Climb is the unbroken rib going up immediately to the right of Iain. Even though it looked fine from below, there was a waterfall running down the middle of it and Iain wasn't convinced it was safe. Also, because it was rapidly getting dark (and Kirstin was complaining of cold hands) he chose to belt up the easier l/h gully and belay Kirstin up from the top of the gully whilst attached to two very secure warthogs.

A final short scramble brought us to the head of the main pitch of Low Water Beck and by now it was almost dark. It was a shame we were unable to link to the two short but pleasant ice pitches between where we were and Low Water, but we were very satisfied with what we had done on our ice climbing afternoon.

You can view all of the pictures from this afternoon here.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Counting down to Winter 2011 in Scotland

Well, winter has already arrived here in the Lake District with us now being into our second really cold snap so far. We have aleady been told that it is the coldest winter recorded this early for 17 years.

Iain Gallagher (pictured right) remembers when, as a kid, this weather, here in the Lake District, was the norm. It used to arrive in November and the snow would creep down the mountains into the valleys and there it would stay until the end of March and often, on the mountains, well into May!

Iain welcomes the return of this cold weather which transforms the whole of the UK into a winter wonderland and makes a visit into the mountains even more of an adventure. Make sure you are prepared for the winter conditions by attending one of Kendal Mountaineering services Winter courses this year.

Iain is going to be based in Fort William from Early January and will be on hand to arrange your winter adventure. Let us know what you want to do and we'll arrange a course to suit your needs. Remember we do not add VAT to our prices so, if the thought of that 2.5% VAT hike is putting you off booking your winter adventure - then contact us or call Iain on 07761 483364.

Being based in the Fort William area gives scope for all sorts of great winter climbing and whether you want to be guided up some classic winter routes or already climb in Summer but want to be able to do it in Winter - then we can find a suitable venue in the area for you.

Local to Fort William, we have Ben Nevis - Britain's highest mountain, with many classic lines of all grades to choose from. Aonach Mor is close by with many great routes on its east and west faces and a little further south we have Glen Coe with many classic climbs to choose from.

Of course, you might want to do your climbing course in the Cairngorms - such as the people in this second photograph. This is not a problem - it's not far away from Fort William and Iain will happily arrange winter climbing, mountaineering or winter skills courses for you there - in fact we are running a course there at the end of February. Check out details of the courses on offer that week here and you can view pictures from the last winter skills courses here.

Photograph 3 shows a team of people practising the ice axe braking position on last year's very successful winter skills course. This is an essential skill if you are going into the mountains in winter and is only one aspect of our two day course during which you learn about kicking/cutting steps, crampon use, avalance prediction, the building of snow shelters and basic ropework and belaying techniques.

Ice axe braking can be an exhilarating experience when taught in a safe environment as was the case shortly after the above shot was taken - learn the techniques with us and be safer in the winter mountains as a result!

Not everyone wants to learn about winter climbing immediately (or at all!) but often people want to make a progression in that general direction.
The party seen here had attended winter skills courses and had tried guided climbing, but this time they wanted some coaching in the techniques of winter mountaineering (winter scrambling).
On a winter mountaineering day, you will use all techniques learnt during a winter skills course but the rope comes out more as you will be on terrain where the consequenses of a slip could be serious and the nature of the ground may be such that ice axe braking may not stop you before you become airborne!
Bucket seat belays as well as snow, ice and rock anchors are all likely to be looked at and used on one of these days out. On this occasion, the route was Ledge Route on Ben Nevis although many other good mountaineering routes exist such as Curved Ridge or Dorsal Arete in Glen Coe, Golden Oldy on the West Face of Aonach Mor or the Faicaille Coire an T Sneachda in the Cairngorms.
The possibilities are endless for your winter adventures in Scotland this season. Contact us and we will put together a package that improves your ability and confidence in this great environment and we'll take you into some of the best places to learn, too! Your winter skills course will be run either by Iain or another holder of the Winter Mountainwalking Leader's Certificate. People wishing to be guided up winter scrambles or winter climbs will be working with full holders of the Mountaineering Instructor's Certificate.
Keep an eye on our blog over the coming months and follow Iain's adventures - either climbing for pleasure or working with clients. Its going to be fun!

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Winter 2010/2011 with Kendal Mountaineering Services.

Winter has arrived early in the UK in 2010, the earliest, in fact, for 17 years. Whilst many people are struggling with the conditions, it is an opportunity for winter enthusiasts to get stuck in to some winter routes and there is already a fair bit of action taking place.

Kendal Mountaineering Services are ready and available to provide you with the course of your choice and there is certainly scope here in the Lakes right now to take advantage of the conditions and be guided up some winter scrambles such as Jacks Rake seen in the photo right.

Give us a call and we will arrange your day out. Prices start at £90 per person for a full day of Lake District Winter scrambling and if you can turn up with your crampons and axes - we'll provide the rest and make sure you have a great day out! Give us a call to see what we can do for you!

Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services will be moving to Scotland from January 2011 and can be contacted there where he will be on hand to arrange scottish winter mountaineering days on routes such as Ledge Route, Ben Nevis as in the photo right. You can choose to be guided on other classic routes such as Ledge Route or Tower Ridge or howabout the Aonach Eagach in Glen Coe or Dorsal Arete or Curved Ridge in Glen Coe?

If winter climbing is your thing - then let us then let us guide you up some classic winter climbs such as No 3 Gully Buttress Good Friday Climb or Glover's Chimney on the Ben or some of the easy routes in Glen Coe, Daim Buttress or right Twin on Aonach Mor and of course there are many routes to take your pick from in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms. Our guided winter climbing days and scottish winter scrambles start from £90 per person per day. Once again, bring your crampons & axes and we'll supply the rest.

If you would like to learn the skills of winter climbing for yourself, then we are happy to teach you the necessary skills such as belaying and anchor/running belay placements and how to move on steeper ground with axes and crampons - In all likelihood you'll be tought the skills on grade 1 to grade two ground and you will be coached by a holder of the Mountaineering Instructor's Certificate (MIC).
A pre-requisite will be that you have already attended a basic winter skills course and are competent winter hillgoers experienced already in crampon techniques and ice axe arrest.
Our learning to lead winter climbing courses can be arranged anywhere in the highlands - in particular Coire An T sneachda in the Cairngorms is a great venue with a lot of easy routes to learn on but we can also arrange these courses on the west coast in Glen Coe or on Ben Nevis.
The cost, again is £90 per person per day and once again - bring your own crampons & axes and we'll provide the rest.
Finally, if you are not ready for any of the above, but want to venture into the winter environment, then prepare yourself by attending one of our Scottish Winter Skills courses. You will learn the basics of moving on snow such as step kicking and step cutting and move on to ice axe arrest techniques. You will be shown techniques such as snow and ice belays including basic ropework for ascending or descending snow slopes and you'll learn how to build snow shelters to survive a night outdoors if you get caught out. You will also learn how to interpret the snowpack for avalanche risk.
We are currently taking bookings for a Winter skills course to be run in the Cairngorms during February 27th & 28th 2011 for the fantastic price of £100 per person, non residential, for the two day course.
We will also be following the Winter Skills course with a two day/one night navigation skills training course on the Cairngorm Plateau at a cost of £90 per person for the two day course and winter climbing days at a cost of £90 per person (minimum of two people per instructor per day), contact us for details.
Typical pictures from our winter skills courses can be viewed here and our winter climbing days here. We look forward to helping you make the most of your winter experiences.
Please note that Kendal Mountaineering services only use appropriately qualified staff to deliver its winter courses. For winter skills courses we use staff holding a minimum of the Winter Mountainwalking Leaders Certificate and for winter climbing courses full holders of the Mountain Instructor's Certificate.

Monday 29 November 2010

Navigation Skills training courses in the Lake District. November 27th & 28th 2010

During the weekend of November 27th & 28th, Kendal Mountaineering services ran a Navigation Skills training course here in the Lake District.

The weather for the weekend was as forecast - although someone, somewhere had omitted to tell us about the two inches of snow that were due to fall in the small hours of Saturday and this caused one participant to withdraw from the course. However, the other two had managed to travel to the Lake District and so the course ran.

Day one of the course was to be based on Green Quater Fell area near Staveley and in the shot above, Gary (left) and Kelvin can be seen checking the map and their location on the bridleway that we had used to walk in from the Kentmere road to the area we were intending to work in for the day. It was truly a stunning day cold and crisp but absolutely beautiful and this is the first time that winter has returned to the Lake District so early for many years.

In shot two, Gary & Kelvin are walking on a bearing - having set off from our previous grid reference and en route for the next - a ring contour located on the map but difficult to find! On leaving the road we had initially looked at pacing in order that the pair could measure distance and orientating the map so, once aligned with the surrounding area, the pair could identify features from map to ground. We then used a linear feature (in this case, a bridleway) to navigate on to Green Quarter Fell to progress to more testing techniques.

Walking on a bearing whilst pacing is a more advanced technique and one that novices often struggle with at the outset, but Gary & Kelvin were already experienced hillgoers who really just wanted to brush up on their mountain navigation skills so, in many respects, this turned out to be a navigation refresher course with some additional techniques thrown in.

After progressing from following linear features to travelling on bearings, the trio spent the afternoon developing their expertise in this skill. Iain also talked about the benefits of using attack points (something obvious near to your intended location) and aiming off as well as using back bearings (to check you've actually walked on your bearing). Before we knew it, it was mid afternoon, the sun was dropping low in the sky and it was decided to leave the fell and head back to Wilfs Cafe in Staveley to discuss Naismiths Rule - with a brew in the relative comfort of the cafe and thus ended, day one.

The third shot is one of the sunset looking out west with the Coniston Fells on the right in the distance. By now it was extremely cold!

Unfortunately Gary was unable to attend day two of our Lake District based Navigation Skills Training Course and so Iain was now down to one client from three! Kelvin, pictured right with Kentmere Pike and the High Street summits beyond, has been a client of Kendal mountaineering Services on a number of occasions now - starting last year in North Wales on a Scrambling Skills Training Course as part of an Outdoors Magic supermeet organised by Dave Mycroft of Myoutdoors.

Kelvin has also attended one of our Scottish Winter Skills Courses based in the Cairngorms National Park in February and he joined us on Skye last May for one of our Cuillin Ridge Traverses

Anyway, Iain & Kelvin headed again into the Kentmere area with the intention of consolidating the skills learnt during the previous day. On day two we aim to traverse at least part of the Kentmere Horseshoe and started along the eastern side taking in Shipman Knotts and Kentmere Pike before heading on to Harter Fell.

The weather was perfect and the views stunning. Yesterday's fresh and cold north easterly wind had been replaced by a light, almost imperceptable breeze which meant that rather than being wrapped up to the eyeballs - we could enjoy the day in baselayers and down jackets. Shot five is taken from Harter Fell looking down on Low Water with the east face of High Street beyond and already there were fair accumulations of ice to be seen - so no doubt Blea Water Icefalls will be seeing ascents again soon.

From Harter Fell, we descended the ridge to Nan Bield Pass and in shot six Kentmere Reservoir peeps out from behind Kelvin with Ill Bell and Froswick in shadow to the right.

Having descended to Nan Bield Pass it was elected to follow the bridleway back to Brockstones and our vehicle and day two of our Lake District Navigation Skills training course finished at around 4pm. Kelvin then had to make the long drive back to Northhampton!

Both Kelvin and Gary thoroughly enjoyed their course with Kendal Mountaineering Services and felt that they had gained much from it. We will now not be running any further Navigation Skills training courses in the Lake District until the end of next March but in the meantime why not join us in Scotland for a Winter Skills course, winter climbing courses or a guided day on a classic winter route of your choice!

Contact us for details.

Friday 26 November 2010

Winter Mountaineering Days in the Lake District and the Kendal Film Festival

Well, it's some considerable time since Iain at Kendal Mountaineering Services has updated the blog. The latter part of October was a quiet month and November has been similar, so, Iain & his partner Kirstin chose to get a few holidays in. More about the holidays in another post, but for now you can read about the events of the past week & a bit.

The first shot of this post shows two of Iains past clients - Adam Dawson & Chris Upton during a winter mountaineering day in the Lake District on Wednesday Nov 17th. Both Adam & Chris have been good clients of Kendal Mountaineering Services during the last 4 years. Both have attended our legendary Scottish Winter Skills courses in the Cairngorms as well as our winter climbing days. Both have also attended Iain's Skye weeks and have done our Cuillin Ridge Traverses as well as other scrambles in the Cuillins and they have also attended a beginners scrambling course here in the Lake District.

As a Mountaineering Instructor, there is now not a lot Iain can go on to teach the pair - although they are both looking forward to joining Iain in the New Year for a winter climbing skills training course in Scotland. Both have become firm friends of Iain's during the four years that they have worked with him; and the occasion of our being out in the hill last week was not one of work but what is becoming an annual social event that the three come together to enjoy.

Chris & Adam both descended on our household last year at around the same time with a view to attending the Kendal Mountain Festival - this annual event brings together top national & international performers from the outdoor scene and enthusiasts from all over the globe. It is an excellent opportunity to see lectures by famous names, network and socialise. In shot two Chris and Adam enjoy an evening meal with Kirstin and Iain after our day out (photo above) on Dove and Hart Crag in the Lake District.

The forecast for our first day out was poor - with a strong south westerly gusting up to 90mph on the summits, freezing level at about 2500 feet and heavy rain forecast all day. Having arrived back from the 25 degree average of Morocco the previous day, Iain was not overly enthusiastic about getting out in this maelstrom of foulness, but once we reached the level of Houndshope Cove the enthusiasm returned as we were now in a maelstrom of dry, cold and snow - Iain was even heard to say Morocco was good - but this is better! After a lunch stop in the famous Priests Hole, the trio ascended to to the summit of Dove expecting to be blown flat - but this never happened and as the wind didn't seem to be so bad, we followed with Hart Crag before descending to the juncture with Hartsop above How. The plan had been to descend this ridge to the car, but a 2 mile traverse exposed to the worsening weather seemed like a daft plan so we headed back to Dovedale and walked back to the car - making it back just in time for dark.

After the drenching below the snowline we were all ready for a hot shower and one of Iain's legendary Chilli's - cooked by Kirstin this time, funnily enough!

Chris & Adam were keen to get out the following day too. The wind was due to have moderated although the freezing level appeared to have risen. After a wet and cloudy ascent from Patterdale Hall to the summit of St Sunday Crag the decision was made to continue on to Fairfield where conditions improved in so much that the rain stopped, the wind eased off and it grew colder. This could have just been due to our being sheltered by Fairfield as we approached it from the lee side. Shot three was taken as we ascended to Fairfield summit from Cofa Pike and here there was a true winter feel to the day. Anyway, once we decended to Grisedale Tarn and back down the valley, the weather became as grotty as before and we were glad of a hot brew provided by Iain's friends at Patterdale Hall.

The evening saw us out in town for a curry followed by a long session in the Vats Bar at the Brewery Arts centre before finishing in the small hours at Dickie Doodles. This was to set the scene for the following two nights!

Starting on Friday we got stuck into some of the films and lectures on offer at the Kendal Mountain Festival programme. Our afternoon started with " The Pinnacle" - a film by Paul Diffley about Dave Macleod and Andy Turner's re-enactment of Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith's groundbreaking week in 1960 when they put up 7 new routes on Ben Nevis including such classics as Orion Face Direct, Point Five Gully and Smith's Route and we followed this with "The Slacker's Guide to Climbing" featuring BMC President Rab Carrington and Steve McClure. Afterwards, we retired to the Vats Bar til 2am.

Saturday saw us start with a lecture by Iker & Eneko Pou - Seven Walls - Seven Continents followed by The Summit is the Goal by the legendary Peter Habeler and then finish with the truly outrageous but incredibly funny Timmy O'Neill. Then followed the best evening of all, more Brewery & Dickie Doodle Action til 4am and a chance to socialise and drink beer with some of the best known names in the outdoor scene.

Sunday saw us feeling a bit battered but after a whopping "full english" brunch and a scout around the Festival Tent for "outdoor bargains" we were ready for our final lecture of the event - Guy Robertson's "Mixed emotions - Scottish Winter Warfare" - a fantastic lecture by a climber at the cutting edge of mixed climbing of the highest order. After that, Chris & Adam departed and it was all over.

In summary, it was a great five days - but thank god it only happens once a year! Iain reckons that all told he took on board enough calories to power an Airbus A380 for the first 150 miles of flight and now he has to shift them, but thanks to Adam & Chris and the Kendal Mountain Festival for making it a truly memorable experience.

We're going to do it again next year.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Upcoming courses with Kendal Mountaineering Services - Autumn/winter 2010

Kendal Mountaineering Services are pleased to be able to offer weekend courses during November & December 2010. As a start - we are offering fantastic value Navigation Skills training Courses during November 6th & 7th and November 27th & 28th. For an unbeatable £50 per person for these non residential courses- you will receive two 8 hour days of navigation skills training with Iain Gallagher who is the director of Kendal Mountaineering Services and a Mountaineering Instructor.

The Navigation courses will be run in the Kentmere area of the Lake District and further details of the courses can be found in our new upcoming courses section. Contact us if you wish to reserve a place on these courses or would like further information.

Further to this, we are also now taking bookings for our residential Winter Skills week to be run in the Cairngorms National Park between February 25th & March 4th 2011. Courses on offer include a 2 day winter skills course at £100 per person, a 2 day/1 night nav & snowhole course at £90 per person and winter climbing days at £90 per person and bunkhouse accommodation is available at £16 per person per night. Places are limited so don't delay! For further info see upcoming courses - winter and contact us if you would like to make a booking.

If you fancy something exciting this Autumn then come caving with Kendal Mountaineering services.

Get underground away from the harsh Autumn weather and have an experience of a lifetime in this truly awesome environment where you can try tight squeezes and get a little wet - but you don't have to! However, you can marvel at the underground passageways and limestone formations that are to be found underground in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and enjoy a bacon butty and a brew in the famous Inglesport Cafe before (and after!) your caving session.

Half day caving sessions are £45 per person and full day sessions are £70 per person. We do give discounts for group bookings - contact us to book your caving session here.

Ghyll scrambling in the Lake District. Stickle Gill, Langdale, October 16th 2010

Here in the Lake District, we have experienced weather unusual for this time of year. Predominantly, during Autumn, Winter & Spring, our weather is influenced by a westerly airstream bringing low pressure systems and associated wet weather into the area.

However, for over a week now, we have had high pressure sitting to the west - blocking the bad weather; and an easterly continental airstream bringing warm & dry air across from Europe and one the whole, it had been very dry, warm and sunny - although the sun almost disappeared on Thursday & Friday!

It did re-appear today however - just in time for a group of American undergraduates who were visiting the Lake District for a ghyll scrambling session in Stickle Gill in Langdale.

Today, Iain was guiding this group on behalf of one of his clients and he worked with two groups of cheerful and enthusiastic students during the day who come from universities all over the States and who thoroughly enjoyed their ghyll scrambling sessions with us.

The first photo shows the morning group in the lower gill just upstream from the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel - having just found the first deep pool.

Shortly afterwards, we arrived at the first roped climb and in photo two - one of the students has just scaled the rock wall whilst the rest of her party looks on.

Above the first climb there are a succession of small waterfalls, rocky pools - shallow & deep, before one arrives at the second and higher waterfall to be found half a mile further up the gill (photo three)and this is at least four times higher than the lower fall.

There were three teams of students during both the morning & afternoon session and in photo three our party has been joined by another team.

We were somewhat surprised to find only one other group in Stickle Ghyll today as it is a very popular venue with local outdoor centres and private user groups alike and definitely one of the best ghyll scrambling venues in the Lake District!

In the final shot, two groups pose for the photo with the ghyll behind. Above left can be seen the skyline of Harrison Stickle - one of the Langdale Pikes and scene of some of the best scrambling routes in the area and top right - Tarn Crag - one of Iain's favourite venues for his scrambling skills training courses.

Stickle Ghyll is just one of many fantastic ghyll scrambling (otherwise known as gorge walking) venues in the Lake District and no matter where you are staying in the Lake District Kendal Mountaineering Services know of a venue near to your location so give us a call if you are looking for a session!

Friday 15 October 2010

Canadian Canoe journeys in the Lake District. October 12th 2010.

Iain had a few days off basking in the unusually summerlike conditions that have put in an appearance this October, before working again - this time with Avril & Duncan McCormick and their daughter Hannah and "westy" - Milly.

The family were on holiday from Northern Scotland for part of the October half term holiday; and Avril had contacted Iain at Kendal Mountaineering Services sometime previously asking whether or not it would be possible to do full day Canadian Canoeing river journey. Iain was sure he could find somewhere.

There are some great rivers in the Lake District and Iain was able to guide the family on one such river.

After getting on and covering Canadian Canoeing skills such as forward & backward paddling/stopping, turning using sweep strokes and the stern rudder, forwards & backwards ferry gliding and draw strokes, Iain felt the family were ready to begin the journey along the stretch of river to be travelled.

This particular river trip was, at the level - no more than a good grade two and here - in shot two, Avril and Duncan can be see negotiating one of the more difficult rapids.

Once the halfway point is reached the river slows down and broadens - becoming a "bump & scrape" in some parts. On occasion, this necessitated both Iain & Duncan getting out to push - or pull!

The whole journey was a breeze for Milly - seen here in shot three - sat in the middle of the canoe, although there were several times when she jumped out of the boat and got rather wet.

In shot four, Hannah looks on from the front of Iain's canoe as we approach another short grade two rapid. The day had been idyllic - blue sky, warm sun and no breeze - truly pleasant!

At this particular point, the river bed had changed markedly from Iain's previous trip (done last year - before the infamous November floods) from a broad shallow rapid to a short steep narrow one reminiscent of Blacksboat Rapid on the River Spey in Scotland. Also, downstream from here, a number of previously braided channels had simply disappeared!

Finally, having set off from our get in at 11am, the party reached our get out at 4:45pm. It had been a long day on our Lake District Canadian Canoe river journey, but the whole family were very satisfied with the day in terms of skills learnt and overall distance covered. All that was left to be done was to load up the boats and shuttle the family back to their car.

Iain hopes they enjoyed the rest of their holiday in the area and it is good to know that the weather remained fine during their entire visit.

To find out about our watersports full and half day sessions check out our Canadian Canoeing
and Kayaking courses pages.

We look forward to your joining us on the water - whether it be on one of the lake Districts many lakes or rivers.

Rock climbing skills training courses in the Lake District. October 9th & 10th 2010

Joe Sacco contacted Iain at Kendal Mountaineering Services when he decided to organise a multi-pitch rock climbing skills training course for himself & his partner Ruth - as part of a birthday present for her.

Iain arranged to meet the pair in Langdale in the Lake District. Langdale has many climbing venues suited to the teaching of rock climbing skills and on day one Iain chose to take the pair to Upper Scout Crag which has a couple of multi-pitch gems - Route One and Route Two.

On the way in to the crag, Iain discussed plans with the pair and discovered that not only were they adept at indoor climbing and the belaying techniques associated with that, but also - they had been climbing on Derbyshire Gritstone and had seconded a number of routes with friends.

This helped Iain build up a clear plan for the day. As the pair had seen running belay placements already and had apparently dealt with their removal as "seconders", Iain felt that they needed to learn about building multi-point belays for stances first - before we looked at climbing and runner placements and so we spent an hour practising these before starting up Route One - seen above the pair in the first photograph here.

In the second shot, Joe has climbed the crux pitch of Route One which Ruth is now seconding. Joe had built his belay on the second stance of the route -tying in with his rope into the anchors although Iain had shown the pair how to use slings to bring anchors to a central attachment point as well.

Tying into the anchors with the rope is most commonly used if a pair of climbers are "leading alternate pitches" - ie the second is belayed up to the leader and upon reaching them, collects the rest of the climbing rack and then leads the next pitch.

The method of bringing slings together to form a single attachment point is more commonly used if a leader is leading all pitches and needs to be able to escape the belay easily, or where a Mountaineering Instructor is guiding clients on a multi-pitch route.

On this occasion, Iain was coaching - not guiding; and was working from a separate rope which is anchored in the foreground of shot two. Iain is able to move up or down this rope in order to coach and keep safe - the clients - whilst remaining safe himself.

Shot three shows Ruth carrying out an abseil retreat from Route Two. The pair had gotten on so well during day one that we had climbed halfway up Route Two as well. However, when it got to 3:30pm it was clear that we were not going to have time to finish the route that day, so Iain discussed and set up, an abseil retreat from the crag using a doubled rope and a stacked abseil.

A stacked abseil requires all party members to attach to an anchor point freeing up the climbing rope which is then threaded through the anchor (or some other anchor such as a rope sling) and both ends lowered to the ground - this is essential if a climbing party wants to be able to retrieve their rope after a retreat.

All group members transfer from their anchor to the secured rope - attaching a sling between themselves and their belay plate which has already been attached to the abseil rope. The first person down will use a prussik as a backup to prevent a freefall and once down holds both ropes to prevent the rest of the party losing control during abseiling. This method is particularly useful if working with novices.

Day one of Joe & Ruth's Lake District Multi-pitch rock climbing skills training course had been very successful. Both had climbed well - exhibiting considerable confidence and competence. The sun had shone on us all day in what was to become one of the best weeks of weather Iain has ever seen in October - it has been like Summer again!

The pair had gotten on so well that Iain felt they ought go to a different crag the following day and he decided on Middlefell Buttress (moderate) for their next multi-pitch route.

In shot four, Ruth has reached the top of pitch four on Middlefell Buttress and Joe is seconding this pitch. The pair had alternately led all four pitches on the route - again, in fine sunny conditions. There were a number of other parties on the route behind us and is oft the case - some were exhibiting poor climbing technique as well as good! Adjacent Raven Crag was swarming with climbing parties on this perfect climbing day.

The top of Middlefell Buttress can be extended by an extra pitch - Curtain Wall (mild severe) - this was the hardest pitch the pair had climbed - having only been on two V Diffs and a moderate so far, but they were climbing so well that Iain was sure they would cruise it and despite him pre-placing some runners for them - they did just that!

Joe and Ruth had climbed so well during the course that Iain decided to finish off with a fairly short Hard Severe called Revelation on the east side of Raven Crag. This was significantly harder than any route the pair had already climbed but Iain felt that with a few preplaced runners and some good coaching from him -they would be able to climb it.

Revelation is getting fairly polished these days, but can be well protected apart from the crux which is a slightly overhanging bulge in the middle of the route that no-one hangs around on.

Iain decided that it was wise to split the route into three pitches as there is a stance immediately above the crux (a good place from which to watch and reassure your second!). Iain also decided that the best plan was to top rope the leader up this difficult pitch and as Ruth had led the first pitch the lead was Joe's. Iain rigged an anchor for Joe who was able to clip into this on his arrival at the stance and then belay Ruth up to the stance which is happening here in shot five. Joe had to "lap coil" the dead rope over his attachment to the anchor in order to stop it cluttering up Ruths intended stance or falling back down the route - good skills on a difficult pitch!

Finally, shot six shows Ruth & Joe at the top of Revelation at the end of day two on what had been a truly fantastic and really productive multi-pitch rock climbing skills training course in one of the best venues the Lake District has to offer.
Out of the routes Iain used for coaching - those on day one were 2 and 3 star routes according the the FRCC Guide and both Middlefell Buttress and Revelation on day two both merited 3 stars.
The pair climbed extremely well throughout and the whole picture was complemented by such superb weather for the time of year that it seems like a dream! Both thoroughly enjoyed their rock climbing skills training course with Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services and Iain sincerely hopes that they get out climbing again as soon as possible.
Well done Joe & Ruth!
To learn how Kendal Mountaineering Services can help you with your aspirations to climb using traditional methods on outdoor rock - see our climbing courses overview here or contact us.
We look forward to working with you.

Scrambling skills training courses in the Lake District. October 4th & 5th 2010

Martin Richards and James Rocks travelled up from Buckinghamshire for a scrambling skills training course in the Lake District with Iain from Kendal Mountaineering services. Iain took the guys to Tarn Crag in Langdale which has a range of good scrambling routes - an ideal place to learn scrambling skills!

After first looking at the technique of spotting - where you physically help each other up or down short steep sections without the use of the rope, Iain demonstrated the technique of short roping where two or more people move together using the rope to safeguard where a slip could turn into something more serious. In this first photo, James & Martin follow Iain as he short ropes them up the easy grade one scramble at the lower end of Tarn crag with Stickle Gill and Langdale in the background.

Moving on, it was time to get the two guys on to the sharp end of the rope and so having demonstrated short roping, Iain tought the guys how to take chest coils and coached them on short roping technique. Following on from that, we then looked at the various methods of belaying when scrambling from indirect or body belays through to direct belays.

In shot two, James uses a direct belay to safeguard Martin down a short steep section. Looking at and practising the various methods of scrambling techniques took us the rest of the afternoon. The day saw us close with a session placing anchors and building belays in preparation for us moving from grade one to grade two scrambling ground, the following day.

Day two found us back at Tarn Crag in rather damp conditions. Rain always makes scrambling or rock climbing that little bit more slippery and today was no exception. Iain figured, however, that East Rib on Tarn Crag - a good little grade two scramble would be fine to work on and it was ok. The guys found it somewhat challenging as there was a fairly strong wind gusting across the crag as well as it being damp and so Iain had to look after them both well - making sure that there was no chance of a slip at any time.

In photo three, Martin has scrambled up the first pitch of the route and has set up a belay consisting of a dyneema sling around a very solid rock spike and has attached himself to this. He is belaying James using a belay plate (semi-direct belay technique) whilst James climbs up and removes the running belays placed by Iain so that Martin didn't have to hang around too long! Whilst Martin climbed up to this stance, he was belayed in the usual fashion by James, but at the same time he also received a top rope from Iain who felt it necessary due to the conditions.

Once James reached Martin, he was secured to the same sling via a Clove Hitch and then the rope was "flaked" so that it would run off the top of the pile towards Jame's belay plate as he, again, belayed Martin up the second pitch. All proper rock climbing stuff and necessary on this grade two scramble today!

Shot four shows the lads at the second stance where Martin had once again belayed James as he has climbed up towards Martin - removing the running belays (runners) along the way.

In the background, the view takes one down Stickle Ghyll - a popular local ghyll scrambling venue, into the valley bottom of Langdale. Langdale is a valley popular for its walks, views and mountains and is also a place regularly used by Kendal Mountaineering Services for ghyll scrambling (gorge walking) sessions, and it's Lake District rock climbing and scrambling skills training courses.

In the final shot, we had reached the top of East Rib and Martin & James were looking relieved! The pair found the step up from grade one to grade two scrambling quite a challenge - particularly given the conditions which, by this time, had improved markedly. Both had enjoyed themselves, but felt that they wanted to go away, practise the skills for: and get comfortable with - scrambling on grade one terrain before returning to Kendal Mountaineering Services to do some further grade two scrambling training.

Iain looks forward to seeing them both again in the New Year.

Friday 1 October 2010

Ghyll scrambling courses in the Lake District. Langdale, 29th September 2010.

Amanda Greig booked a half day ghyll scrambling session for herself & her husband Tom whilst they were on holiday visiting family, here, in the Lake District.

Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services had arranged to meet the pair at Coniston with the intention of using Church Beck as the venue for their ghyll scrambling & canyoning session.

However, the previous night, we had had heavy rainfall here in the Lake District; and Church beck was in flood - making it an unsuitable & dangerous venue - even for adults!

Iain has contingencies for situations like this and after a short drive - arrived in Langdale where he took the pair into the lower reaches of Redacre Gill.

This is one of those places where it would be no good in low water, but is quite sporting and yet safe, when the typically used local ghyll scrambling/gorge walking venues of Church Beck, Stickle Ghyll and Rydal Beck would be too unsafe to use.

In the first photo, Amanda & Tom are about to enter Redacre Gill at the get in. The flow here is quite strong & challenging for the first 500M, but it is easy to get out of the main current at any time.

In the second photo, we have entered a smaller tributary which is exciting in itself. There are some deep pools and a lot of small waterfalls to be climbed. Eventually as the ghyll gets steeper & the falls get higher, harnesses need to be donned and out comes the rope!

At one point, there is even a little bit of caving to be done!

Finally, the waterfalls become so big that climbing is out of the question - although they are good for taking a shower - as Amanda & Tom demonstrated!

We avoided this fall by climbing up a smaller & shorter waterfall to the left of this picture to rejoin the main stream just above and then climb two more waterfalls (roped) whilst in a thicket of Holly!

After another 75M we reached the very top fall where we exited the ghyll and made our way back down to the footpath leading back to the road and our vehicles.

Amanda & Tom thoroughly enjoyed their alternative ghyll scrambling session with Kendal Mountaineering Services. To book your session contact us here and to view the rest of the pictures from this session click here.