Wednesday 27 January 2010

Navigation Skills Training day, Friday 22nd January

On this day, Iain had a client booked in for a single day of navigation skills training in preparation for an up coming Summer Mountainwalking Leader Award Assessment and the idea was to give the client some idea of where she was was with regards to the skill level necessary to pass this award.

The day was spent in the Kentmere area of the southern Lake District which is where Kendal Mountaineering services run many of their navigation skills training courses to MLTE standard.

We usually offer two day courses where you will learn the many essential techniques of good navigation on the first day; and on day two, we put all that has been learnt on day one into practice on a one day mountain expedition designed to consolidate and complement the previous day's work.

We have found this to be an effective combination and have received much excellent feedback from clients on the quality and effectiveness of these courses.

Both of these pictures were taken on Green Quarter Fell which is where we concentrate day one of our Lake District Navigation Skills training courses.

We do, however, run these courses for clients anywhere in the Lake District, Wales or Scotland and this particular client was impressed that we were also happy to offer her a 1 day bespoke Navigation Skills Training Course that included two hours of night navigation practice - an essential skill required to pass an "ML Assessment".

The weather during the day was mixed - ranging from low cloud with drizzle to blue sky with a clear, cold evening session. Iain covered all aspects of Navigation with this client who, at the end of the session, was very happy with the quality of coaching she had received and had a very good idea of what was needed in order to be successful at passing that assessment.

We wish her the best of luck in this respect. Anyone interested in attending a Navigation Skills training Course or an ML Refresher Day should contact us for details of our bespoke courses which are designed around what you want and not what other organisations say you must have! And remember - we work with anyone - from individual to large groups.

Contact us via or call Iain on 01539 737332/07761 483364.

Monday 18 January 2010

Lake District Winter Mountaineering Days, Jan 16th & 17th.

January 16th saw Iain and Adam Dawson heading into the Lake District Fells in search of some winter climbing. Unfortunately when Adam booked his tickets for the visit the previous weekend, it was already looking like the big freeze was about to turn into the big thaw.

And thawing it certainly was on the Saturday! Iain decided that Low Water Beck (G3/4) in the Coniston area might be a goer, but after wading through very wet snow (and quite a lot of meltwater too!) to get to the base of the route, it was clear that it wasn't going to be climbable as is obvious from this picture.

Anyway, we continued up to Low Water which was covered with a thick layer of ice. Here, the snow was a little firmer but it wasn't looking like the routes above Low Water (a mixture of grade 3 & 4 routes) would be in good condition either - we couldn't see them anyway for the thick layer of cloud above Low Water. So, it was decided that a blast up to the summit of The Old Man of Coniston was going to be the best idea and this was eventually reached despite a slight detour due to the whitout conditions encountered and here it was reckoned to be just on freezing. Looking down the slopes from the summit, we could see masses of soft snow which would have made topping out on any of the routes above Low Water very interesting!

Due to the conditions and lack of visibility we decided to descend and return to Coniston via the much used slate quarry track and the side of church beck. During the course of our day out, the weather dried up and became noticably colder. In the picture above Adam enjoys a spot of bum sliding - following Iain's bum slide route. Funny how the snow brings out the big kid in us all!

This picture shows Iain & Adam en route on the Sunday to Scales Tarn & Sharp Edge on Blencathra and this turned out to be a quality Winter Mountaineering Day as, overnight, the remaining snow had firmed up considerably.

Adam, who works in the city of London in banking, has attended a number of courses with Kendal Mountaineering Services. He has been on two Winter Skills courses in the Cairngorms with us, has been twice to the Isle of Skye and also attended a Lakes based learning to lead scrambling course.

Like many of our clients, he has become a friend and having learnt so much from Iain, now often accompanies him on winter climbing trips in the UK as a competent second.

Sunday was cold and still with a lot of blue sky but cloud wreathed mountains. We ran into this cloud just before arriving on Sharp Edge and here we also met many other people attempting to bag this Lake District classic scramble in its winter garb. Much of the ridge was free of snow but what was there was, in places, very icy. Where the end of the ridge merges with the shoulder of Foule Crag there was considerably more snow - with a line of deep footsteps leading up to the saddle. Having passed many of the others on the ridge, here, Adam follows Iain up the shoulder with the end of the Sharp Edge arete behind.

Iain offered Adam 3 descent routes from the summit and of course he chose the meatiest one - the Hallsfell Ridge. This is the most direct way up to the summit of Blencathra from the valley floor - starting as a wide shoulder lower down and finishing as a grade 1 arete with precipitous drops on either side. Throughout, the angle of the slope is unrelenting! The inital descent certainly called for axes & crampons and here, Iain can be seen with the most technical section of the ridge now behind him.

And just as we got to the end of the technical section, the cloud lifted to give us this view down the lower section of the ridge.

At this point we decided that axes & crampons were no longer necessary and so dispensed with these before continuing our descent. The sun came out and it turned into a glorious afternoon. Having "blasted" around our route in a mere 4 hours, there was plenty of time for a visit to Keswick before returning home in good time to get Adam on his train back to the city.

A good end to a great weekend!

Monday 11 January 2010

Winter Climbing, Black Force, Howgill Fells, Sunday Jan 10th

Reports in the last week have been of people climbing in a number of locations, although due to the continuous cold and no thaws, there has not been a significant buildup of ice in anything other than places with running water.

Iain & Kirstin decided to try and find a piece of the action on Sunday and were well rewarded despite a rather long a rather long walk in to Carlin Gill in the Howgill fells.

This shot shows Carlin Gill with the ravine of Black Force in the distance and this was our destination.

This is the view up the Black Force ravine from its junction with Carlin Gill. Black Force is the waterfall that can be seen in the middle distance, visible by people travelling south through the Tebay Gorge on the M6 when in spate. This is somewhere not many people know about; and one of only a handful of winter routes in the Howgills.

Described in the Cicerone Winter Climbs in The Lake District Guide as being a delighful 200 foot grade 2 route - it was certainly worth walking in for; and both Iain & Kirstin enjoyed themselves immensely. This shot shows Kirstin soloing up to the foot of the main pitch of Black Force.

Here, Iain solos up the L/H side of Black Force. Although relatively short, the pitch was quite steep. Ice buildup next to the waterfall was good and ideal for climbing provided one didn't get too close to the waterfall, whereas a few feet to the left there was little ice at all. Iain had to resort to "turf hooking" at the top of the pitch, but frozen turf is great when there is no appreciable ice.
Soloing is fine when you are confident, the ice is good and you are doing so at several grades lower than the hardest grade you climb, so, Iain was happy to do this here although he wouldn't recommend you try it on your first outing. He was certainly insistent that Kirstin climbed the pitch roped as it was her first climb at this grade.

The section above Black Force waterfall is an easy amble. There was some good icefalls starting to form on the precipitous right wall of the ravine which will go at grade 4 or above when fully formed but at this time they were not ready for climbing.
The finale to the route was this short but delightful pitch which brought one up into the secluded hanging valley of Little Ulgill Beck - time for a well earned sandwhich and a brew!

Having started on the route at about 12:30, it was after 3pm before we popped out in the hanging valley, but we'd taken our time and enjoyed the experience. Away in the distance at the head of Little Ulgill Beck can be seen the summit of Fell Head (623M) which overlooks the southern entrance to the Tebay Gorge.
Up here it was truly winter, well below freezing with a strong easterly wind scouring the windward slopes and depositing vast quantities of windslab on the lee slopes - so much so that it would have been quite possible to snowhole up here if one picked a place with care.
Work is starting to pick up again with a number of people booking Navigation Skills Training Days and Winter Skills Courses. If people don't book up for Winter Climbing Courses then Iain & the Kendal Mountaineering services team will have more time to get out and climb themselves - but here's hoping for a good balance of work and play this winter season!
The walk from Black Force back to the car took a few hours, but both Iain & Kirstin felt it had been worthwhile. Iain also had his eye on another waterfall - The Spout; and he'll be back to check that out soon.
We had followed vague footsteps on our way into Black Force that day and found more in the ravine. Just above the final pitch were the clear remains of a snow bollard.
Clearly, a few others do know about this little gem in the Howgills!

Scout Scar, January 9th, 2010.

Well, as we all know, the big freeze has been with us for 3 weeks and its been the coldest period for 30 years.

Iain can remember as a kid when this was the norm. The snow came at the end of November and stayed until the end of March and this view of snow right down to sea level was typical.

Usually these days we are lucky if the snow stays at valley floor level for a few days and conditions higher up are not generally reliable enough to run winter skills courses or go winter climbing for any length of time.

These pictures were taken by Iain & Kirstin last Saturday during an afternoon walk along Scout Scar - a limestone escarpment due west of Kendal. This picture is looking north west towards Kentmere, the Fairfield Horseshoe area and the Langdale pikes. The west side of Scout Scar drops precipitously as seen here, the cliff varying from a few metres to about 25M high and it is a popular place with climbers in Summer having both bolted and serious grade "trad" routes.

This view is a closeup of High street from Scout Scar. High Street is the highest summit east of the Ullswater Valley and in this view is the flat topped hill in sunlight in the background. To the left are the tops of Ill Bell and Yoke and to the right of High Street are the tops of Lingmell (also in sun) and Harter Fell.

These fells bound the Kentmere Valley which is one of the venues used by Kendal Mountaineering Services for their excellent Navigation Skills Training Courses.

This shot was taken towards sunset and is looking in the opposite direction down the Lyth Valley towards the Kent Estuary and Morecambe Bay.

The hill which can be seen across the River Kent is Arnside Knott and that on the extreme right is Whitbarrow Scar.

The walk along Scout Scar is very popular for its panoramic view of the southern Lake District fells and Morecambe bay. This day was no exception with many families out enjoying the snow despite the cold easterly wind and snow showers.