Sunday 27 June 2010

One day Lake District Navigation Skills training course, Eskdale, 26th June 2010

Iain travelled over from Kendal to Eskdale in the western Lake District to provide this one day navigation skills training course which had been booked some months earlier for Jeremy Patterson as a birthday present from friends.

Iain met Jeremy at the Woolpack Inn, which, having access to the fell immediately behind (not to mention parking and a beer at the end of the day!) made it an ideal place to work from. The area of open access country land immediately to the north of the Woolpack is an interesting mixture of undulating ground with hundreds of contour features and attack points.

From the Woolpack, we made our way to Eel Tarn getting Jeremy to read the map and describe our route to the tarn. He very quickly began to pick up on contour features and also the fact that OS maps are often not very accurate - particularly not when it comes to footpaths.

From Eel Tarn we made our way via Blea Beck to Stony Tarn having identified a small prominent peak from Eel Tarn that we wished to find. Walking on a bearing to spot height 272M and then using Blea Beck as a handrail we were able to reach Stony Tarn and use that to get to our objective which turned out to be Whin Crag, although we had already identified from point 272 - using a combination of map reading and compass work, that the top we were after must be indeed, the one with that name.

Following on from Whin Crag, Iain gave Jeremy the objective of finding a pool of water marked some 200M beyond a distant spot height using grid references. Jeremy would then give Iain a bearing and distance to the place and also a plan of how he was going to get there. Success followed success and the remainder of the route went over Great How via Cat Cove and down to Burnmoor Tarn before we realised it was 3:30 and time to be heading back towards the Woolpack.

Jeremy thoroughly enjoyed and learnt a lot from his one day navigation course here in the Lake District with Kendal Mountaineering Services and Iain was surprised to find that the distance to the Woolpack from Kendal was a mere 25.7 miles. Travelling over Hardknott and Wrynose passes certainly made it feel a bit further!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Stag events in The Lake District. Ghyll scrambling, Church Beck, Coniston. June 19th 2010

Many groups organising stag & hen events now consider outdoor activities in The Lake District as part of the package of things to do when a bunch of mates go away for the weekend to celebrate one of them getting married.

When best man Tom Macmillan decided to organise the stag weekend for his mate Euan, he contacted Kendal Mountaineering Services with a view to including Canadian canoeing as a half day session for the stag party.

Unfortunately at the time of booking, water levels here in the Lake District were so low that the river journey Tom was specifically interested in was not a viable proposition. Iain suggested either a beginners caving session in the Yorkshire Dales National Park or a ghyll scrambling & canyoning session in Church Beck at Coniston in The Lake District as suitable alternatives and the guys decided to go for the latter.

The water levels had not improved since Tom's initial enquiry and Church Beck was as low as Iain has ever seen it. At the get in point (first photograph) there was very little flow at all but above the dam about a 3rd of the way up the ghyll there was noticably more water.
In this second photo in the gorge, the guys enjoyed cooling off and ducking the groom who had to endure all sorts of antics throughout the ghyll session. Iain was sure that he must have thinking "with mates like these - who needs enemies!"

Above here, at the next waterfall, is where parties attending a ghyll scrambling session with us exit the lower ghyll and then head to the top of the ghyll to commence the Church Beck descent or canyoning part of the trip.
We had already met & passed one large group in the ghyll and found another similarly large group about to descend from the top. Iain could see that queue situations were starting to develop and as ghyll scrambling is all about "having fun but keeping moving" he decided to head back down to below Miners Bridge, lower the party down the "big waterfall" and then head back up to the top of the ghyll to start there.
In this third shot, the groom gets lowered down the Miners Bridge fall whilst others in the team look on.
This plan worked well, as by the time we got back to the head of the ghyll the other group had completed the first lower allowing us to keep moving. The next time we caught up with them they were at the Miners Bridge fall, but as we had already done this fall we were able to leap frog them and get ahead.

Well, the leapfrogging plan would have been fine - however, ghyll scrambling in the Lake District on a hot sunny summers day was clearly on everyones agenda and we found 30 people waiting to do the next section down.
Fortunately they all wanted to do the "top jump" unprotected allowing Iain the opportunity to sneak through and keep the group moving once again.
Photo four shows the middle jump with our party (in red tops) contemplating taking a leap, one guy has just done it. You have to leap well out on the middle jump as the water is not at all deep at the very base of the waterfall but appears to be bottomless just beyond!
Just beyond this view is the final slide down the chockstone in to the pool below.
The groom - Euan, found this a challenge indeed and of course - all of his mates took delight in trying to shove him off down it!
Boys will be boys! Iain hopes they enjoyed the rest of their weekend as much as they enjoyed their ghyll scrambling session with us.
Remember that we offer stag and hen events here in The Lake District and can put together a combination of outdoor activities you require. The last hen event was in April and can be viewed here on our blog.

Saturday 12 June 2010

Navigation skills training days, the Lake District, June 7th & 10th 2010

Kendal Mountaineering Services is pleased to announce that we are now accredited to run navigation skills training courses in the Lake District under the banner of the National Navigation Award Scheme.

There are three levels at which one can be assessed - bronze, silver and gold each providing pathways to encourage people to develop their navigation skills in stages. Each level is taught as a self contained unit. Your completion of a level is validated to a national standard and recognised by a badge & certificate. The bronze award is the easiest to obtain followed by the silver, both courses are run over a 2 day duration requiring a minimum of 12 hours contact time with the course provider. The NNAS Gold Award requires delegates to attend a two day training course and a separate assessment course of one day duration following a period of skills consolidation.

To find out more details about the National Navigtion Award Scheme through Kendal Mountaineering Services contact us at or call on 01539 737332/07761 483364

With regards to Navigation Skills training courses here in the Lake District, Iain has recently run two bespoke 1:1 events for two clients. Annika Hatfield booked a day for her husband Simon to be undertaken on Monday June 7th and Iain met the couple at Dockray in the Ullswater area of the Lake District.

Iain & Simon spent most of the day on Gowbarrow Fell which is an excellent place for all aspects of navigation practice and as is often the case, Iain discovered that Simon's skill set was better than Simon believed. By the end of the day Simon was confident at following bearings, identifying features from the ground to the map and navigating between contour features - not an easy thing to do. Well done Simon!

After two days of providing beginners climbing sessions at Shepherds Crag in Borrowdale in the heart of the Lake District, Iain was back in South Lakeland teaching another private client navigation skills in the Kentmere area.
Sandra Scott, recently retired, had taken up orienteering and running and wanted to improve her navigation skills set. Previously adept at reading maritime charts Sandra initially found reading a map, identifying features and reading contours a considerable challenge, but with Iains patient coaching improved massively during her first day out and whilst tired at the end of the day, was very pleased indeed with her achievements.
Sandra has yet to do one other day to come out with us and Iain looks forward to seeing further progression in the development of her navigation skill set.

Introduction to rock climbing day. Hutton Roof, Lake District, June 4th 2010

Iain had been contacted some time previously by Sharon Campbell about the possibility of providing a short day of climbing practice for her son Diallo during their break in the Lake District.

Sharon was looking for a bespoke session that started later and finished earlier than a typical day out with Kendal Mountaineering services as she had other commitments and didn't want to have to travel far to a climbing venue either.

After listening to Sharon's requirements Iain decided that Hutton Roof would be an ideal venue for the pair to climb. Sharon wanted to learn about setting up anchors but Diallo needed to be kept occupied and so it was decided that the best combination was to run a top rope/bottom belay system and in this shot Diallo can be seen enjoying a climb using this system.

Hutton Roof consists of a number of Limestone beds lain one on top of each other and is found a few miles south of the A65 east of the M6. An excellent single pitch venue for groups of people wanting to try climbing for the first time it is also a popular haunt of local climbers wishing to climb hard on the rock outcrops which have a number of overhangs and numerous bouldering problems.

Interspersed with overhanging and steep walls are areas of easier climbing and it was on these areas that Iain, Sharon & Diallo spent the day in sunshine, in fact at times the venue was positively hot!

In this shot Sharon, belayed by Iain has just climbed up this rock wall to the top anchor and is being lowered back to the ground.

Both Sharon & Diallo climbed extremely well and enjoyed their introduction to rock climbing day with Iain on the edge of the Lake District.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

31st May 2010. Ghyll scrambling in The Lake District, Stoneycroft Gill, Keswick. Lake District.

On Monday morning, Iain travelled up to Keswick to meet Andy Oglesby and his partner Jane who wanted to go ghyll scrambling (otherwise known as gill scrambling or gorge walking)

One of the best venues for this in the Keswick area is Stoneycroft Gill; and it was there that Iain chose to take the pair.

Stoneycroft is a delightul gill suitable for people of all ages. Most groups do the gorge as a descent and it becomes more interesting as you go along.

Small pools give way to deeper ones as can be seen in the first photo here, the waterfalls get higher and eventually one finishes up in the lower ravine which is now bolted on the biggest waterfalls allowing Stoneycroft Gill to now be described as a canyoning trip in the Lake District.

The second photo of Andy & Jane is taken about a third of the way down the gill. Stoneycroft Gill is a place of significant history - being the site of one of the earliest Smelt mills in the Lake District (a place where the mineral ores from Lake District mines was brought to be reduced to pure metal) and one passes the slag heaps from these operations on your left during the descent.

Further down the gill a tunnel can be seen in the right bank - this is one of the entrances for the Stoneycroft Gill lead mine - a little more about that later!

Halfway down Stoneycroft Gill is a magnificent slide down a waterfall into a large pool and the stream continues on to another high waterfall which has to be avoided by climbing down on its left. In the pool at the foot of the waterfall is a large boulder with a gap underneath and here is an opportunity for people to challenge themselves further by taking the plunge (literally!) and swimming through the gap between the boulder and the wall of the pool to surface on the other side. Note - you are advised only to do this with a qualified instructor who knows the venue!

Further on, you come to what appears to be a path leading off from the left hand side of the gill and this is the point where many groups depart - the lower section of Stoneycroft Gill being considered too serious for most user groups.

The footpath actually used to be a channel which carried the flow of water away from the gill and there was once a dam at this point. Over 100 years ago, lead ore was discovered by prospectors in the bed of the gill below this point (at the end of this ravine in photo 3)

These prospectors sunk a vertical tunnel (shaft) into the bed of the gill over 100 feet deep and then commenced to excavate horizontal tunnels to extract the lead. This vertical shaft in the bed of the gill was the only way in or out for the miners. One day tragedy struck as the dam burst and a torrent of water swept down the gill - straight into the shaft drowning the miners working below and burying them under tons of stones.

The head of the shaft can still be seen today.

Anyway - below the site of the old dam, Stoneycroft Gill drops steeply down into the lower ravine over two high waterfalls. These are now bolted and this can now be included as a canyoning descent into the lower ravine - Kendal Mountaineering Services will provide the equipment necessary for this along with the wetsuits, cagoules, bouyancy aids, walking boots and helmets which are standard issue for any ghyll scrambling trips we run in the Lake District - and you even get a hot drink at the end of the session!

In this final photo Andy & Jane can be seen below the Stoneycroft Road bridge - carrying the road to the Newlands Valley & Buttermere. This marks the end of the lower ravine of Stoneycroft Gill and the end of the session.

Andy & Jane thoroughly enjoyed their session with us and please remember - Kendal Mountaineering Services run ghyll scrambling & canyoning half day sessions all over the Lake District at venues to suit you. Ghyll scrambling sessions are generally half day sessions and starting at only £45 per person (minimum group size of two persons) this makes sessions with us unbeatable value - contact us at to book yours.

OM Skye Meet, May 15th - 22nd 2010. Cuillin Ridge traverse, the final day.

Wednesday was a well earned rest day although no-one had a long lie in. It had been decided that a good cooked breakfast was the first thing on the agenda that day. Following this people chilled out and the weather was cloudy and at times, wet. We also had a visit from two long standing OM members & friends - the Ayrshire Tiger and his partner TBW (Elaina) who had driven a considerable distance from Loch Carron to join us.

The final day on the ridge was to prove, if anything, slightly wetter, but a lot warmer as we walked in from the Sligachan Inn to finish off the ridge.

In this first picture Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr Nan Gillean appears out of the mist as we make our way towards Coire A Bastier. This ridge, a classic grade 3 is a fantastic way to ascend Sgurr Nan Gillean and as well as top end scrambling, involves some abseiling too. Kendal Mountaineering Services offers ascents of Pinnacle Ridge along with other classic Cuillin scrambles and,of course, The Cuillin Ridge Traverse.

As we ascended towards the Bealach A Bastier, the weather did not improve much. It remained cloudy with a steady drizzle and once we reached the bealach we were met with a steadily increasing wind which caused Iain some concern.

However, soon after, it started to brighten up as we ascended Nicholson's Chimney and made our way up to the top of Sgurr Nan Gillean.

Just before reaching the summit the route passes through a gap under a wedged block and here Ellie "threads the eye of the needle".

On the summit there were no views so we didn't hang about and returned to the Bealach A Bastier with 1 roped downclimb - not usually done but Iain felt it necessary owing to the wet and then the mandatory stacked ab back down Nicholson's Chimney.

Back at the Bealach A Bastier the weather had improved to the point where the rocks were drying out and so we headed up on to the Summit of Am Bastier - the groups final Munro. This, although fairly exposed, is safe when its dry and involves just one short downclimb/climb just before the summit.

The third photo here shows Mike, Derek, Maria & Ellie on the Summit of Am Bastier and this marked the end of the traverse and the bagging of the Skye Munros that had also been amongst the groups objectives.

Unfortunately Kelvin did not make this final day - owing to the cooked breakfast of the previous day!

All that remained was to descend back to the bealach and then head to theSligachan Inn for that waiting pint of beer and so eager were we that some of us had two pints! The Cuillin Brewery Black Face ale went down particularly well, what a great beer!

During the walk back to the Sligachan Inn, the weather began to dry out and the views were to improve. There was an unusually large amount of snow lying up in the Cuillins this year - evidence of the hard winter we saw last time. Lets hope this next winter turns out to be just as good!

Kendal Mountaineering Services will be running its annual trip to the Cuillin ridge next May. As per usual, there will be a guided traverse of the Cuillin Ridge but also the option to do classic scrambles such as Pinnacle Ridge seen here.

We are also offering the same package this September - 11th - 18th 2010 - again, a guided Cuillin Ridge traverse and/or classic Cuillin Scrambles. The cost again is £350 per person and includes 7 nights of self catering accommodation. Contact us at to book your place.

OM Skye Meet. May 15th - 22nd 2010. Cuillin Ridge traverse, day three.

Day three on our Cuillin Ridge traverse dawned fine & bright with no cloud anywhere on the ridge.

By 11pm, the party had walked in from Glen Brittle YHA and had got as far as An Dorus, 15 minutes later we had arrived on our first Munro of the day - Sgurr A Mhadaidh from which this view looks NW to the remainder of the ridge.

The first obstacle to be overcome is a pinnacle at the end of the 4th (highest) top of Sgurr A Mhadaidh (roped) and then one descends the arete in the left of this picture to the foot of the 3rd top. Ascending this is either a roped climb just right of the nose or a roped scramble round to the right after a traverse.

If you are "in the know" there is also a way of avoiding all of the above and arriving relatively quickly at the foot of the unavoidable climb on to the 2nd summit!

Having arrived at that climb, Iain began roping his clients up and this view from the top sees Mike giving Iain the "thumbs up" just before the crux move on to the pedestal block in order to get up to Iain.

One day this block will inevitably fall from here making what is currently a fairly straightforward climb, a lot harder.

Once on the 2nd summit there is a tricky downclimb into another fault cleaving the ridge. This is best done with the support of a rope to get down into the gap. Climbing out of the other side is straightforward followed by an easy scramble on to the top of the 1st (but not highest!) summit of Sgurr A Mhadaidh.

It was was nice for Iain to be able to relax as the party descended to the Bealach Na Glaic Mhor with the difficulties of Mhadaidh behind him - difficulties which, however, had been fun to deal with.

Relaxation was to be short lived however as everyone wanted to do the next feisty peak of Bidean Druim Nam Ramh. Feisty? Read on!

Picture No 3 of the day shows the entire party stacked at the belay and ready to abseil from the central (highest) summit of Bidean Druim Nam Ramh. Just getting to this point had been quite involved with a roped descent into the gap between the south & central summits followed by some spotting and a short rope up a chimney - just to get on to the main top!

Once this abseil was done, there was yet another into the fairly scarey chasm between the central & north tops of Bidean. Fortunately, lots of people had left lots of abseil tat at both points and after thorough investigations Iain didn't feel there was any need to add more. Following the second ab, the scramble up on to the north top and then down to the Bealach between that and the next top - An Caisteal is easy. However, there is yet another gap beyond An Caisteal that Iain knew would require roping the group down.
On this day, the hardest of the three, the group arrived at Bruach Na Frithe at the north end of the ridge at 6:30pm in glorious sunshine although there had been a strongth and cold SE wind blowing for most of the day.
It was decided to descend from here and return to do the remaining Munros of Am Bastier and Sgurr Nan Gillean on Thursday as Wednesday had been designated a rest day.
Day three (Tuesday) had been a hardcore day involving 4 roped downclimbs, 3 roped climbs and 2 abseils for everyone plus about 10 miles of distance covered. It was indeed, a tired but satisfied team that arrived back at the vehicles that evening, but we all knew that the hardest part of the traverse was now behind us.

OM Skye Meet. May 15th - 22nd 2010. Cuillin Ridge traverse, day two. Inaccessible Pinnacle to An Dorus.

Monday the 17th dawned fine although the Cuillin Ridge was shrouded with mist as it often is first thing. However, optimism dictated that it would clear and it did - but not whilst we were all traversing the Inaccessible Pinnacle!

Iain started off by belaying Maria & Mike up this via the moderate climb at the eastern end of this airy and exposed arete. Some would say not having a view of the exposure is a good thing - exposed it is and getting polished too. Maria had climbed the In Pin before and Mike was confident so up they went and quickly down too via the now familiar "stacked ab".

The first photo shows Derek, Ellie & Kelvin (in that order) approaching Iain at the end of the second pitch at the summit of the In Pin (also the true summit of Sgurr Dearg) before descending via a stacked ab down the considerably shorter west face. Being the hardest thind either Derek or Ellie had done in the mountains before, this was a tremendous achievement for them both. Neither were sure whether or not they could do it beforehand and they both felt it was either now or never. Iain's view was "in that case - its now!" Congratulations to them both!

Taken en route to Sgurr Na Banachdich the cloud started to lift in photo 2 and from here the views just got better & better- just as well given that this picture was taken at about 2:30pm and we still had Sgurr's Na Banachdich, Thormaid and A' Greadhaidh to go before arriving at our next departure point from the ridge.

The view beyond the group to the left is down, into Coire Uisge and Loch Coruisk. Bla Bheinn is poking through the mist on the right and Sgurr Dearg has once again disappeared into the mist right behind the group.

In photo 3 taken from Sgurr A Greadhaidh, a view out east looks over Coire Uisge, Loch Coruisk and Bla Bheinn.

Sgurr Na Banachdich is traversed fairly easily on its west side before descending to climb back up on to Sgurr Thormaid. Beyond Thormaid one can traverse around either side of a rocky fin to reach the Bealach A Greadhaidh without traversing it.

The crest of Greadhaidh rises to a narrow airy arete before a slight drop and then climb up on to the main summit. The next point to aim for is An Dorus - a fissure cleaving the ridge between Sgurr A Greadhaidh and Sgurr A Mhadhaidh. Another rock fin (The Wart) is encountered on the descent best turned on its left side before one arrives at the Eag Dubh (another deep fissure cleaving the ridge). Easy scrambling then leads down to An Dorus where a tricky down climb is best roped.

The final photo of day two shows the party descending from An Dorus which is the gap in the ridge behind to the left on the skyline above.

The party had descended the skyline from the summit of Sgurr A Greadhaidh which is up to the right. The black slit of the Eag Dubh can be seen to the right of An Dorus - this is not a descent route from the ridge!

Having almost negotiated the long scree slope coming down from An Dorus, the rest of the route down Coire A Greadhaidh and out to the the Youth Hostel at Glen Brittle was relatively easy going.

Another long day, another 3 munros and and 7 ascents of the Inaccessable Pinnacle (Iain had to do it twice!) another great achievement for all concerned!

OM Skye Meet. May 15th - 22nd 2010. Cuillin Ridge traverse. Sgurr Nan Eag to Bealach Coire Lagan.

This year's meet saw 5 Outdoors Magic members accompanying Iain on the Annual Cuillin Ridge traverse.

From left to right we have Ellie Taylor & Derek Goffin - both new to working with Iain & Kendal Mountaineering Services. The other three in the party - Kelvin Mann, Maria Norris and Mike Cotton have all attended scrambling courses in the Lake District and Wales and Maria & Kelvin have attended Iain's Winter skills and winter climbing courses in Scotland recently.

Here, the party were to be found ascending the slopes of Sgurr Nan Eag - the first Munro on the Cuillin Ridge in cloudy, but largely dry weather. Certainly, given we were also forecast to receive showers on this first day, it was a great relief to find that for us, the forecasters appeared to have got it wrong!

Some considerable time later on day one Iain snapped this shot of Ellie & Derek climbing the easy chimney near the Sgumain/Alasdair Bealach on the way to the summit of Sgurr Alasdair - the highest of the Cuillin Munros.

By now it was almost 4pm - some 5 hours since we had topped out on Sgurr Nan Eag but we had traversed Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Dubh Da Bheinn inbetween. Whilst no ropwork was deemed necessary between these two points time still needed to be taken to keep everyone safe.

Derek & Ellie were new to scrambling at this grade although Ellies confidence progressed markedly throughout the day. It had been decided though that they did not wish to attempt the famous (or infamous!) TD Gap with its polished severe chimney, Iain was happy to aviod this section in view of the time it would have taken to get the whole party across it.

After arriving at the summit of Sgurr Alasdair it was quickly off, down across the head of the Great Stone Chute leading into Coire Lagan and up and over the next top - Sgurr Thearlaich and on to the Bealach Mhic Choinnich.

To get down to the bealach, one must either abseil down from the end of the Thearlaich arete or descend on the north side and then traverse into the bealach Mhic Choinnich and this was the route chosen. However, on this ,the two descents down smooth slabs were wet making them tricky and Iain decided that an abseil and then a lower was necessary to keep the party safe.

In photo 3 the group can be seen all attached to the rope via slings and their belay devices in a setup known as a stacked abseil. Each person then followed Iain one at a time whilst he was able to protect their decents from below

Once at the Bealach Mhic Choinnich, a short step brings you on to Hart's (Collies) ledge - a basalt dyke traversing the south side of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich with breathtaking views down into Coire Lagan and out to the islands of Rhum & Canna.

For the most part the ledge is fairly broad although there are a few narrow sections involving some spotting and some people found the exposure challenging as people often do. However, with support from each other and some help from Iain the group quickly reached the far end and nipped up to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich - their fourth Munro of the day.

In this fourth photo, the view beyond the ledge is towards Sgurr Dearg with the famous Inaccessible Pinnacle which we were all to ascend the next day. The two summits to the right of this are Sgurr Na Banachdich & Sgurr Thormaid respectively.

The final shot of the day - the descent path from Coire Lagan looking straight in to Loch Brittle with the isle of Canna to the left and away in the distance towards to the right - the Outer Herbides, Barra & South Uist.

Having reached the Bealach Coire Lagan fairly late, Iain & the group decided to call it a day there and return to the vehicles at Glen Brittle via Coire Lagan.

It had been a long but satisfying day, four Munros had been climbed and there had been some climbing and abseiling and some exhilarating scrambling. All in all, a full on day for all concerned.