Friday 15 October 2010

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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you Iain for a fabulous weekend! Both Ruth and I found it very enjoyable, but also extremely helpful and informative. We now feel much more prepared to make the transition from indoor climbing, and can't wait to put our new knowledge to test!
All the best