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.