Sunday 7 October 2012

Guided Rock Climbing days in The Lake District. October 6th 2012.

On Saturday, Iain met up with John Renshaw for a planned day of guided rock climbing in The Lake District.

Johns wife - Jane had originally booked this rock climbing day with Kendal Mountaineering Services at the end of 2011 as a christmas present for John. We had originally intended to run Johns rock climbing day in early May, but on the day the weather was wet and as rock climbing in the rain is not a great deal of fun we decided to postpone until better weather arrvived.

Since then, the year has fairly flown by at Kendal Mountaineering Services with us having run all sorts of great outdoor activity sessions and skills training courses for many different groups, families & individuals. However, as many will know, it has not been a good Summer for rock climbing and it took Iain & John a while before they could get together again, but this time - it was definitely worth it!

Photo one shows John at the 3rd stance on Route 1, Upper Scout Crag. Iain had originally planned to take John rock climbing at Raven Crag, but owing to a later than usual start - Langdale was already heaving with people and we arrived to find a jam packed ODG car park. This meant we had to park at the National Trust park at the Stickle Barn instead.

From here it is a fair walk in to get back to Raven Crag. John wasn't looking for a day of hard rock climbing so Iain decided Upper Scout would work well instead and we could get there and start climbing, sooner.

The main climbs on Upper Scout are great. Good holds, good rock and plenty of anchor placements make them a popular choice with novices. Hence we hadn't been there long before other climbers started to arrive - time to get climbing! We put route 1 behind us by midday and started off up Route 2 behind another party who were a little slower than us. After the crux Iain broke out left on to a rib to avoid the other pair and John is climbing this rib in photo two.

By half past two we had  finished Route 2 as well and had really done all the worthwhile climbing here - we still had two & a half hours to go, so what now?

White Ghyll Crag is just around the corner and whilst there are few easy routes there - John had climbed the routes on Upper Scout with ease. So, Iain suggested tackling a slightly harder climbing route at Severe grade as a progression; and John was keen to give it a try.
The Slabs, Route 1 is an excellent climb. One feels as though you are on a big wall and compared with Upper Scout, the rock is certainly steeper, but the holds are good and the gear placements adequate. It was a fantastic place to be in the afternoon sun and unlike at Upper Scout, we saw hardly anyone else and had the route to ourselves.

In photo Three, John climbs up to Iain at stance 3 with the hardest part of the climbing behind him. The view beyond is looking down White Gill to the National Trust car park at Stickle Barn on the floor of Langdale.

John thoroughly enjoyed his guided rock climbing day in the Lake District with Iain who had provided him with a progressive climbing experience and had taught him some tricks of the trade as well as explaining what he was doing throughout the day. John leaves enthused and looking forward to his next outdoor climbing experience - most likely next year.

Other photos taken during this guided rock climbing day can be viewed here.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning Sessions in The Lake District. Saturday 22nd September 2012.

On Iains return to The Lake District from his Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip he was immediately back into work at Church Beck, Coniston with Myles Holdsworth, family & friends who had come together for the weekend to celebrate Myles 40th birthday

Myles had booked a half day ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning session with Kendal Mountaineering Services as part of his birthday celebration. Photo one shows the group as we headed off into the ghyll at the later time of around 4pm.
We decided to spilt the group into two teams as with a group size of 13 Iain had brought in another instructor to assist. So it was decided that Scott would work with the mums & childrens party and Iain with the blokes group.

Some of the children in the group were as young as six and whilst our experience is that this age group love ghyll scrambling & generally getting wet (photo two) they also need to be looked after more as they get chilly a lot quicker than adults.

To this end it was decided that Scott would take the children & mums on the ghyll scrambling ascent as far as the chockstone pitch and rope them up that with a view to them having a go at the chockstone slide and they did achieve this before exiting the ghyll.
Iains party of blokes were obviously faster than the childrens group and wanted of course, to get more done - in particular a bit of canyoning.

So Iain did the usual get out below the chockstone pitch and took his team to Miners Bridge where we all harnessed up and decided to go straight to the jumps with the option of possibly doing the Miners Bridge fall lower if time permitted.

Everyone completed the top jump and slid down the chockstone pitch, by now the light was fading and it was certainly starting to feel colder.

Photo three sees the blokes party at the foot of the chockstone pitch all thoroughly drenched but also thoroughly exhilarated.

As it happened Scott had also just finished the session with the children & mums and the blokes were happy to call time at this point as well. Everyone had enjoyed their half day ghyll scrambling & canyoning session and we hope that the rest of Myles's weekend in The Lake District went just as well.

This particular session had been deliberately booked for a much alter start than usual. Our advertised half day sessions start at 09:00 in the morning and at 13:00 in the afternoon - however, work is work and we aim to be flexible to your needs. Remember our motto is Kendal Mountaineering Services - giving you what you want and we really do pride ourselves in our ability to provide bespoke outdoor activity & skills training courses.

We have plenty of availablilty in the coming months to provide your outdoor activity sessions in The Lake District. The days are getting shorter and a little colder but activities such as caving, canoeing & kayaking can still be done comfortably or how about a guided hillwalking day for your party? Contact us to discuss your requirements.

We look forward to working with you.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip. September 15th - 22nd 2012. Day four.

And so to our final day of our guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse. After our fantastic & long day out the previous day, Iains team were really quite satisfied already with what had been achieved so far during the week.

The plan had initally been to reascend to Sgurr na Banachdich and then traverse the knife edge arete via Sgurr Thormaid on to Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh  via the South Ridge (grade III) to the Summit of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh, descend to An Dorus and then scramble up to the top of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh - possibly continuing on over the other three tops to the Bealach na Glaic Mhoir. However, the team wanted an easier day to include the two remaining Munros, so Iain suggested walking in to Coire a' Ghreadaidh and bagging both tops from An Dorus which is what we did.

Photo one shows both Sgurr a' Mhadaidh and Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh in cloud at the back of Coire a'Ghreadaidh. Photo two shows Les, Carl & Zoe at the summit of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh which we reached after a long walk in and a scramble up from An Dorus.

Today was rather colder than previous days but we still got some sunshine through the gaps in the clouds and also some great views as well. On occasion we were also pelted with hail.

With hindsight, it was as well we had not attempted the traverse of the South Ridge of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh as the rocks were being wetted from time to time by occasional showers - making a traverse of that ridge a slippery proposition.

Photo three shows Les, Carl & Zoe at the head of the Eag Dubh (Gaelic for black cleft) during our return descent to An Dorus.

We had avoided the tricky downclimb just above this section by moving to the west side of the ridge and returning via an easy ledge above the Eag Dubh - benefitting once again from Iains local knowledge of the ridge.

Beyond the team is a view down into the expanse of Coire Uisg beyond Loch Coruisk. Rising up to the right of the loch can be seen the outline of the famous Dubh Slabs and Sgurr Dubh Beag where one can scramble & climb for over 1000 metres - it is commonly regarded as one of the finest scrambling routes in the country.

Our final photo from this last day of our guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip was taken as we descended out of Coire An Dorus into Coire a' Ghreadaidh.                                             We arrived back at Glenbrittle Youth Hostel shortly after 3pm - an early finish indeed for a day on the Cuillin Ridge but everyone was very happy once again with what we had achieved.

Further photos taken during this final day can be viewed here.

Whilst over the course of our four days we had not succeeded in completeing a whole traverse of the ridge, however, we had succeeded in reaching the summits of all eleven Munros by some exhilarating and interesting routes including scrambling from grades I to III and rock climbing to Diff standard as well as a number of abseils.

Probably a high point for everyone had been being able to do the famous In Pinn traverse, but just being able to spend a week in these awe inspiring mountains guided by a knowledgeable and experienced Mountaineering Instructor had been a truly great experience for all concerned.

Kendal Mountaineering Services hopes to be able to offer our bi-annual guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trips again in 2013. The cottage is already booked for May 11th - 18th and September 7th - 14th. The price for May will certainly be £425 per person so you have time to start saving & planning if you would like to join Iain on either of those weeks. We are taking bookings now for these course dates so if you would like to book a place on one of our 2013 guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trips contact Iain here.

We look forward to working with you.

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip. September 15th - 22nd 2012. Day three.

Day three of our guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse commenced on Thursday. After our day on the northern part of the Cuillin Ridge on Sunday and our day on the Southern end on Monday it was decided to take Tuesday & Wednesday as rest days.

The MWIS Forecast indicated that the weather would be better for Thursday & Friday. However, on Tuesday & Wednesday we didn't sit in the cottage & do nothing - you can read about that here.

Thursday morning found us climbing back into Coire Lagan to continue our guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse. Iain initially hoped that it would be dry enough to ascend to the Bealach Mhic Chionnich to traverse Harts Ledge, but whilst we started with cloud above the summits, we also had a constant drizzle which was wetting everything.

Photo one shows some of the team as we ascended the An Stac Screes towards the Bealach Coire Lagan with all thoughts of traversing Harts Ledge banished. Harts ledge consists of basalt which is particularly slippery in the wet and it just wouldn't have been safe.

Once again, the day improved. We had a wet & cloudy traverse to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich from the Bealach, but on the return trip the cloud lifted, the Cuillin Ridge appeared and the sun started to shine. Also, there was virtually no wind only a light breeze - everywhere started to dry out rapidly.

Members of the team had been wondering if an ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle would be a possibility today but now there was no doubt in Iains mind that we would all get to do it.

Photo three shows Martin & Les as they approach Iain at the very top of the In Pinn having done a two pitch moderate climb up the exposed arete - but on dry rock with only a light breeze.

To get down we would follow the ascent with a stacked abseil from the chain at the base of the Bolster Stone - a distance of only 20m on to the sloping summit of Sgurr Dearg.

Having completed a traverse of the In Pinn with Martin & Les, Iain then got to repeat the whole thing a second time with Carl & Zoe.

Photo three shows a fairly ecstatic team at the foot of the climb up the east ridge of the Inaccessible Pinnacle with part of the southern end of the Cuillin Ridge behind them.

From left to right we can see An Stac summit - only about 100m beyond the party. Right of this the rather dark summit is Sgurr Dubh Mor then Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (our first Munro of the day) and then Sgurr Thearlaich leading up to the notch at the head of the Great Stone Chute. Right of the Great Stone Chute is the summit of Sgurr Alasdair - at 993m the highest top on the Cuillin Ridge. Below Alasdair, the Great Stone Chute drops into Coire Lagan.

Our final photo from day three of our guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip sees everyone at the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich - our third Munro of the day and final destination before we descended back to Glen Brittle.  

Behind the team we can see Loch Coruisk to the left and above them the whole of the Coire Lagan face is in Sunlight with Sgurr Dearg & the In Pinn to the right.                                                         

By now it was another one of those perfect afternoons. Again, we had started out in the wet and this had meant that we were unable to achieve our initial objective of a traverse of Harts Ledge. However, being able to do the In Pinn in perfect conditions more than made up for this and the team were very happy as we made the easy traverse from Sgurr Dearg to Sgurr na Banachdich - enjoying the afternoon sunlight and views which stretched as far west as St Kilda.

It only remained to descend via Coire an Eich to the Youth Hostel at Glen Brittle - an easy but long descent and the end to another fantastic day on The Cuillin Ridge - photos from which can be viewed here.

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip September 15th - 22nd 2012. Day two.

The MWIS weather forecast for day two of our Cuillin Ridge traverse trip was to be broadly the same as day one although less windy.

As both the Southern & Northern ends of the Cuillin Ridge are technically easier sections, Iain decided that we should go south today. Here we would start with Sgurr nan Eag - the southernmost Munro and aim to traverse via Sgurr Dubh Mor on to Sgurr Alasdair. With the weather being wet, it was considered too difficult and too hazardous to traverse the famous Thearlaich Dubh Gap so, instead, we would use the easier climb on to Sgurr Alasdair via a chimney on its south east side.

The route we used to get to Sgurr nan Eag was via Coire a' Ghrunnda. Photo one is taken at the foot of the long climb up into that coire. The view is south with the island of Soay in the distance.Unfortunately, at this point one of our party decided to turn back so Iain was left with only three. We made our way up into Coire a' Ghrunnda into the mist - not knowing if we would see a view again today.

However, as we scrambled up on to Sgurr nan Eag, more breaks in the cloud appeared and despite a few heavy showers Iain got the impression that the weather was generally improving.

After climbing Sgurr nan Eag, we returned to where we had stashed our rucksacs during our climb and then traversed right cutting through a little known gap which brings one out below a tricky section of ridge between Sgurr nan Eag and the Caisteal a' Garbh Choire. By using this route we saved ourselves time having to get the rope out and abseil at the very least and by cutting around the east side of the Caisteal a' Garbh Coire we saved ourselves having to do yet another abseil!

Photo two shows Zoe, Carl & Les as we approached the top of Sgurr Alasdair having done a roped climb up the Diff chimney as opposed to a stacked abseil followed by a polished Severe climb if we had gone via the TD Gap. However, there is one short exposed move above this chimney which also needs protecting using either a short rope, or if you have them - two larksfooted 480cm slings will suffice.

Photo three is taken from the summit of Sgurr Alasdair looking South East towards Coire a' Ghrunnda and then through the lower part of the coire out towards the island of Soay. The island of Rhum can also now be seen clearly, in the distance.

This trend of a wet & cloudy start to the day followed by improving weather from the west would be a theme that would continue throughout the following two days during our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip.

To get to the Summit of Sgurr Alasdair had taken us at least 7 hours after starting out from Glen Brittle. After Sgurr nan Eag, we had traversed under the east side of the Caisteal a' Garbh Choire and across the south side of Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn to get to Sgurr Dubh Mor before traversing on to the summit of Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn. From here we had scrambled down into the north side of Coire a' Chrunnda in order to reach the summit of Sgurr Alasdair via the easier chimney. All of this route finding is tricky and inevitably leads to lots of backtracking and unneccessary delays for unfamilair parties. This can lead to some very long days out and the odd epic! there is no doubt that hiring an experienced guide is well worth it!

Once on the summit of Sgurr Alasdair there are two options for continuing, both involve returning to the head of the Great Stone Chute and either traversing on via Sgurr Thearlaich - a serious proposition in the wet, or descending into Coire Lagan via the Great Stone Chute.

Bearing in mind that the time was now approaching 5pm, Iain decided it was time to bale off the ridge via this route and descend from Coire Lagan back to Glen Brittle. Photo four shows Les, Zoe & Carl on the walkout not actually too far from Glen Brittle, with behind (from L- R) The South West ridge of Sgurr Dearg, Sgurr Mhic Chionnich, Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Sgumain and the Cioch face of Sron na Ciche.

So, on day two of our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, we had, again, achieved what we had set out to do. Three more Munros for the peak baggers - one of them the ridges highest summit; and some more climbing & scrambling in a stunning backdrop with fantastic views extending from mid afternoon right across to the Outer Hebrides.

Another great day - further photos with captions from this day on the ridge can be viewed here.

Monday 1 October 2012

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip. September 15th - 22nd. Day one.

Well, it was excellent that we have been able to return to the fantastic Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye this year. Kendal Mountaineering Services offer bi-yearly trips to attempt a traverse of the ridge each May and September. Unfortunately the planned visit in May did not come off due to a lack of interest but Iain did find enough people to make the September trip viable.

In photo one we have (left to right) Martin, Zoe, Carl & Les who had all come together to attend this week long course offered by Iain. Martin & Carl had found our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip by searching on the internet, Zoe through a mailshot and Les via our thread on the Outdoorsmagic website.
The weather for day one was looking somewhat iffy - a westerly wind  gusting up to 55mph, cloud and showers - all making for a not great package of conditions for being at up to 3000 feet up on a precipitous ridge.

The great thing about the package offered by Kendal Mountaineering services is the flexibility offered through guiding for only for out of the six days available - meaning that we can make use of the four best days and with Iains extensive knowledge of the ridge he can pick the most suitable section to do depending on the weather.
So, as everyone was keen to get stuck in to some Cuillin Ridge action, Iain decided that we should tackle the north end of the ridge with it being possible on a decent day to get from Sgurr nan Gillean to Bruach na Frithe without too many problems. As it turned out, the weather was very much better than forecast.

The whole of the north section was free of cloud as we walked in from Sligachan (photo one) to Coire a' Bhastier and once on the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, the anticipated wind never appeared. Sgurr nan Gilleans West Ridge from the Bealach a' Bhastier is pretty much a grade two scramble although the start up Tooth Chimney is a Diff climb made more interesting in the wet. This route to the summit is also relatively short.

Photo two shows the team at the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean with, incredibly, a clear view to Bla Bheinn beyond! What a good omen! Photo three shows the team "stacked" at the top of Tooth chimney ready to abseil down one by one to join Iain at the easier ground below.

Having left the vehicles at the Sligachan Hotel at 08:45, it was around 14;30 before we had put Sgurr nan Gillean behind us and were back at the Bealach a' Bastier. Am Bastier is easily done from the bealach via the East Ridge (grade II) but is largely composed of layers of basalt all sloping down into Lota Coire so care has to be taken and good route finding essential. There is one "Bad Step" on the crest of the ridge not easily avoided but easily dealt with in terms of safety by a short rope or long sling. Anyway, Iain got the team to the summit and back down without difficulties despite a few heavy hail showers.

Back at the bealach, there is a short descent back into Coire a' Bhastier before one ascends to the Bealach nan Lice under the imposing north face of Am Bastier passing the Bastier Tooth en route. Passing under Sgurr a' Fionn Coire soon brought us to the trig point at the summit of Bruach na Frithe - our final top of the day and third Cuillin Munro. Cloud prevented us from getting much of a view down into Coire Na Creiche at the head of Glen Brittle, but here it was obvious that Iains plan for the day had been a good one as there was a strong westerly roaring across the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe - clearly, through our plan, we had been sheltered from this wind for most of the day.

Our way out was to descend into Fionn Choire (photo four) and having crossed the Allt Dearg Mor about a kilometre below the Bealach a' Mhaim follow the footpath back to Sligachan. During this walk out we had sunshine and showers and a lovely rainbow before all enjoying a beer in the "Slig". It had been a successful start to our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip with better weather than we though we would get and for Martin - his first ever climb & abseil.

You can view the rest of the photos from our first day on the Cuillin Ridge traverse here - enjoy!

Reports from days two, three & four to follow.