Wednesday 21 November 2012

Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lake District. November 10th & 11th 2012.

During the weekend of November 10th & 11th 2012, Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering services ran a bespoke one on one course for Grant Geddes (photo one) who was the only person booked on to that particular weekend Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District.

During this Autumn, we have offered 1 weekend Navigation Skills Training Course per month although not all have run due to a lack of interest. This is surprising when you consider that our offer provides the opportunity to gain life saving skills for going walking in the mountains for only £40 per day from a qualified & experienced Mountaineering Instructor.

Being able to accurately navigate in the mountains is a really important skill to have. A lack of navigational ability can result in the inconvenience of getting lost in the mountains and ending up miles away from where you wanted to be, being benighted, having the embarrassment of having to call out Mountain Rescue or worse still - a combination of all of the above ending in something much more serious.

By contrast, good navigational skills allow you to venture into the UKs mountains with more confidence - knowing where you are going, identifying what you will see along your route and the satisfaction of being able to accurately pinpoint your location from map to ground.

It is also reassuring to have the knowledge to be able to use a compass when the cloud comes down, to be able to identify an unknown feature from a known location or have confidence in measuring the distance you have walked as well being able to estimate how long a route will take you - enabling you to arrive back at your vehicle, bunkhouse or pub on time, well satisfied after a great day out in the mountains!

Grant was very pleased with his two day bespoke Mountain Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District with Iain. As we got stuck into the first day of his course it became apparent to Iain that Grant knew many of the techniques required not just for basic map reading but also more advanced techniques such as using a compass to identify an unknown feature from a known location (photo two). So, for Iain, it was just a case of polishing up Grants navigational techniques and helping him gain confidence in using them.

Day one saw us working on those skills on the Green Quarter Fell area of Kentmere and as per Grants request, we spent several hours practising night navigation. Night nav is an advanced navigational technique. You have to walk on a bearing whilst concentrating on pacing & timing - all done whilst being able to see only by headtorch. By the end of day one, Grants ability & confidence had come on in leaps & bounds - good effort!

Photos three & four are both from day two of Grants bespoke Navigation Skills Training course. On this day, we drove further up the Kentmere Valley and walked up on to the east side of the Kentmere Horseshoe eventually arriving at Harter Fell via Kentmere Pike.

In photo three, Grant had navigated to the head of Drygrove Gill - an obvious gully on the west side of Harter Fell from the summit using several navigation techniques. Our final photo is looking down on the Ull Stone - a relic of the last ice age having been dumped at its location by glacial ice. Grant again navigated accurately to this point - in the previous photo he is working out a bearing & distance to walk directly to the Ull Stone and as you can see - he found it! More photos from this two day course can be viewed here.

Our Mountain Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lake District are fun and really good value for money. Our next course is running during December 1st & 2nd - another weekend date. Contact us to book your place. You can read about some of our previous 2012 Mountain Navigation Skills Training courses here & here. We look forward to working with you.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Mountaincraft day in The Lake District. November 9th 2012.

A few days after working with Ian Durrant & Anna Lenartowska during their caving & climbing day, Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services was outdoors in Langdale running a Mountaincraft Day for returning client Andrew Tranter.

Andrew has featured on our Blog before having attended a Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District at the end of March. Back in The Lake District on a short notice break from work, he fancied learning some more skills to be self sufficient in the mountains and in particular, was interested in looking at aspects of mountaincraft in the form of river crossing techniques and security on steep ground.

Photo one shows Andrew in a rising Langdale Beck where he was using a ski pole to brace on as he moved sideways across the considerable flow of water.

We looked at the various methods that one or two persons would use to cross a fast flowing stream or river with or without a ski pole. You can always fashion a branch if you have no pole. Iain would recommend avoiding river crossings where possible although it is not always unavoidable - in which case it is useful to know the techniques.

After getting changed and getting as dry as we could on what was a foul weather day next Iain asked Andrew to navigate to an area of steep ground so that we could look at basic ropework.

Often, people who are lacking confidence in moving on steeper terrain can be helped merely by the use of a confidence rope and in photo two Andrew is using a confidence rope on Iain as he leads him up the shallow gully that is the descent route for climbs on Upper Scout Crag. As only a short length of rope is required one flakes out the rope in the top of their rucksack and attaches a simple figure of eight knot on the bight to the person requiring the confidence rope.

Having done this the only thing that needs to be done is to keep the rope tensioned to provide the person some support. The person administering the confidence rope will often have an overhand knot on the bight on the rope to improve their grip, will be braced away from and always uphill of the person requiring the confidence rope and will have their controlling forearm bent towards them to provide some "shock absorption" should the other person slip.

Andrew mastered this technique well on an ascent & descent of the gully before we moved on to slightly more complex belaying systems.

In photo three we are looking at further techniques of security on steep ground ie what to do when one has found ones-self in a situation where a rope must be used to prevent a slip becoming something more serious. On some occasions a body belay (indirect belay) may well suffice for preventing a fall during a climb up or lower down steep ground.

Body belays involve the belayer running the rope around their back and using a technique very similar to taking in the rope through a belay plate when belaying. The belayer will be seated well down with legs braced with heels dug into the ground or pressing against a solid rock.

As well as looking at the basical body belay we also looked at how to attach to a solid anchor such as a rock spike, thread or tree using when the security offered by a basic braced stance is unavailable or unsuitable. In either case one would attach the rope to one of the above anchors using a loop secured with an overhand, figure of eight or Bowline knot and using the same to secure themselves to the anchor. Interesting techniques which Andrew demonstrated well.

Having completed security on steep ground techniques Andrew was keen to use the remaining few hours to further practise skills learnt during his Navigation Skills Training Course in March.

Iain set Andrew the task of locating a ring contour (hill top) some distance away from our steep ground venue at Scout Crags. There were two distinct options - to walk on a bearing through extremely difficult terrain or "handrail" using nearby White Gill to an attack point at its source before taking a bearing and pacing a much shorter distance over much less difficult terrain to find the feature.

Photo four shows Andrew nearing the head of White Gill which is in spate. You can see how wet it was today, the blurring is water droplets on the camera lense and water droplets can be seen reflecting the camera flash. A truly grim day and as you might imagine - there were no people climbing on White Gill Crag!

After locating the hill top we were looking for Andrew decided he was happy with what had been covered during the day, so we decided to descend under Tarn Crag (one of our favourite scrambling skills training course venues) and out via Stickle Ghyll.

At this point (photo five) the tops cleared briefly and we were able to look up to the summit of Harrison Stickle - one of the Langdale Pikes.

As can be seen, Stickle Ghyll was approaching full spate and a river crossing at our earlier venue on the valley floor would have now been impossible without being swept away. Andrew enjoyed his Mountaincraft day out with Iain and leaves with more skills in his toolbox which we hope will help him have many more safe adventures in the mountains. See more photos from this day here.

Our mountaincraft courses can give you all of the skills to be a confident & competent hillgoer in both summer and winter conditions. Check out details of our Mountaincraft courses here and our winter skills courses here. We look forward to working with you.

Caving & Climbing days in The Yorkshire Dales National Park. November 6th 2012.

The first part of November has been fairly busy for us here at Kendal Mountaineering Services. Iain had a weekend of activity sessions with a group at the Lakeland Adventure Centre at Water Park in wintry conditions. Amongst other things that weekend, we went open canoeing and incredibly - Ghyll Scrambling in Church Beck.

Two days later Iain was working in The Yorkshire Dales National Park with Ian Durrant and his partner Anna Lenartowska. Ian & Anna had travelled all the way from Portsmouth to visit the Lake District for a break.

Ian had contacted Kendal Mountaineering Services to book a two session day, caving for himself and rock climbing for Anna as part of a birthday present for her.

Iain met the pair at Inglesport and then off we went to Long Churns for our caving adventure. Photo one shows Ian being lowered down the pitch to Double Shuffle Pool in Long Churns.

On this particular day, conditions were better underground than on the surface where a cold south westerly wind was blowing accompanied by a heavy drizzle - fine for caving but not great for climbing out of doors. Iain had already forwarned the pair that due to the forecast that it might have to be indoor climbing instead!

Water levels were low in Long Churns so we were able to have a good introductory caving session. We started off by heading downstream from Middle Entrance into Lower Long Churns and eventually arrived at The Cheese Press (photo two) where Anna successfully squeezed through before we all went to check out the daylight entering from nearby Alum Pot.

After visiting out Lower Long Churns, Iain took the pair out via Diccan Entrance (photo three) and then back underground via Middle Entrance to the downstream entrance to Baptistry Crawl which leads to Upper Long Churns.

On arrival at Upper Long Churns, we went downstream to Middle Entrance again and on to climb the Entrance Waterfall in Alum Pot Beck before heading back upstream and on to Doctor Bannisters Washbasin where the pair found the climb up to the upstream exit a sporting challenge. Back out at daylight there was no reason to hang around - the weather had improved none, so indoor climbing it was going to have to be.

Both Ian & Anna had thoroughly enjoyed their introductory caving session in Long Churns with Iain and are now talking about returning for one of our Level Two Caving Sessions in 2013!

Next, after getting changed and finding Anna some warm pants for climbing, it was off to Inglesport Climbing Wall for an introductory climbing session which whilst not done outdoors was done indoors in relative comfort with a much better outcome.

Inglesport run a great climbing wall in Ingleton village where there are artificial climbing routes of all grades in a purpose built building.

There are two climbing areas and a bouldering area and the main lead wall is approximately 15m in hieght. Routes are graded using the french system and there are routes to be found for people of all abilities.

Photo four shows Anna climbing in the main wall area belayed by Ian.

Iain showed the pair how to tie into the rope, attach a belay plate and how belay to protect the leader whilst they are climbing.

Our final photograph from our caving & climbing day shows Ian about to take his turn at climbing on the wall whilst Anna belays - backed up by the equivalent of a ground anchor, in this case a sand filled bag attached via a sling to the belay plate karabiner.

It is not uncommon for a belayer to become airborne whilst lowering a heavier climber and on occasion, this has led to surprise & shock for the belayer who has subsequently let go of the person they are lowering resulting in that person "decking out" and suffering an injury.

The pair enjoyed their session in the Inglesport Climbing Wall but were unused to the strenuous nature of climbing at an indoor climbing gym and were happy to call it a day after a few hours in here. They both thoroughly enjoyed their day with Iain and hope to return in 2013 for more caving and hopefully some outdoor climbing. We look forward to seeing them then.

More photos from Iain & Annas Introductory Caving and Climbing sessions can be viewed here. An ideal package for this time of year - if you would like us to arrange your own caving & climbing day then contact Iain here. We look forward to working with you.

Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning sessions in The Lake District. October 20th 2012.

It's been a while since we posted any new reports on the Kendal Mountaineering Services Blog although that doesn't mean we haven't been doing any fantastic activity or skills training sessions in The Lake District - so, time for a catch up!

This first post concerns returning client Sunil Singh who attented one of our Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning Sessions in Church Beck in the Summer with two mates. He enjoyed it so much that he booked it again for himself, his partner Nicky and three of his work colleagues - Nokutula, Stuart & Linda (photo one).

October really is getting to the end of the season for this great buzz activity but the five were keen to give it a go. It was a pleasant afternoon although not particularly warm as we made our way up Church Beck tackling such things as the crawl under the log (through water of course!) and the "tricky traverse" as Iain likes to call it.

Photo two is taken at the first big waterfall as we made our way upstream and as you can see, the water level is quite low - quite a good thing given the temperature. Of course, the five were well kitted out in wetsuits, cagoules, and walking boots - all standard issue equipment on any ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning session undertaken with Kendal Mountaineering Services.
Photo Three shows four of the team below the Miners Bridge Waterfall down which they had all been lowered by Iain.

We had gone to the head of the upper gorge as we always do to discover that another large group were doing the top lower and were going to be quite some time. One great thing about Church Beck is the ease of access and so we were able to go and do the Miners Bridge Fall lower followed by the "top jumps" instead and hopefully finish off with the top lower later.

Abseiling down this waterfall was new to this party and some of the team found it a real challenge indeed. However, with a little encouragement everyone managed to do it and were all really pleased. Sunil had left the group to go & get dry having suffered a re-occurrence of an old injury, but by the time we were heading for the top jumps he had returned to offer his mates some moral support!
The top jumps are not a the head of the gorge as many reading our previous reports of Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning sessions here will be aware - they are in fact below the Miners Bridge Waterfall.

The first jump is into a narrow slot and deep pool although many get put off by the seriousness of the challenge and often those who aren't can bash elbows, arms or feet on the way down. We avoid these risks by doing a part lower on a rope followed by a six foot jump into the same pool from a much safer location.

The middle jump is generally avoided as well due to one having to jump out a long way to avoid a rock in the bottom of the waterfall so we climb down & swim across the pool to the top of the final "slide" known as the chockstone pitch.

Here in photo four, Linda is about to slide straight down the front of the chockstone into the pool below - challenging stuff indeed!

Our final photo from this Autumn Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning session sees Stuart, Nicky & Linda at the foot of the chockstone pitch with another group following on behind.

At the top jump, Nokutula had decided this particular challenge was not for her so had exited the ghyll with Sunil and had gone back with him to get changed.

Whilst we had seen two of our party withdraw during this Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning session, the remaining three had found it a thoroughly exhilarating challenge and had thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

We may not be seeing Nokutula, Stuart or Linda again for a similar session, but both Sunil & Nicky are adamant that they will be back next Summer to attend one of our Esk Gorge Trips which are about as good as this sort of session gets in The Lake District. Further photos taken during this session can be viewed here. To book your session, contact us here, we look forward to working with you.