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.

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