Saturday 7 December 2013

Guided Winter Climbing and Winter Climbing Training Courses. Lake District & Scotland, starting December 2013, ending April 30th 2014.

The Winter climbing season has already begun in the UK with a number of ascents of classic Winter climbing routes already having taken place in Scotland. True - at the present moment, it;s a little unsettled & mild, but climbing conditions are bound to improve again soon!

At Kendal Mountaineering Services, we offer a number of options to those wishing to take up Winter Climbing. Ideally, you should have experience of scrambling or climbing outdoors on dry Summer rock if you wish to learn the skills of Winter Climbing; and will also have undertaken a Winter Skills Training Course to prepare you for walking in the Winter mountain environment.

However, if you already have sufficient experience of winter walking, crampon & ice axe techniques; and wish to be guided up a Winter climb in The Lake District or Scotland, then we can organise this for you.

Wherever there are mountains - there are Winter Climbing routes. Some areas are more popular than others and aspiring Winter climbers will have heard of areas such as Glen Coe where photo one with Benn was taken on Dorsal Arete (grade II) and the Northern Corries of The Cairngorms where this photo was taken of Mark on Invernookie (grade III'4)

Other areas also include Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor near to Fort William and Creag Meagaidh midway between Fort William and Aviemore. These are all great areas for learning how to climb Winter routes and all have classic climbs that we are happy to guide on if you would just like to be led up something!

All of these areas are readily accessible and can be reached from England border in four hours to Fort William and five hours to Aviemore. Both are good places to base yourself when attending one of our Scottish Winter courses - each with a wide variety of accommodation types, restaurants and supermarkets.

And once there - you are ready to start your Winter Climbing Skills Training Course or Guided Winter Climbing day with one of our instructors. You will be met, the evening beforehand your course if necessary, to go through your equipment, make your that you have everything necessary and check crampon fitting etc.

Your instructor will provide a copy of the climbing forecast and the local avalanche report the details of which they will discuss with you. In conjunction with these, and an appraisal of your ability and aspirations for your course, your instructor will choose an appropriate route that fits all requirements.

Winter Climbing Skills Training Courses and Guided Winter Climbing days are long demanding days - so expect to get up early and experience walk ins which may be 2 hours as a minimum. Ideally, you should have a good level of hill fitness if you want to get the most out of these courses.

The type of ground you will find yourself on will be dictated by the type of course you are attending. If you are attending a Guided Winter Climbing Day such as the pair in photo three then the ground may be grade 1 through to Grade IV. In this instance, the pair were on Green Gully, Ben Nevis - a classic Winter ice climb graded at IV'3.

On our Winter Climbing Skills Training Courses you are likely to be working on ground up to, but no more than grade III in standard where you will be coached by a Mountaineering Instructor who may well be moving alongside you  - coaching you as you climb.

The three seen in photo four enjoyed a progressive Winter Climbing Skills Training Course with us - in this photo they were climbing on Dorsal Arete (grade II), Coire An Lochan, Glen Coe; and they accomplished the route well. For their second day, due to the increased avalanche forecast, Iain coached them on nearby Sron Na Lairig before guiding them through the cornice at the top of the route. Again, they climbed this route well and took away a lot of new skills with which to use in the Winter mountain environment.

Maria, seen leading in photo five, attended one of our week long courses in 2010. Maria  had attended our Scottish Winter Skills Course followed by our Cairngorms based Navigation & Snowholing 2 day course before trying her hand at Winter climbing during one of our Winter Climbing Skills Training days.

It was a perfect progression for Maria who took very well to Winter Climbing. For Chris, the progression on to snowed & iced up rock was possibly a little easier as he had previously attended one of our Lake District based Scrambling Skills Training Course, a Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip and a Winter Skills training course with us prior to joining Maria on this route - Twin Ribs in Coire an t Sneachda in The Cairngorms
Our final photo in this post sees Benn - on the last day of his 12 day progressive Winter Climbing course booked with Iain in 2012. Rather than explain it, you can read all about Benn's course here - if you wonder what a client is doing out in front, well, sometimes this is appropriate!

Our team of Mountaineering Instructors have a considerable amount of experience climbing in Winter in both The Lake District and Scotland and they will enjoy organising an appropriate package for you in either area. Whether it be learning Winter Climbing Skills or guiding you on that classic Winter route all of our staff are passionate individuals who will be intent on providing you with the best possible experience whilst keeping you safe.

We believe we provide excellent value for money with all of our Winter Climbing Courses and these cost £150 per day for two persons or £180 per day for three. Lake District Winter Climbing Courses can be of 1 day duration, Scottish Winter Climbing Courses are a minimum of two day duration.

Contact us via the website for more details about these courses or contact Iain on 07761 483364 if you are looking for something at short notice. We look forward to working with you.

2 day Winter Navigation and Snowholing Courses in Scotland. Starting December 2013, ending April 30th 2014.

So what are your aspirations in the mountains this winter? Perhaps you might fancy a real adventure with a difference such as one of our 2 day Scottish Winter Navigation & Snowholing Courses.

These have traditionally been done in the Cairngorms - the last remaining vestige of the Arctic anywhere in the UK and the largest upland area above 914m (3000 feet) in the country. But if you would like to do yours elsewhere in the Scottish Highlands or even The Lake District - then give us a call.

To attend one of these courses, you will have already attended a Winter Skills Course and really, you should already possess a good level of map reading ability. This course is about transferring that map reading ability from walking on grass to snow where one minute you may be walking on top of a firm crust - and then next minute breaking through up to your knees! How do you pace in constantly changing walking conditions? The answer - with practice!

If you are lucky on our Scottish Navigation & Snowholing Courses, you may get conditions like the group in photo two here on their way to Coire Domhain in blazing sunshine with views to Ben Macdui and Cairn Toul or, you may have no view at all!

Whiteout conditions in the winter mountains can be completely disorientating when all you can see is cloud and driven snow in front of you and white snow below. Sometimes it is hard to see where the ground ends and the sky begins. In situations like these, you will need to have complete confidence in your map reading ability and your ability to walk accurately on a bearing and pace distance.

Our Navigation & Snowholing Courses require reasonably settled weather to be run and that is more important the higher you go. Our instructional team will have obtained the latest MWIS weather forecast and will discuss this with you and it's implications. Our aim is to give you a positive & safe experience at all times.

Our Scottish Winter Navigation & Snowholing courses will be run by qualified Winter Mountain Walking Leaders and Mountaineering Instructors who have a good knowledge of any areas where these courses are being run. We supply laminated maps for your convenience, you will need to provide your own equipment for walking in the mountains in Winter and for overnight snowholing.

At the end of day one we will aim to arrive at a snow holing site around about an hour before dark - this is just in case we have to construct our own snowholes. You will have with you a Winter Mountaineering Axe which you can use to dig although we will provide you with snow shovels for this task as well.

Ideally, our site will be on a steep bank of snow where one can dig straight in - and then up! This is the easiest way to make a snowhole - be careful not to break through the roof though!

An ideal snowhole will have it's entrance at the lowest point; and if possible, a shelf inside to sit and sleep on. Building a snowhole in this way allows the cold air to sink whilst you remain above.

So how comfortable is a snowhole? Most people probably think "Bloody freezing, terrible!" Well true - if you arrive with the wrong equipment you will probably have a cold & sleepless night - but we will make sure you do arrive with the right equipment! Take Kirstin in photo three for example - snug as a bug in our snowhole; inside a good quality down sleeping bag packed into a Goretex Bivvi Bag, sitting on a Thermarest for additional insulation and wearing a decent down jacket. So there you go - some clues already as to what you'll need if you want to spend a comfortable night in the Scottish Winter mountains and if you like the look of these courses already but haven't got the kit, then get it on your Christmas wishlist now!

People sometimes think that snowholing is a cold cramped affair in a very small space, but if we find a big enough bank of snow then it doesn't have to be.Take Kelvin here in this massive snowhole that he excavated with his partner for the night - plenty of room to eat, sleep and move around!

On this course you are advised to bring dehydrated meals and lots of high energy snacks. Mountain House make an excellent range of dehydrated breakfasts, main courses and deserts. Also, bring a stove that will work well in the cold and will not take up too much space on your pack. A Jetboil is advisable or a Primus Omnifuel and both are excellent stoves for Summer backpacking too!

So how can a snowhole possibly be a warm & comfortable place to spend a night? Well, surprisingly, snowpack contains a lot of airspaces and this provides the insulation from the cold air and wind which may be howling outside. And that is another thing - blocking up the entrance last thing before you go to sleep will stop any sound from the weather outside disturbing you as the snow insulates against sound too. Leave a small hole for airflow though, but provided you've got the right equipment a good nights sleep should be perfectly possible.

On an ideal Scottish Winter Navigation & Snowholing Course you'll wake up in the morning, refreshed and invigorated by the experience. Hopefully, we will have managed to snowhole high in the mountains and you'll awake to a perfect day as the team did in photo five here.

The report involving this course, done in 2011, can be found on our blog and you can view all of the photos taken throughout the two days. On this occasion, weather conditions were truly ideal.
On day two, we will aim to make our way back off the hill taking a route that will allow for further Navigation Skills Training opportunities to be delivered. No matter what your map reading & navigation ability is we will aim to improve your understanding & confidence and these courses are a great progression from a Scottish Winter Skills Training Course.

We are happy to work with groups & individuals so if you fancy having a real adventure in the mountains this winter then contact us for details of our winter courses here. Prices for our Winter Navigation & Snowholing Courses start at £150 per day for one or two persons but the price decreases per individual as group size increases. For example, the group in photo six paid only £50 per day for their Winter Navigation & Snowholing Course! Give us a call, we are happy to put together  a course for you and advise on the  equipment you will need for this. We look forward to working with you.

Monday 2 December 2013

Winter Mountaineering Courses in Scotland & The Lake District. Starting December 2013, ending April 30th 2014.

Are you thinking of spending some more time in the mountains this winter? Perhaps you have attended a winter skills course already and like the idea trying of some of those more interesting ridge routes leading on to your favourite mountains? You may have heard tales of others undertaking Winter Mountaineering routes such as Sharp Edge on Blencathra, Striding Edge on Helvellyn or maybe Curved Ridge on Buchaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe, The Aonach Eagach or Ledge Route on Ben Nevis? The idea of Winter Mountaineering sounds exciting & exhilarating stuff, however, you don't feel confident to try such routes for yourselves having heard that rope work is involved and perhaps feeling that you are lacking in the skills necessary to tackle these routes and stay safe!

At Kendal Mountaineering Services, we have a number of Mountaineering Instructors at our disposal with a great deal of experience on most classic Winter Mountaineering Routes. Why not start out your winter mountaineering experience by being guided by one of our experienced staff on an appropriate Winter Scramble just like the pair in photo one - you can then decide whether or not Winter Mountaineering is for you!

You may then choose to be guided up some further Classic Winter Mountaineering Routes to gain confidence or learn the skills to make your own way such as the person in photo two. Here, he has just prepared a belay in readiness to safeguard his mates while they cross an exposed crest on Sron Na Larig in Glen Coe.

These guys had already ascended Ledge Route with us and had successfully climbed Dorsal Arete in Coire An Lochan the previous day. So, we felt that they were ready for a Mountaineering challenge like Sron Na Larig as an opportunity to consolidate and further develop skills already learnt. Our plans for your Winter Mountaineering Courses are always built on the basis of your existing experience and aspirations. Your safety must always come first & foremost - followed by enjoyment, learning and satisfaction.

Our prices per day for Winter Mountaineering days in The Lake District & Scotland start at £150 for 1 - 2 persons or £180 for 3 persons this being the maximum one Mountaineering Instructor is able to work with on easy grade 1 - 2 Winter scrambling ground. We will happily work with larger groups - bringing in more instructors as required.

Our Winter Mountaineering Courses are run on a bespoke "booked when you want to do it basis" and you choose how many or as few days as you want. Depending on our availability and the weather conditions, you can book your Winter Mountaineering Guided Day at short notice - so it will be worth giving Iain a call on 07761 483364 to check on his whereabouts and availability during the next four months.

Benn - seen in photo three, booked a progressive Winter Mountaineering Course in 2012 with Kendal Mountaineering Services split into 3 four days blocks. His course commenced with a 2 day basic Winter Skills Course in Coire An Lochan, a guided ascent & descent of the Winter Mountaineering Route "The Zig Zags" and a guided ascent of Dorsal Arete - all in Glen Coe

By the time that photo three & four were taken (both on Ledge Route, Ben Nevis) Benn was exhibiting such competence & confidence that Iain was happy, with coaching, for Benn to get on the "sharp end" of the rope as he is here - short roping Iain in this photo.

The use of the direct belay (photo three) and short roping (photo four) are both some of the techniques used for ascending Winter Mountaineering Terrain and these will be demonstrated to you during a guiding day or during a Winter Mountaineering Skills teaching day which will take place on grade I or II ground. Benn had this to say at the end of his course with us

Well sadly it's the end of my course :-( but what a course it's been, when Kendal Mountaineering Services say they 'give you what you want' they're not lying that's for sure! Iain has been a fantastic guide and coach throughout. He inspires confidence where it matters, he's funny, engaging and finds a great balance of having fun and being safe in the mountains. He didn't fail to answer any of my thousands of challenging questions and his knowledge of the mountains is unquestionable. I feel so much more confident in the mountains and it's all down to Iain and his great teaching style. If you want to do anything in the mountains Iain is your man! Just look at that last photo and they are the moments you do it for. Thanks to Kendal Mountaineering services and a special thanks to Iain ( Taken from this 2012 Blog Post)

So, just like Benn, you too can enjoy a great experience on one of our Winter Guided Mountaineering Courses or Winter Mountaineering Skills Training Courses in The Lake District and Scotland - where will we take you if conditions are fit? Well, here's a selection

Lake District
Striding Edge, Swirral Edge, Helvellyn. N.E. Ridge, Catstycam. Sharp Edge & Hallsfell Ridge, Blencathra. Jacks Rake, Langdale. Central & Custs Gullies, Great End - to name a few.

And in Scotland
Curved Ridge, Buchaille Etive Mor. Aonach Eagach, Sron Na Lairig, Dinnertime Buttress, Zig Zag Route, Glen Coe. The East Ridge.North Top Stob Ban, Glen Nevis. Ledge Route, Ben Nevis. Golden Oldy, Aonach Mor West Face - and many more!

If you would like to know more about our Winter Mountaineering Courses in The Lake District & Scotland then contact us via the website. Further details of past courses Iain has run can be found be reading the KMS Blog between December & March each year. We look forward to working with you in the coming months.

Friday 29 November 2013

Book your Winter Skills Courses in The Lake District or Scotland. Courses Starting December 1st 2013 and ending April 30th 2014.

Winter officially starts this coming Sunday and winter conditions already exist in the Scottish Highlands where a number of winter climbing routes have already seen ascents. Winter is a magical time of year as can be seen from photo one taken in February last year - indeed, this was a very special day in the Cairngorms. As can be seen here - mountains under a Winter mantle of snow & ice are even more beautiful!

Winter, of course, brings with it new challenges in the form of a blanket of snow of all consistencies from soft powder through to bone hard neve and ice. Our Winter Skills Training Courses are designed to teach you all that you need to know to be self sufficient and knowledgeable to safely go walking in the UK mountains in Winter.

Amongst other skills that you will learn on one of our Winter Skills Training Courses, Ice axe braking is probably one of the most important ones to know. There you are walking above a precipice in thick mist and without warning the surface changes from soft snow to ice and you slip and accelerate into a slide. You still have a hold of your ice axe though; and have been shown what to do.

There are a number of ways you may slide - face first like Gary here in photo two, head first on your back, feet first on your back or tumbling uncontrollably. The thing to do is to get on your front with your head facing uphill, get your weight over that ice axe pick to make it dig in and stop that slide. On our Winter Skills Training Courses this is one of the very first things we will show you!

Another aspect of Winter Skills Training is Crampon Technique. Crampons should be worn when snow becomes hard and a slip without them becomes more likely - mind you, you'd be amazed how many people seem to wear them in soft snow when in such conditions they are useless! On one of our Winter Skills Training Courses you'll be shown how to correctly fit your crampons to your winter boots and how to tackle icy slopes of all angles during ascent and descent. The team in photo three are using the "Pied a plat" technique for descending hard ice - bending their legs at the knees to keep all of their crampon points in contact with the ice, doing this is most important!

As well as Ice Axe and Crampon Techniques, we will also show you techniques for protecting yourself on ground where a slip could turn into something more serious such as a fall.

In situations like this, you should consider using a climbing rope - even if it is just to get up or down a short steeper section of snow slope or cornice - but how does one anchor themselves to snow?

There are many techniques you can use - the boot/axe belay being demonstrated in photo four by Cherry is a quick & convenient way to lower someone down a slope. Other methods include the Stomper Belay and it's Scottish variant (for use where there is limited snow depth) and the "bucket seat" belay which may be backed up with a Deadman (metal plate), snow or ice bollards or buried ice axes - all used to anchor you to the snow slope. On one of our Winter Skills Training Courses we will teach you all of these techniques.

As well as teaching you all of the above techniques, we will also show you how to dig a snow shelter should you become lost or benighted in Winter conditions. There are many variants of snow shelters such as the lean to/sitting bivvi occupied by Steve in Photo five. The best plan is to find a steep bank of snow - dig straight in and then upwards to make for a quick and spacious shelter, but depending on on the depth of snow and your location - this may not always be possible.

On our Winter Skills Training Courses we will show you all of the various types of shelter you can build and we will also teach you about Avalanche Prediction.

What is an avalanche? it is a layer of snow on top of another layer which for a number of reasons becomes detached and begins to slide downhill burying everything in its path. These are not something you want to be caught in so we will teach you have to examine a suspect snowpack to check for the likelihood of avalanches. A good starting plan is to obtain a copy of the Scottish Avalanche Information Service's local forecast and stay away from any slope aspect indicated grade 3 or above, but there is more to avalanche prediction than that; and we will teach you what you need to know!

Conditions for running Winter Skills Training Courses tend to be more reliable in Scotland, however, in recent years, good winter conditions have also returned to The Lake District on occasion - so keep an eye on the forecast and if it is looking promising  then give us a call. Courses can be arranged at short notice in either Scotland or the Lake District and start at £75 per person per day for a minimum of two persons. The price per person decreases as the number in your party increases. Helmets and harnesses are provided as part of the fee as are ropes and other technical equipment. You will need to provide your own walking axe, crampons & winter boots but we are happy to advise on what to buy or where to hire.

We do advise that people book our two day Winter Skills Training Courses as it takes this long to deliver all of the information that you will need, however, it may also be possible to do this on a one day "modular" basis if you cannot make two consecutive days.

To book your Winter Skills Training Course in Scotland or The Lake District Iain can be contacted at short notice on 07761 483364 or you can also contact us via the website if you would like to make a more advance booking or have questions regarding the itinerary of our Winter Skills Training Courses. We look forward to joining you this Winter to teach you those essential skills and to have fun in the snow!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Stag Events with Kendal Mountaineering services. Caving in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Saturday November 23rd 2013.

After his two days of Navigation Skills Training in Borrowdale, Iain was straight back out the next morning - but this time in the Yorkshire Dales National Park with a group of lads on a stag event arranged by their mate Alex Mathews.

Alex had decided to arrange a Stag Event with a difference and liked the look of our Caving Sessions in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. He had contacted Kendal Mountaineering Services some time previously to book a full day out for himself & the lads.

Photo one sees the group near to Alum Pot. The party had met Iain & Al at Inglesport (our usual meeting point for all of our caving sessions in the Yorkshire Dales National Park) and then we headed off to Selside to park, get kitted up and walk in the half mile or so to Long Churns - one of our favourite Introductory Caving Session Venues in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and a great one for adults & children alike!

As we arrived in Long Churns Lane there were no other vehicles - then suddenly about another six arrived - all full of people intending to go underground. One couldn't blame them, the weather was good, dry & sunny if cold, but with little water around - just what we really needed, but we didn't need the other groups there!

Photo two sees the lads underground in Long Churns and en route to the famous Cheese Press - one of the most talked about and remembered caving challenges for anyone who has been there.

Mention caving and Long Churns and soon, someone is bound to say "is that where the Cheese Press is?" Sometimes it gets called the "Cheese Grater" much to our amusement!

Out of  today's caving group of eleven, only eight turned up! The first night of Stag partying had taken it's toll with a few people feeling rather the worse for wear. The guy nearest Iain for example, looks really pale - but don't worry, that's only because of the camera flash!

Right at the start, we chucked this group in at the deep end. Usually, on an Introductory Caving Session, we would enter Long Churns via Middle Entrance - a larger & easier route in to the system, but on this occasion, with a horde on our heels, we wanted to get the lads to the Cheese Press without having to queue and besides...the crawl encountered just before the chamber in photo two is ideal prep for the even tighter squeeze that is the Cheese Press.

Photo three sees Ben coming out of the Cheese Press and we say "Good effort" to him because this guy really didn't feel too great at the start of the session. It has to be said - caving is a great hangover cure!

After success for five at the Cheese Press, we headed back out via Lower & Middle Long Churns to Middle Entrance and then on upstream to emerge above ground at the top entrance with everyone having enjoyed the challenge of the waterslide at Doctor Bannister's Washbasin. Most of our Stag party were still pretty dry so, after having some lunch without getting changed; and attempting to locate two of the missing party who turned out to be at The Station Inn at Kendal (Not the Station Inn, Ribblehead!) we turned our attention to what to do with the Stag Party for the afternoon.

This bunch of lads from The Wirral were a tough, strong lot, but a few, already weakened by the effect of the "night before" decided that "enough was enough" so, it was with a smaller group that Iain & Al were to head down into Calf Holes and Browgill Cave.

The lads had already done a level 1 Introductory Caving Session in the morning and had coped well with that, so Iain decided - why not give them a taste of more vertical caving as in what we call a level 2 caving trip? Level 1 caving involves vertical pitches of no more than 2m/6 feet. A level 2 trip involves vertical pitches of 18m or 60 feet so is more of a challenge.

The drop into Calf Holes is only 11 metres but is enough to give anyone a first intro to level 2 caving and an opportunity to try the strenuous (but not too strenuous if you do it properly) task of climbing a caving ladder. In photo four Alex, the Stag Party organisor is lowered by Iain down the 11m pitch and to his right can be seen a caving ladder typical of the types used to climb such pitches. We do, of course, belay you with a rope during such ascents to protect you should you fall off the ladder!

The final photo of the day sees the Stag Party at the downstream exit to Browgill Cave along with Iain's assistant for the day - Alyn Griffiths.

To get the lads to the downstream exit, we firstly had a 200m walk down a roomy passageway to the point where the accompanying stream sinks out of sight on the left and the way on lowers to a crawl and a hole disappearing on the the left (Hainsworths Passage). The route is through this passageway and dropping down through a tight hole in the floor brings one back to the stream. Beyond here, the passageway gains in height on its way to a 6m waterfall which is avoided by a crawl to the right and climb down to the foot of the fall. A high rift passageway leads onwards to another short crawl next to the stream and a walk out to daylight - as in this photo. A truly great introductory level 2 caving through trip!

We could have turned around, retraced our route and climbed the ladder at the pitch, but time was getting on, the light was starting to fade and the lads in this Stag Party were very satisfied with what they had done during their Stag Event with a difference. Apparently, they have done many activities in The Lake District during previous visits, but reckoned this was the best one by far!

We were pleased to hear that this Stag Group had enjoyed their Caving Day in the Yorkshire Dales National Park with us and we enjoyed providing them with a day out packed with excitement, variety and challenge; which was what we figured they wanted.

We always try to go the extra mile to give all of our clients the best outdoor activity session or skills training course possible and if you were disappointed then we would be too. So far - touch wood, we have never disappointed and hope we never will, after all our motto is "Giving you what you want!"

To book your Stag or Hen Event with a difference contact us to arrange a memorable day out - after all, that is what you want on such a special occasion. We look forward to working with you.

Monday 25 November 2013

Bespoke Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District. November 21st & 22nd 2013.

Once again, it's been a while since we have posted up any thing on the Kendal Mountaineering Services Blog but, we have been away on holiday (more about that later) and then there was the Kendal Mountain Festival. This post is about the great work that Iain has been doing since all of that!

Photo one shows John McMurray and his Fiance Suzanne during Thursday last week when they were attending one of our Bespoke Navigation Skills Training Courses. As the pair were staying in Borrowdale, Iain jumped at the chance to join them and run his first ever Navigation Skills Training course in this beautiful valley.

John & Suzanne had travelled up from Norwich the previous day and were keen to get some practice in before attempting Scafell Pike from Borrowdale on Saturday. For the duration of their Navigation Skills Training Course, the pair were to be staying at Borrowdale Youth Hostel so Iain met them there. Photo one shows the two working out their location - en route from the Youth Hostel to Rigghead Quarries.

We spent the day starting from the basics as usual - how to orientate the map, measuring distance on the map and pacing it on the ground before setting off on our walk under Johnny Wood towards Scaleclose Force and on to the quarries.

Whilst on this route, we discussed "tickoff features" and found lots along the way, this really got the pair focused on reading from map to ground and it worked well!

Eventually, we arrived at the climbing hut at Rigghead Quarries where we enjoyed some lunch and then moved on to the topic of grid references - something that both John & Suzanne picked up quickly. The next task was to use their compasses to take a bearing between grid references and then walk on that bearing to find the next grid reference.

By now we were heading up on to the small plateau on top of High Scawdel and here, Iain got the pair to find some small features such as a stream junction and some small pools of water and they were successful in finding all of these. The second photo was taken as we began our descent to Honister Pass and was of the sunset - viewed through Black Sail Pass.

The weather on day one of John & Suzanne's Bespoke Mountain Navigation Skills Training Course had started off with an odd wintry shower and a cold north easterly breeze but conditions improved as the day went on. There was a dusting of snow on the mountains above 2000 feet and it felt like a real Winter day!

The weather had been forecast to improve over the duration of John & Suzanne's course and it certainly did. We all awoke next morning to calm and sunny blue skies - a perfect day indeed!

Iain decided to offer the pair the option of continuing their course in a different part of Borrowdale today and we chose to go to Rosthwaite Fell - a little to the south.

To start the day and build on their experiences from the previous day, Iain asked John & Suzanne to get us all to Tarn At Leaves from the Youth Hostel. This pretty little tarn is to be found on Rosthwaite Fell nestling under Bessyboot - the true summit of the area. Photo three shows Tarn at Leaves with a covering of snow on Great & Green Gables way in the distance. We stopped here for lunch and it was pleasant in the sun - however, stepping left into the shade en route for our next grid reference felt like walking in to a deep freeze!!

We spent the remainder of the day on Rosthwaite Fell navigating around it's many small peaks and hollows - finding pools of water, stream junctions and contour features - true Mountain Walking Leader Standard Navigation stuff and the pair found every point. We also tried "boxing" around an obstacle and using the compass to working out what "unknown" features were from a known point of reference. During this time, the weather remained calm & sunny, and the views were fantastic.

John & Suzanne had requested a slightly earlier finish today in order to prepare for their walk up Scafell Pike on Saturday and all too soon it was time to head back to the Youth Hostel. Photo Four is taken on our descent route down the side of Combe Gill where the temperature was already starting to drop below freezing again.

Both John & Suzanne thoroughly enjoyed their Bespoke Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District with Iain and, with their long "wish list" of outdoor skills to be developed, we hope to see them again. Iain really enjoyed working with them - running a Navigation Skills Training Course from a different venue in The Lake District - but that is we we do for anyone! Let us know where you are to be based and we will happily come to you to run your course.

It must also be mentioned that Borrowdale Youth Hostel is a great place to stay, full of personality with a good bar, a great atmosphere and very competetively priced beds and food.

John & Suzanne each paid £160 for their two day Bespoke Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District with Iain and you have this option if you are looking for flexibility to suit your itinerary. We also run Mountain Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lake District to suit people operating on smaller budgets and our 2014 dates for these courses are out now with these courses priced at £80 per person.

So, if you would like to book on one of our great value Navigation Courses then please get in touch. Also, with Christmas fast approaching, if you are looking for something different for that special person and would like a Christmas Gift Voucher to be redeemed against one of our Half or Full Day Activity Sessions or Skills Training Courses in 2014 - than contact us to arrange this for you. We look forward to working with you.

Monday 28 October 2013

Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lake District. October 26th & 27th 2013.

During the last weekend of October, Iain was to be found out on the Lake District Fells with Gary, Will & Sarah all of whom had booked on to our scheduled Mountain Navigation Skills Training Course.

We have run a number of these courses over 2013 and have mostly been blessed with good weather making the fells an ideal place to be to learn map reading and navigation skills in a pleasant, if not particularly difficult learning environment.

The weather for this weekend however, was not looking great with a heavy band of rain due to cross the area on Saturday afternoon and storm force winds potentially arriving late Sunday.

Saturday proved not to be such a bad day after all with only a light wind and hardly any showers. We headed on to Green Quarter Fell following the usual format of starting out by orientating the map, measuring distance and pacing, then making our way along a linear feature (a bridleway) finding at tick off features along the route.

By the time photo one was taken, we had progressed through grid references and were in the process of walking on our first bearing. Photo two was taken at the end of day one having continued the rest of the afternoon locating grid references (eight figure ones at that!) and walking on bearings to find them. We finished talking about & then practicing Naismiths Rule before heading back to arrive as the car just as the first drops of heavy rain started to fall - excellent timing!

On Saturday evening Iain received a call from Gary informing him that he would be unable to attend on Sunday so we were down to two delegates when we all headed up to Green Quarter  to start the day.

Sundays weather was very windy and we were lashed by heavy showers as we made our way over to the east side of Green Quarter Fell to try and gain some shelter on the slopes above Longsleddale. We continued on our theme from the previous day of locating grid references and using bearing & pacings to find them; and although this was made harder by the weather, Sarah & Will still performed well. Photo three sees the pair heading over towards the lee slopes of Shipman Knotts in an attempt to gain shelter from the strengthening wind where we continued to work with the pair doing well at finding grid references in the conditions.

The final photo from this post about our weekend Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District sees Will & Sarah crouching behind a wall having arrived at an "attack point" - in this case an obvious wall junction which we were using as a means to home in on a nearby stream junction.

By this time, the weather had become truly foul with gale force winds sweeping the ridge of Shipman knotts above us with heavy shower upon shower passing over. Despite continuing to smile throughout the weekend, Sarah was starting to get a bit cold. Because of this and the worsening weather, Iain decided we should call close to the day over two hours early. We had covered the remainder of the course syllabus and Will & Sarah had demonstrated competence throughout.

As we made our way back round the shoulder of Shipman Knotts the skies brightened somewhat; although the wind didn't drop. As we had a relatively bright & shower free drive back to Staveley, Iain wondered if perhaps we should have stuck it out a bit longer, but on the drive back to Kendal, having said goodbye to the pair, he was struck by a torrential squall. Just as well we called it a day really!

Gary, Will & Sarah all enjoyed their Navigation Skills Training Weekend in The Lake District with Iain who hopes that they all go on to enjoy their forays into the mountains even more following successfully completing this course.

Our next Mountain Navigation Skills Training Course takes place during the weekend of November 31st/December 1st 2013 and we are taking bookings now for this. Contact us here if you would like to book a place - supurb value at only £80 per person for the two day course.

Friday 25 October 2013

Technical Advisory Services from Kendal Mountaineering Services. Gordale Scar, Malham. October 24th 2013.

On of the great things about working in the outdoor industry is that every day is different. True - you may often be using the same venues but with a different group or in different weather conditions. Variety is the spice of life although Iain would be happy if every day were a sunny one!

Two days ago, Iain hadn't thought he would be working here. Photo one shows an area known as The Meadows on the approach to Gordale Scar near Malham in The Yorkshire Dales National Park - some distance from The Lake District.
Iain had been contacted by an outdoor provider from Central Lancashire looking for a Technical Expert to endorse some of their instructional staff for gorge walking at Gordale Scar. Having recently undergone an inspection by the Adventurous Activity Licensing Authority, the centre was advised that it needed to receive "Statements of Competence" for members of it's instructional team working at Gordale and that they needed to engage an independent Technical Advisor in order to achieve this requirement.

As a Mountaineering Instructor with vast experience of delivering Gorge Walking, Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning Sessions here in The Lake District, Iain is able to work as a Technical Expert in this field and able to endorse other users with Statements of Competence on behalf of the Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority. In the middle of photo two can be seen the waterfall for which the centre's instructional staff needed to be endorsed.

For Iain, the endorsement involved meeting with the centre's instructors at the venue and gaining a detailed insight into their knowledge of the site specific risk assessments, group management issues and the technical requirements that the site presented.

Due to the amount of water coming down Gordale Beck, the two instructors (nearest Iain in photo three) had already decided that it was too wet to allow the visiting group to attempt climbing the waterfall, but there was no reason why they could not demonstrate to Iain the techniques they would use to manage their clients and explain to Iain how they would manage client groups and the risk situation. Fortunately a trainee instructor was on hand to act as a "client" so that the pair could demonstrate their rope work skills to Iain.

After a few hours with Pete & Mike (the instructors), it was clear to Iain that they both had a good understanding of the venue and risk assessments and knew how to manage different client groups here. As such, he was happy to write them both Statements of Competence to meet the AALA requirements.

It was a most pleasant day working in a different capacity in one of The Yorkshire Dales most beautiful areas and the sun shone throughout!

If you find yourself requiring Statements of Competence for any of your staff following an AALA Inspection then give contact us for a quote for a professional & friendly endorsement of your centre staffs capabilities at any gorge walking venue. We will be happy to help.

Half Day Kayaking Session in The Lake District. Sunday 20th October 2013.

After running a Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District on Saturday, Iain was back out the next day running a Introductory Kayaking Course for Stephen & Emily Scott and Claire and Wayne Meehan who had travelled over from West Yorkshire for the session. (Photo one)

The weather on Sunday afternoon was not ideal for a first introduction to kayaking with rain showers sweeping across Windermere accompanied by a fairly strong south westerly breeze blowing on to the beach at Waterhead.
The four were keen to give it a try though and Iain made sure they were well kitted out with wetsuits, cagoules, bouyancy aids and we also provided spraydecks to keep the water out of the kayaks. One good thing about the weather was despite being wet & windy - at least it was reasonably warm.

Due to the breeze, Iain was keen that the group reach the river mouth as he suspected that some shelter could be found there in order to learn basic kayaking skills and we found a small sheltered bay a few hundred metres up river. Here, we looked at honing the groups forward, backward, stopping and turning skills and also moving the kayak sideways (photo two). Of the group, Stephen & Wayne had some previous water experience having recently undertaken the Great Glen trip in Scotland from Fort William to Inverness in Canadian Canoes, Emily appeared to paddle from the outset as if she had done so all her life (even though that apparently wasn't the case!) and Claire who also hadn't paddled a kayak before struggled to go in a straight line initially, but improved greatly throughout the afternoon.

After our basic skills session on the river, we headed upstream towards where the flows from the Rivers Brathay & Rothay combine - hard work against the strong flow! We ventured up the Brathay a little way and tried the advanced skill of forward & reverse ferry gliding across the flow and all four were able to do this.

Time moved on fairly quickly and as we returned to the lake we had little over an hour left to undertake a short journey to Pull Wyke Bay. On entering the lake from the river there was quite a swell and waves were breaking over the kayaks - just as well Iain had issued spraydecks!. Iain was quite concerned about the conditions but the group were relaxed and happy and Claire was suddenly paddling in a straight line without difficulty (funny how this often happens!) On reaching the small  island near to Pull Wyke Bay, the wind and swell dropped so we made our way straight across the lake to the old stone boathouse a few hundred metres south of Waterhead with the skill level of this group having come along greatly during the afternoon. Well done!

After that it was back to Waterhead to pack up. Stephen, Emily, Wayne & Claire enjoyed their Introductory Kayaking Session in The Lake District with Iain and will now be looking to take it further by joining a local Kayaking club near to where they all live. We wish them the best of luck with this. To find out further details about our Kayaking & Canoeing sessions in The Lake District contact us here.

Scrambling Skills Training Courses in The Lake District. Saturday, October 19th 2013.

A couple of days after enjoying a glorious day of Climbing with Matthew Carroll and Marissa, Iain was back out again with another couple - Ioan and Charlotte who had travelled over from Yorkshire for a few days.

As the pair enjoy hill walking and are planning to attend an introductory Alpine Course next Summer they decided to look into the possibility of getting some scrambling skills training in The Lake District and found the Kendal Mountaineering Services website. Photo one shows the pair at our venue for the day (Tarn Crag, Langdale) during the initial stages of their one day Lake District Scrambling Course when we were practising the skills of "spotting" which is generally all that confident scramblers will need to use on grade 1 scrambling terrain.

Spotting involves moving together, unroped, with the most confident person bringing up the rear and holding the feet of the person in front on poor foot placements or pressing into their back etc. The idea is to stop the front person from slipping off or falling off backwards and is an efficient & fast way of moving toegther on easy scrambles.

However, in wet conditions such as those we experienced today, the rain can make even a grade 1 scramble a tricky & questionable proposition and the rule of thumb is that if it is likely that a slip could turn into something more serious such as a fall. If this is deemed possible, then the rope most be employed so that safety can be maintained when moving together on more serious ground.

Photo two  shows the pair who are being "short roped" by Iain so that they can experience what is required when executing this scrambling skill. The idea is that the lead scrambler keeps any "second/s" as close to them as possible on a tight rope to prevent any slips. On easy terrain two or three people can "move together" without too much stopping, however, as soon as the leader is unable to maintain their own personal safety whilst doing this then a different approach must be adopted.

This different approach will see the leader "pitch" more difficult sections to get to a safe stance before "bringing up" the seconds. The "pitching" may be short steep steeps of no more than a metre or two in which case the leader will employ the use of a reservoir or hand coils to allow them to shorten or lengthen the distance between themselves and their seconds; or it may well be that some of the "chest coils" will be dropped in order to allow a long pitch to be ascended. If there is an risk of the leader falling - then techniques applicable to climbing must be used instead!

In the time that we had during this one day Scrambling Skills Training course in The Lake District, there was no way that Iain intended to allow the pair to get on to grade three terrain where climbing techniques might be needed.

After demonstrating "short roping" Iain coached Ioan and Charlotte in the techniques they would need to be able to effectively employ short roping themselves. We also looked at the various belaying techniques that would be used on steeper ground up to grade 2 in standard and these included indirect or body belays such as Ioan is using here in photo three to protect Charlotte during their ascent of East Rib on Tarn Crag in Langdale.

An indirect belay should be used where a braced "standing"stance would not provide suitable protection for either the leader or second in event of the second slipping; or in a situation where the leader is unable to arrange a more secure belay.

Where possible, scramblers should use the most secure belay possible in any situation and also one that can be arranged quickly. In photo four, Ioan uses such a belay to protect Charlotte on a short steep step toward the top of East Rib and this consisted of arranging the rope to run behind an upward projecting rock spike in a situation known as a direct belay.

Direct belays should be used on sound, solid rock; and therefore need a thorough inspection before being used - by means of kicking, pushing and pulling! If they make a noise or move - don't use them! Also, there most be no possibility of the rope coming off whilst loaded or being cut by the rock when in use.

Having topped out on Tarn Crag in a brief spell of clearer, sunnier weather, we spent some time practising the knots the pair will be likely to use when scrambling,also - how to arrange a counterbalanced abseil for retreat and how to properly coil a climbing rope before heading back down to the cars at the Sticklebarn Tavern - just as the heavens opened once again.

Both Ioan & Charlotte enjoyed their Scrambling Course in The Lake District with Iain and go away with some new skills to use in the mountains. They hope to return at some point to gain some experience of grade 3 ground with Iain who looks forward to seeing them again.

Autumn is a time of year when you can still enjoy scrambling as a great way to get to the top of a mountain so if you would like to book a day of guided scrambling with Iain or would like to learn the skills to go and scramble yourself then contact us here. We look forward to working with you.

Guided Rock Climbing days in The Lake District. October 17th 2013

Matthew Carroll and his girlfriend Marissa were indeed fortunate that the day which had been chosen for their Lake District Rock Climbing Course was one of only two perfect days we have had in the last fortnight.

As you can see in photo one, the weather was spot on - wall to wall blue sky & sunshine and as can happen in October, still warm enough to have a pleasant day out without needing to wrap up. Most important of all, the rock was dry!

Matthew had booked this rock climbing day with us as a birthday present for Marissa who didn't know what to expect when the couple met Iain at the Sticklebarn Car Park in Langdale.

Having discussed the pairs aspirations for the day and that they would like to be "guided" on a climb, Iain decided that Middlefell Buttress  (Diff) behind the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel would be a good place to start. Photo one is taken at the top of the first pitch of the route which has several start points and for a "Diff" climb - none of them are easy! You can read all about this route on Page 45 of the  FRCC Guide -  Lake District Rock.

Above the first pitch of Middlefell Buttress, the rock climbing feels easier; although as the climbing route is very popular with beginners wishing to make those steps from indoor climbing on a wall to learning traditional techniques (trad climbing) out of doors - parts of it are quite polished through a lot of use!

Photo two sees Matthew & Marissa approaching Iains stance on pitch three of the climb which is where the "crux" can be found. The crux refers to the hardest part of a climbing route - in this case an exposed move up a polished slab on to a ledge before moving left in to an easier and well protected chimney.

In photo two, Matthew is climbing the Chimney as Marissa makes the moves over the crux below. The rope work employed on this occasion was two climbers climbing in parallel - each on a separate rope thus allowing freedom of movement for each. Whilst Iain "took in" on both ropes as the pair climbed - Marissa had been asked to stay well back from Matthew to avoid injury if he slipped and landed on her. This was the pairs first day climbing outdoors and Iain didn't want to put them off!

Photo three is taken at the stance above pitch three. Both Marissa and Matthew found the position exhilarating to say the least - as they put it - hanging on a steep cliff!

The stance atop pitch three is good though - a big block to sit on, somewhere to put your feet and the ropes and a couple of good anchors with which to protect everyone so the couple were perfectly safe; and were so at all times.

As Iain was leading all pitches, it was essential that each climbers rope was reflaked so that the rope attached to Iain was coming off the top of the piles of rope between him and Matthew & Marissa. Having coached the pair in how to do this from the outset. Iain was about to head off up the next pitch.

That next pitch on Middlefell Buttess is more of a scramble than a climb so Iain had the pair up reasonably quickly; although having gotten them both to the broad grassy ledge at the top he had to return to the previous stance to extricate an anchor that had been a little two well placed for Marissa to remove. We could have done one final pitch but it was already approaching 2pm and the pair wanted to get some lunch.

There is a scrambling descent from the grassy ledge in to the gully that bounds the western side of Middlefell Buttress leading to the descent path. A convenient Rowan Tree around which is attached a large loop of abseil tat and a Maillon (karabiner) makes an ideal abseil descent which Iain considered a much safer option for the pair rather than back climbing, unprotected, down the steepest section.

In photo four, Marissa abseils towards Iains stance at the foot of the steepest section. After Matthew had abseiled down to join us, we scrambled down to the foot of the route for a late lunch and then called it a day.

Matthew & Marissa enjoyed their Introductory Rock Climbing Day in The Lake District and are keen to try a harder route next time. So we look forward to seeing them again in 2014.

If you would like to find out more information about the range of Lake District Rock Climbing Courses on offer to you by Kendal Mountaineering Services then contact us here, we look forward to working with you.