Thursday 18 July 2013

Lake District based Scrambling Skills Training courses. July 12th 2013.

A few days after working in Yorkshire, Iain was back in The Lake District mountains with private clients Heath & Alison Ralphson who had arrived in the area for a weekend of hill walking.

Heath & Alison are keen to spend more time in the outdoors and particularly enjoy hillwalking. They were also keen to learn the basics of scrambling to allow them to enjoy some of the more adventurous routes to the top of some of the Lake District peaks. Striding Edge on Helvellyn was mentioned as one future objective.
The pair only had one day available for their Lake District based Scrambling Course and as they were only intending to be attempting  grade 1 or 2 scrambles at the outset, Iain felt that he ought to be able to give them the basics skills for these grades in one day.

We started our scrambling day with Iain showing the pair the techniques of spotting (photo one) So what is scrambling anyway? Well, it can be described as a technique used midway between walking and rock climbing where one is moving largely on rock of an easy angle and requiring the use of one or more hands. On easy ground, one can often make good progress merely by the hands on action of assisting each other purely by holding each others feet in place or using hands & a braced stance to prevent the person climbing (or descending) from slipping & falling.

Photo two shows Iain demonstrating the technique of short roping to Heath & Alison. As a rule of thumb, once there is the chance of a slip turning in to something more serious one should consider using a rope to provide security and scramblers use a climbing rope shortened by taking coils around their body to reduce the length of the rope between them and any seconds - the shorter the rope, the less likelihood of a slip turning in to a fall!
Having coached the pair with regards to spotting and having demonstrated short roping and basic belaying techniques - it was now time to get the rope on them so that they could put all of what had been shown already, into practise.

In photo three, Heath uses a Direct Belay (rock anchor) to safeguard Alison who could be either climbing up or down the short steep step below. The rope is kept tight by means of using the rock spike (around which the rope is run) to provide friction & security and this was only one of a number of belay techniques that Iain showed the pair how to use on their Lake District Scrambling Course.

The importance with any direct belay employed is that the rock used must be of high integrity, ie a solid part of the surrounding rock. it must not be loose otherwise there is a danger of it failing when loaded with a persons weight and also, there must be no chance of the rope being able to come off the anchor. The rock spike used in photo three satisfied all of these essential criteria and Heath was able to maintain the rope around the rock by holding it down on both sides of the anchor.
As with all of our skills training courses, it is crucial  to get plenty of practise an there is nothing to beat a " hands on" approach. Having given Heath & Alison the skills to move together on ground of up to Grade 2, it was only right that Iain gave the pair the opportunity to put it all together on on appropriate scramble and we chose to do this on The Spur - a great little scramble on Tarn Crag. Details of this route can be found in the Cicerone Guide Scrambles Lake District South by R Brian Evans
On this route heath had to employ a number of belaying techniques and the final photo of the day shows him using an indirect or body belay to safeguard Alison up what would be the second to last pitch of the scramble. The pairs plans the following day were to climb Scafell Pike which we hope thay achieved although once again, it was going to be a scorching day and as such the pair were advised to set off very early. Both heath & Alison enjoyed their scrambling course in The Lake District with Iain and plan to return in the future to gain the skills to progress to grade 3 routes. Other photos from this day can be viewed here.

Scrambling as a great way to get the the top of any mountain. If you would like to learn the skills for yourself then contact Iain here. The cost is only £75 per person for an eight hour day such as the one that Heath & Alison enjoyed with us.

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