Wednesday 11 September 2013

Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District. September 3rd & 4th 2013

The last two posts have been about some of our Lake District Outdoor Activity Sessions. Here people can come along and try out a particular sport - you  be provided with the equipment necessary to enjoy the activity and supervised by our qualified & experienced staff team. The aim - to give you a great session that you'll never forget!

However, we also run skills training courses for those people who want to take up a sport and learn the skills necessary to be able to go enjoy  themselves - ultimately without qualified supervision.

Helen & Donald McDonald were two such people who booked on to a two day Scrambling Skills Course in The Lake District with us.

Scrambling could be described as ground that is harder than walking but easier than Rock Climbing. Scrambles that are Grade 1 are easy angled such as that in photo one where people can make safe progress merely by helping each other up steeper steps using a technique called "spotting" where one holds feet in place or presses into the body or back person in front to prevent them from falling off. Usually the person at the rear will be the more competent scrambler.

As the angle of the rock increases one moves onto scrambling terrain graded at 2 or 3. As soon as there is the "possibility of  a slip turning into something more serious" then one should consider employing the use of a rope.

In photo two, Helen is set up ready to "short rope" Donald who is attached at the other end of the climbing rope. The climbing rope is shortened by taking "chest coils" around the body of the leader. In this photo, Helen has "locked off" the chest coils to ensure that they cannot be pulled tight around her body/neck.

Between the leader and second the leader will also have a "reservoir" of half a dozen or more hand coils that can be paid out or taken in depending on the angle of the ground being traversed. The idea of short roping is that a tight rope can be maintained between the leader and second with the hand coils giving the leader the option to lengthen out or shorten the distance between the them & the second.

In photo three Donald can be seen employing a technique known as an "indirect" or "body" belay. This and other belay techniques are to be used when a braced stance and taking in hand over hand will not suffice to hold a slip on ground that is towards the top end of grade two in category.

Here the leader has adopted a braced stance sitting down with heels dug into the ground and braced against a forward pull. The rope is taken around the body and then taken in as one would with a belay plate. In this case the "live" rope is in Donald's left hand and the "dead" rope in his right. To take the rope in - he pulls in with his left hand and pushes out with his right whilst gripping the rope with both hands. He then slides his left hand back up the live rope whilst not letting go the dead rope with his other hand and grips both ropes together allowing him to slide his hand on the dead rope back to it's starting point by his right hip and is immediately then in the position to take in again! It needs to be added that one generally has a twist of rope around the wrist of the hand holding the dead rope NEVER do this on the live side as a person falling suddenly could injure your wrist!

The final photo from day one of Helen & Donald's Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District is a view straight down the route (Long Crag above Coniston) that we had used throughout the day to cover the scrambling syllabus.

In this photo Donald is using a "direct" belay in this case a large & solid projection of rock around which it is possible to run the rope without the danger of it sliding off the top - indeed this "spike" belay actually has a projection (on the side nearest the camera) that will definitely prevent the rope "coming off" in this instance.

Direct belays such as this are a quick & easy way of safeguarding a second - however, they must be checked for soundness ie not riddled with cracks and actually a solid part of the surrounding rock. They should be kicked, pulled & pushed to check integrity and you must also not have any sharp edges that will cut your rope or sling! Any sort of movement and you need to find or consider another type of belay technique!

Other forms of direct belay include arranging a sling over a spike such as this or threading through a gap between rocks and joining with an HMS (pear shaped karabiner and used in conjuction with an Italian Hitch to safeguard seconds. Also, a well placed Wallnut or Torque nut can be used directly with an HMS Karabiner/Italian Hitch. Do not use camming devices in this manner though.

If you have doubts about your own safety on an exposed stance whilst belaying a second then you are better off arranging two anchors and tying in to them and then belaying using a belay device as in a "semi direct" belay. Semi direct belays are used on grade three routes and rock climbing (moderate & above) when you need to make yourself safe and one direct belay or anchor will not suffice. The leader must stay safe at all times!

The first photo from day two sees Donald leading off up the delightful scramble of Low Water Beck (grade 3). Iain had decided the previous day that with the pairs progress; and the good forecast that their second day should entail getting to the top of a mountain linking scrambles and Low Water Beck can be linked with Brim Fell Rib (grade 2) to make a delightful way of getting to the top of the Old Man of Coniston.

Firstly, Iain handed the pair his copy of RB Evan's Lake District Scrambles South (Cicerone) and asked them to get him to the foot of Low Water Beck and then proceed climbing the route - just as they will have to when they buy their own scrambling guides!

The scramble of Low Water Beck starts off by climbing up into the water course to below the waterfall and then scrambling up right to the top of a rock nose. From here the scramble follows the r/h edge of the ravine of the beck with an interesting exposed step at the top on to easier ground. The route then follows the left & right hand sides of the watercourse to within about 200m of Low Water taking in pretty much all of the rock along the way.

Donald led the first half of the route arranging appropriate belays and using appropriate techniques being coached by Iain along the way. Helen led the upper half of the scramble and can be seen in photo six protecting Donald using the rope around a good direct belay as he climbs towards her.

The pair had possibly been a little apprehensive about the idea of going straight to grade three ground after their training day on Long Crag the previous day, but Iain confident that they would be fine and they were. Both scrambled well and did a very good job of looking after one another.
We had finished Low Water Beck by early afternoon with time still to do Brim Fell Rib.

This delightful route bounds up to the north west of Low Water and after a short walk up to the foot of a broad buttress, the scrambling once again commences with the initial buttress being the steepest and largest one of the route.

Again, Donald led the route and it was necessary to "pitch" the first buttress which he did by bringing Helen up to a ledge with a direct belay around a spike to which she was secured on arrival. Donald then led the second part and used a direct belay at the top on safe ground consisting of a wallnut/HMS karabiner and Italian Hitch. Above here the route follows a line of rock steps on its way to the final steep skyline with expanses of grass in between. In photo seven Donald safeguards Helen up one of these steps using a body (indirect) belay. Low Water is in the background with Coniston Water way in the distance.

The final photo from this two day Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District sees the couple well satisfied with the days adventure.

Iain's delivery of the scrambling skills syllabus the previous day involved demonstrations by him and subsequent practice by the pair in a progressive manner and covered all the techniques with regards to how to deal with ground from grade one through to three. All of the syllabus was covered on the first day and both Donald & Helen absorbed the information well. Iain was under no doubt that his plan for day two was appropriate and as it turned out, the plan couldn't have been better.

From Iain's perspective, it was nice to be able to solo a couple of great scrambles and coach Helen & Donald where necessary. It was a great way to consolidate their learning from the previous day. Apparently on the following day they went out and Solo'd Jacks Rake above Stickle Tarn on The Langdale Pikes - another classic scrambling tick on every scramblers list and are looking forward to adding an appropriate scrambling rack to the rest of the kit they have......and getting out there scrambling! We wish them the best of luck with this.

Our Outdoor Sports Skills Training Courses in The Lake District are some of the best work that we do and include courses for Map Reading & Navigation, Scrambling and climbing in Summer & Winter, Kayaking, Canadian Canoeing and Caving.

Contact us if you are interested in learning the techniques for any of the above to be able to go out and do them yourself. We look forward to working with you.

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