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.