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.