Thursday 29 May 2014

Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lake District. May 24th 2014.

Unfortunately, the Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Course scheduled to run last weekend here in The Lake District didn't make the minimum numbers. However, Matt Applegarth - the only person booked on to this particular course and returning Client Adam Mitcheson were both keen to make something out of the opportunity to learn Navigation Skills. So, the pair agreed to book Iain's services to run a one day bespoke Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District instead on the Saturday; and with only two of them, Iain reckoned that he ought to be able to cover the entire syllabus with them in one day!

We began as usual by meeting in Staveley and then drove on to the parking place on nearby Hall Lane. We then commenced the session by orientating the map - essential  if you are going to be able to identify features from the map to the ground and a basic foundation of good map reading & navigation skills ettiquette.

We then discussed measuring distance and map scales and the detail that can be observed on each scale of map before pacing 100 metres to give the pair an idea of how to pace out measured distance on the ground. Following this, we set of on our route following the linear feature of Hall Lane to Park House and then the Bridleway from there on to Green Quarter Fell looking out for tick off features en route and identifying them as we went along.

By the time photo two was taken. We had progressed through finding a location on the map using 6 & 8 figure Grid References and were now walking on a bearing en route for an insignificant pool of water marked on the map. Up to this point, the pair had successfully picked up every map reading & navigation technique that Iain had shown them.

Being able to measure and then pace distance accurately, walk on a bearing accurately and know what the ground is going to be doing between points A & B are not easy skills to master, but Matt & Adam both picked them up well.

The pool of water in photo three was a 450 metre walk across featureless terrain and yet the pair were now able to walk straight to it without difficulty.

We also discussed how to use the compass to identify and verify an unknown feature from a known location. Other aspects of map reading & navigation discussed included the importance of attack points, "boxing" around an obstacle and checking your bearing through use of a back bearing. We finished off the day discussing Naismith's Rule for timings before heading back to the car.

The importance of Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training is being able to know where you are at all times - that way you will never get lost. By the end of the day Iain had complete confidence that Matt & Adam had acquired the necessary Navigation Skills to avoid this happening to them - too often! Never say never!

The good news for anyone interested is that our next scheduled Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District will be running at the £80 per person rate for the weekend course as we already have five persons booking on to this. That leaves another five places available so if you want to grab a place on this bargain course run by an experienced & enthusiastic Mountaineering Instructor then do so by contacting us here. We look forward to working with you.

Paddling & Pizzas on Derwentwater. May 21st, 2014.

Working in the outdoors is a very small industry and many of us work with each other whilst running our own businesses. Kendal Mountaineering Services calls on a trusted team of highly motivated, enthusiastic and experienced outdoor practitioners when looking for additional staff to work on our courses.

On occasion, we find ourselves working for another provider who has found themselves in the same position. On this occasion Iain was asked to work on Derwent Water along with other practitioners to look after a group of school children from Birmingham who were on a residential experience in the in the Borrowdale area. On this day, the plan was that they would paddled the length of Derwent Water in Canadian Canoes and stop for lunch making their very own pizzas on St Herbert's Island in the middle of the lake!

Helping the group develop their Canadian Canoeing Skills on Derwent Water was not a problem for Iain (he does it all the time!) however, the idea of making pizzas outdoors was definitely new to him - how were we going to bake them for a start??

Experienced outdoor practitioner Phil Brewer soon answered this question though. After a couple of hours open canoeing on Derwent Water and the Upper River Derwent, we all converged on St Herbert's Island at around the same time (there were three different groups with three of staff) and Iain was handed a large welded tray, some fire lighters and a large bag of charcoal and told to get a barbeque going.

In the meantime two Canadian Canoes had been upturned and wrapped in clingfilm to act as "preparation areas" before Phil gave the whole group a briefing on how to prepare their own pizzas (photo two).

All manner of raw pizza ingredients were made available to the group who had to set to in pairs to create a pizza shared one between two.

In the meantime, Iain had got a large pile of charcoal glowing nicely and giving out a lot of heat. Phil produced some deep baking tins into which we placed shallower (and slightly smaller tins upside down) and the raw pizzas were placed on to these. These trays were then placed on the barbeque and a lid fitted on to the top on to which some of the glowing charcoal was piled "to cook from above as well as below" as phil put it.

As can be seen from the expressions on the faces of these two delighted children the ovens worked remarkably well; and Iain was duly impressed - what a great way to spend a day Canadian Canoeing on Derwent Water and making fresh pizza for lunch on an island!

And what a great day it was too! Beautiful blue skies and sunshine were what we had to work in today although the strong southerly breeze blowing on to the lake from Borrowdale did make manoeuvring the canoes rather harder work than it might have been!

Still, a great time was had by all on this Canadian Canoeing Journey in The Lake District and lunch was great fun - there was time to explore the island too  and then finish off the day with some canoe games - or just generally get a soaking which was fine as it was quite warm out of the wind! The final photo of two rather brave lads standing up in their Canadian Canoe was taken just as we came in to land by Keswick Boat Landings at the end of the session. Great stuff!

If you are interested in spending some time on a Lake District Lake learning the skills of Canadian Canoeing then there are plenty of lakes to choose from and we will come to any to run your session. Prices start off at £45 per person for a half day (four hour) session and we provide you with all of the equipment to keep you warm, comfortable and safe as part of your fee - not to mention canoes & paddles of course! To book your Canadian Canoeing session in The Lake District contact us here. We look forward to providing you with a great experience.

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip May 2014. Day Four, Sgurr Nan Gillean to Bruach Na Frithe.

After our great day out on Day Three of Our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, we decided to have a day off. Doing three consecutive days on the ridge is more than enough for most people - especially as all three so far had been in excess of nine hours! Also, the weather was forecast to be wet on the Wednesday, so it was an ideal chance to take a break.

According to the MWIS Forecast, Thursday would be the better day to organize the groups final guided Cuillin Ridge day as Friday was forecast to be very windy - with rain arriving from the south west early in the afternoon.

Thursday was a cloudy day as can be seen in photo one. We knew it was unlikely that we would get decent views of the ridge and we didn't throughout the day. We went to the northern end of the ridge to attempt to gain the Munro summits of Sgurr Nan Gillean, Am Bastier and Bruach Na Frithe. We started by walking in to; and ascending, the South East Ridge of Sgurr Nan Gillean - known as "the tourist route". We had cloud and light rain along the way and a cold south westerly breeze as we approach the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean (photo two)
We didn't hang around on the top of Gillean. No great views of nearby Blabheinn or the ridge laid out to the south west for us today! Instead, it was rather cold & miserable as we descended the west ridge passing through the window en route and then taking time just below to rope everyone down a shoulder of unusual volcanic rock which is rather smooth and appears almost to be a type of conglomerate.

Today, this section was slippery and not a place for scrambling unroped (photo three) although Iain was happy to solo down it after having gotten the group down to safer ground.

Continuing down the West Ridge on the Lota Coire side - one eventually arrives at the point where the ridge narrows right in at the point where the gendarme used to be above Tooth Chimney. Most guides do here exactly what we did and that was to set up a stacked abseil from the big spike at the top in order that everyone can abseil safely down Tooth Chimney to the ledge (or rather snow bank in this instance!) at it's foot. Photo four sees Steve as he abseils towards Iain.

A stacked abseil involves the guide setting up the abseil rope from an anchor and attaching all clients to the abseil rope with their belay plates attached, but extended away from them by means of karabiners and a sling. The idea is that clients are safely attached to the abseil rope and cannot fall whilst waiting to abseil. The guide descends first and then holds the tails of the rope to prevent subsequent abseilers from plummeting whilst they descend. By using this method, everyone safely descended Tooth Chimney, pulling the rope down afterwards was very hard work though!

Once at the foot of Tooth Chimney, it is an easy walk out the the Bealach a' Bastier - the col between the West Ridge of Gillean and the next Munro Summit - Am Bastier. Am Bastier is an airy exposed arete sloping steeply down to Lota Coire and not great in the wet, so Iain decided to avoid it today. Instead, we descended under the north side of Am Bastier and ascended towards the Bealach Nan Lice. Photo five sees us ascending one of a number of large snow banks on our way to the Bealach Nan Lice - winter skills training! Once at the bealach, we were at the summit of Bruach na Frithe within ten minutes and this marked our final Munro summit and final summit of this particular Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip.

Due to the sheer volume of old Winter snow Iain could see in Fionn Coire, he decided that the best thing to do was to return by way of the snowfields and descend into Coire a Bastier and make our way out from there back to the Sligachan Hotel from where we had started the day.

As we descended into Coire a Bastier, the weather started to clear and the cloud lifted to reveal Glamaig and the Red Cuillin, Loch Sligachan and distant Raasay. Looking back up into the upper corrie the Pinnacle Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean came into view.

Back at "The Slig" we discovered they had no such thing as free Wifi so that Iain could check the MWIS Forecast for Friday to ascertain whether or not it might be possible to give the group an extra day attempting the Inaccessible pinnacle. So, it was in & straight back out again to head for the Old Inn at Carbost where we spent our beer money and Iain could discover that it would not, after all, be fit for an attempt on the In Pin the next day after all.

Friday would therefore be another rest day before we all had to depart the cottage on Saturday morning; and, in fact, two of our group chose to depart south on the Friday morning. The rest of us remained in the area and spent a great final evening in the Old Inn in Carbost before reluctantly departing Skye on Saturday morning.

Without doubt the May 2014 Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip was a success. OK - we didn't manage a complete traverse of the ridge and missed out on gaining two of the Munro summits, but our group were very happy with what was achieved during the week and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Iain must thank them for playing a big part in making it another successful trip to Skye & The Cuillin Ridge and for working well together and providing each other with lashings of great food - and plenty of beer!

Our next Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip will take place between September 6th & 13th 2014 and there are still 6 places available on this trip at a cost of £425 for seven nights self catering accommodation and four days of guiding on the Cuillin Ridge included as part of the fee. An absolute bargain and a great experience - contact us to book your place now. We look forward to working with you on Skye.

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, May 2014. Day three. Sgurr A' Mhadaidh to Sgurr Na Banachdich.

As per the MWIS Forecast, the third day of our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip dawned bright and sunny. The first photograph is of the northern end of the Cuillin Ridge as viewed from the road from Carbost to Glen Brittle - stunning!

A few hours later, photo two was taken in the upper part of Coire a' Ghreadaidh as we made good progress towards the notch in the ridge known as An Dorus (the door) our next entry point on to the Cuillin Ridge.

Group members from left to right are Donald (Don), Al, Steve, Helen and Alison.

As today was going to be the best day of the week, Iain decided that this was the day to attempt the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh to Sgurr na Banachdich Traverse. The crest of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh is one of the most exposed and trickiest sections of the ridge to complete and is best done in calm, dry conditions which is what we had today. Doing the route - this time from a north to south direction would give us a chance to attain Sgurr na Banachdich - often regarded as the mid point of the ridge and the Munro summit we had been unable to do the previous day due to the weather.

Photo three was taken from the Summit of the next Munro to the north of An Dorus - Sgurr a Mhadaidh. From here the view is looking south towards Sgurr a Ghreadaidh (big snow patches below the summit).

Right behind our group is the summit of Sgurr Dearg (in cloud) and just left of the group - the summits of Sgurrs Thearlaich, Alasdair and Sgumain.

From here we dropped back down to where we had dumped our bags and then dropped into the narrow slot that is An Dorus donning helmets & harnesses in readiness for the climb out of the gap on the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh side that should be done roped.

At An Dorus, one of our party - Steve, decided not to continue with us along the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh/na Banachdich traverse considering that he was already at his limit. We waited as he descended An Dorus to safer terrain before continuing on-wards up the climb, past the Eag Dubh (The Black Cleft) and The Wart, arriving at the Summit of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh (photo four) in very good time.

Here, we enjoyed lunch out of the cool breeze on the east side of the ridge with stunning views down into Coire Uisge and Loch Coruisk. What a great day it was!

Photo five shows our route along the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh arete from the main summit. There is a south summit which must be attained before a gradual descent is made towards the bealach where one starts to ascend to the next summit - Sgurr Thormaid.

Getting from the north summit to the south involves a descent to a col and then either a tricky ascent up a notched, polished and exposed part of the ridge (the crux of the route) or a rightwards traverse to gain a chimney leading up and avoiding the exposed section; although using this route also involves considerable care! Once at the south summit, a gradual descent is made - at first on the airy exhilarating crest though after a few hundred metres it is possible to gain a path which follows along below the crest on the west side of the ridge. Beyond the circular stone shelter avoid the next bit of arete by traversing under it's east side and beyond - the summit of Sgurr Thormaid is quickly reached. A more exposed scrambling descent on Thormaid's western flank leads to easier ground and further scrambling up a scree filled couloir leads to the summit of Sgurr Na Banachdich.

The five of us managed to put the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh/Sgurr na Banachdich Traverse behind us in under two hours - but the conditions really were superb. Warm sunshine, friendly dry Gabbro and Basalt and only a light westerly breeze were our companions on the route - with stunning views for miles in all directions. Iain spent the afternoon gazing hard beyond North Uist for St Kilda - yes you really can see it on a clear day despite it being some 80 miles distant from where we were! You couldn't see it today unfortunately.

Photo six was taken by Alison and shows Iain with Don, Al & Helen - plus the southern end of The Cuillin Ridge, pretty much most of which we had already done.

Photo seven sees us all on our  descent route back to the vehicles at  Glen Brittle Youth Hostel down Coire An Each. This route, whilst being a little arduous in descent or ascent is one of the easiest ways on to the ridge and the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich. For the masochists amongst us the alternative is an ascent or descent via the ridge/spur of Sgurr Nan Gobhar seen above the group. During his first traverse of The Cuillin Ridge - a two day affair done during the Summer of 1990 Iain & his climbing partner went via this route when going to Sgurr na Banachdich to dump water for their planned 2 day traverse of the ridge and whilst he has been that way once since isn't planning to do it again!

It had been a lovely warm dry day and down in Glen Brittle it was positively hot! As usual, when getting towards the end of a day on the Cuillin Ridge ones feet start to complain vociferously about being contained in boots all day and were were all rather hot and a bit sweaty.

We had started the day by following the Allt Coire a'Ghreadaidh up into the corrie and shortly after setting off Alison had noted a pretty looking deep green pool full of bubbles - just like a Jacuzzi! On the way back she couldn't resist diving in for a swim; and the other three followed suit. They were all a bit braver than Iain though who merely cooled his feet off instead, it was a really good idea though!

Iain is seriously considering taking wet suits etc for the next trip and offering gorge walking in an off day for his next group as the gorge upstream of the Youth Hostel looks like a great venue for this activity - Gorge Walking in The Cuillins!

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, May 2014. Day two. Sgurr Mhic Choinnich to Sgurr Dearg.

Day two of our Guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip found our group back in Glen Brittle after a good nights sleep in our comfortable cottage and a fantastic meal provided by members of our group. Even so, Iain, at least, found himself feeling a little battered after our previous strenuous day. There is a lot to be done and a lot to consider when looking after five people whilst route finding and guiding on The Cuillin Ridge.

Our plan for day two was to return to Coire Lagan almost picking up where we had left off the previous day. On the walk in, we passed the beautiful Eas Mor Waterfall (photo one) on the Allt Coire na Banachdich.

Our route took us past this waterfall and under the West ridge of Sgurr Dearg back into Coire Lagan where we stopped for a break and some food. Following this we ascended the r/h side of the notorious An Stac Screes getting off then as quickly as possible and skirting the rocks en route for the Bealach Coire Lagan. We did gain some amusement watching others ascending the scree - taking three steps forward and sliding two steps back.

At the bealach, after a further break, we donned helmets & harnesses as we set off along the west ridge of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich - the next Munro summit along the ridge beyond Sgurr Alasdair. A complete traverse would have involved re-ascending the Great Stone Chute and then continuing along Sgurr Thearlaich which is particularly treacherous when wet and then ascending Sgurr Mhic Choinnich via the climb of Kings Chimney or the traverse of Collies (Harts) Ledge. However, in the conditions (sunny spells & showers) Iain felt that his planned route was the safest option.

Photo two sees the group at the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich.

On our return along the west ridge of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (also part of the main ridge and the Cuillin Ridge Traverse) Iain took this photo (three) of the group and the view towards our next intended Munro summit - Sgurr Dearg where the Inaccessible Pinnacle, the true top of the mountain could be seen.

At this point in the day (about 2pm already!), the weather cleared out again and we had partial views of the northern end of the Cuillin Ridge and Blabheinn to the east - another Munro summit and part of the Greater Cuillin Traverse. Cloud continued to move in from the west, but things were brightening up - so it looked like an ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle would be a possibility!

The Inaccessible Pinnacle (photo four) forms the true summit of the Munro top of Sgurr Dearg. Seen from a northerly or southerly aspect, this rock feature rears up from the back of Sgurr Dearg like a giant fin. Seen from its eastern aspect the "In Pin" appears as a narrow knife edge arete of rock balanced on its basalt plinth and it is up this route (the East Ridge) that most guided ascents take place.

Graded Moderate, the route is about 70m long and involves climbing a short chimney before moving out right on to the steep crest of the route (the crux) with the angle eventually easing as one approaches the perched boulders at the top of the climb.

The way down is seen here in photo four via a stacked abseil from the large leftward pointing balanced boulder (The Bolster Stone) where an abseil station (chain) is located. The abseil is actually very easy but appears really challenging to the novice although, it is only 18 metres in height. Many years ago Iain soloed up and down this western side in big boots although he wouldn't do it now. That was in 1986 and the holds were much better and less polished than now. Also a big flake that was there at the time has now vanished making this shorter climb a lot harder!

We arrived at the foot of the climb up the East Ridge of the Inn Pin and geared up ready for the ascent, but Iain was unnerved by a wall of cloud moving in from the north where it was clearly raining quite hard.

The In Pin is climbable in the wet although it is obviously a less pleasant experience for clients. Also, a risk of lightning had been mentioned in the MWIS Forecast for today. As we watched the approaching squall Iain became aware of a slight buzzing in the atmosphere - a sign of static in the air heralding the possibility of lightning and the In Pin is not a place to be in such conditions, so we packed up. As we headed over the top of Sgurr Dearg, the static got worse and so Iain made the decision that we should lose height as quickly as possible. In photo five the effects of the static charge on Helen's hair can be seen if you look closely - it was quite literally standing on end!

As disappointing as it was, the onset of such conditions precluded our remaining on the ridge any longer, so not only were we unable to climb the Inaccessible Pinnacle, but it was also considered unwise to continue on to the next Munro summit of Sgurr Na Banachdich.

We descended the convoluted route down into Coire Na Banachdich weaving our way between the steep rock buttresses between the summit and the corrie floor and eventually arriving at the water slide and inviting looking pool in photo six. During the descent, the weather did not get worse but in fact got better; although by now there was no way we were going back up to the ridge again as it was already getting on for 6pm!
The final photo of day two on our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip is one taken from the back door our the cottage after it had turned into a lovely evening. From Iains perspective, sunset over Loch Bracadale and McLeods Tables is one of the best views in the world and one which draws him back to Skye time and again - along with the exhilaration that The Cuillin Ridge provides and the views out west to the Outer Hebrides and east to the mainland and the Scottish Highlands on a good day.

Whilst today had been a little disappointing in terms of achievement, it had still been an exhilarating day and a great experience for the group. The weather forecast was promising a much better forecast for the next day!

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, May 2014. Day one. Sgurr Nan Eag to Sgurr Alasdair.

Every year we try to run two visits to the Isle of Skye to guide clients along the traverse of the Cuillin Ridge. The Cuillin are unique in so much that the rock type - Gabbro is to be found nowhere else in the UK. The Cuillin Ridge Traverse is a 13km long route following the ridge which is, in essence, the rim of a great volcanic caldera. This rim had been weathered and eroded to create what is, for much of it's length, a knife edged arete with precipitous drops on either side with deep notches along the way which have to be abseiled into and climbed out of. En route, there are 11 Munro summits (3000 feet + Scottish Peaks) that can be gained.

We had five clients booked to join us for this guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse led by Iain; and for him it was great to be back as the last time we were on the Skye Cuillin was September 2012.

The weather forecast was mixed for the first two days of this particular Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, so with Iain's knowledge of the Cuillin Ridge he decided to take the group to the southern end of the ridge for day one. Whilst the Gabbro rock of which the ridge is largely composed is still very grippy in the wet, the Basalt rock with which the Gabbro is interposed can be very slippery. The southern end of the ridge is less serious terrain and the Munro tops of which there are three, are easily attainable even in the wet.

Photo one sees Iain's group on this particular Cuillin Ridge Traverse as we ascended towards our first Munro - Sgurr Nan Eag from Coire a' Ghrunnda with Loch Coire a' Ghrunnda below. The second photo was taken some time later as we ascended to easy chimney en route for the summit of Sgurr Alasdair - the highest of all the Munro tops on The Cuillin Ridge.

Photo three sees Iain's group at the top of The Great Stone Chute of Coire Lagan as we started our descent into that corrie. Beyond the group, you can see the ridge continuing on to Sgurr Dearg, Sgurr Na Banachdich and far right - Sgurr a Ghreadaidh.

To get to this point today we had already climbed Sgurr Nan Eag from Coire a' Ghrunnda and then traversed under Sgurr Dubh an da Bheinn to gain the second Munro top of Sgurr Dubh Mor. We had then ascended Sgurr Dubh an da Bheinn before dropping down and traversing around under the cliffs of Sgurr Alasdair to gain the easy ascent route avoiding the Thearlaich/Dubh Gap - allowing us to reach the summit of Sgurr Alasdair.

The Great Stone Chute of Coire Lagan is definitely a route for descent and not ascent! It is composed of extremely loose scree and rock and is over a kilometre long. You'll be doing well if you manage to remain upright all the way as you pick your way down it's length! The best idea is to try and stick to the runs of small stones into which you can "heel plunge" to retain stability - that said you'll still be bound to slip over backwards at some point.

By using this route were were able to descend from the col at it's head into Coire Lagan in around half an hour (photo four). However, the descent is far from over as you still have an other 1500 feet of descent and 3 kilometres to get back to the vehicles parked at sea level in Glen Brittle!

Photo five from this post about our first day out during our May 2014 guided Cuillin Ridge Traverse sees the group relieved but satisfied after our long day out ( we had left here around 9am and didn't get back til gone 8pm!) We had managed  the southern section of the ridge and had managed to attain three Munro summits along the way.

Today the group had experienced what the rest of the week would offer - strenuous hill walking and scrambling, sometimes exposed and low grade rock climbing. The weather through the day had been mixed with cloud obscuring views at times and light rain through to exhilarating views of the ridge and across The Minch to the Outer Hebrides.

A typical May day on The Cuillin Ridge then!

Technical Advisory Services from Kendal Mountaineering Services. Gordale Scar, Malham. May 7th 2014.

As well as providing all manner of Outdoor Activity Sessions and Skills Training Courses in The Lake District, Wales & Scotland, we are also able to provide Technical Advisory and Assessment Services for other providers of Outdoor Activities.

Today was the second time that Iain's role as a Technical Advisor had been requested by Rock & River Outdoor Pursuits of Mawdesley, Lancashire. Following a recent inspection by the Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) the recommendation had been made by the inspector that all instructors using the Gordale Scar venue at Malham should be assessed by a Mountaineering Instructor under various criteria to be awarded a Statement of Competence (SOC). SOCs are a document accepted by AALA as proof of an instructors competence when working at specific venues - in this case Goredale Scar.
Iain went along to meet the group from Rock & River  along with their two instructors Jon and Barry. The group were doing a circular walk from Malham up to Goredale Scar via Janet's Foss and then over to a point above Malham Cove before returning to the vehicles.

The weather was cool and rather wet with a southerly wind blowing and creating it's own set of problems in so much that it was funneling up Gordale and blasting up the waterfall at the scar (the venue for the assessment and photo one of this post) making it a cold wet & miserable place to be - a risk in itself.

Iain's role as assessor today was to check both instructors knowledge of the venue with regards to hazard recognition and risk assessment and to see how they managed their clients on the pitch at Gordale Scar (photo two) through efficient and appropriate belay techniques and the use of correct equipment.

It was quite clear to Iain that both Jon and Barry were experienced instructors who had worked at this particular venue on a number of occasions and were conversant with the associated risks. These included risks due to stone fall, high water levels in Goredale Beck and the cold wet & windy conditions experienced today when the wind was actually blowing water back up the waterfall!

The group were got into waterproofs to protect them from the wet and wind, donned helmets to protect against stone fall and then were moved one by one from a safe area below the waterfall, belayed up the climb and then directed to another safe area out of the wind. Barry & Jon did a great job of managing each individual up the climb and then escorting them to a safe place above the gorge rim where  helmets & harnesses were removed (photo three).

Iain was satisfied that the two instructors had demonstrated competence in all areas of consideration and was happy to write a Statement of Competence for each of them. Job done and everyone satisfied!

If, as a requirement of your AALA License you are required to find a person to assess your instructional Staff for Statements of Competence then contact us to arrange your assessment. We look forward to working with you.

Saturday 3 May 2014

Guided Scrambling & Climbing on The Cuillin Ridge. May 26th - 30th 2014. Special offer.

For any one interested in attempting climbing, scrambling or even a complete traverse of The Cuillin Ridge on The Isle of Skye, the following offer is available. This is a one off and will take place only between Monday May 26th and Friday May 30th 2014 when one of our associate instructors Neil Mackay will be in the area.

Neil is available to provide any of the above during these five days at a rate of only £130 per day for two persons. Neil can be contacted on 07977 632137 or by email at

Neil is currently undergoing training to become a IFMGA Mountain Guide and has considerable experience of mountaineering in the European Alps and guiding in Nepal. He has also completed a winter traverse of The Cuillin Ridge and knows the area well.

As well as undertaking a Cuillin Ridge Traverse which can be done in as little as two days with an overnight bivouac there are some 11 Munro summits that can be attained. The trickiest of these is the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Sgurr Dearg which can only be reached by an exposed and polished Diff standard rock climb and escaped from by means of an abseil. Weather permitting it should be possible to ascend the "In Pinn" and other nearby Munroes such as Sgurr Na Banachdich and Sgurr Mhic Choinnich in one day if you are looking for individual days of guiding on The Cuillin Ridge.
As well as guided Munro Bagging and scrambling courses, Neil will also be available to guide people on some of the Cuillin Ridge's Classic Rock Climbs.

You may have an ambition to climb to the top of the Famous Cioch Buttress on Sron Na Ciche in Coire Lagan via routes such as Cioch Direct (Severe 4a) or via The Terrace and one of the routes on the Cioch Slab such as Arrow Route (V Diff). Why not continue with an ascent of  Wallworks Route (V Diff) or Integrity ( Mild VS) on the Cioch Upper Buttress to arrive on the summit of Sron Na Ciche?
Neil will be on hand to arrange the climbing adventure of your choice.

So for only £130 per day you can be guided along the Cuillin Ridge or up many of the scrambling routes leading on to the crest of the ridge.

You can also choose to go rock climbing for the day - contact Neil to discuss your aspirations, what equipment you will need; and what Neil will provide you with as part of your fee.

Neil may also be prepared to offer climbing outwith The Cuillin Ridge at venues such as Neist Point and as a separate but classic scrambling traverse you may want to consider the Clach Glas Traverse to Blaven.

Neil holds public Liability Insurance to the value of £10,000,000 and, as indicated, is willing to provide you with days out of your choice for only £130 per day. As already stated, this offer runs from Monday 26th May to Friday 30th May. Please contact Neil directly to make your booking.

Half day Navigation Skills Training Course in The Lake District. Friday, May 2nd 2014.

Martin Harris booked a half day Navigation Skills Training Course with us quite some time ago. Together with his mate Marvin ( in the red fleece), he traveled over from East Yorkshire, enjoyed a night in Ambleside and then met Iain in Staveley at our usual meeting point outside of Wilf's Cafe on Friday morning.

Iain took the pair to Green Quarter Fell starting via the usual route up Hall Lane to Park House (photo one). Along the way Iain stressed the importance of correctly orientating the map using the compass, We also discussed the merits of the various map scales as well as measuring and pacing distance as we proceeded along Hall Lane, past Park House and on to the bridleway leading on to Green Quarter Fell - identifying tick off features en route.

Martin & Marvin both turned up with a GPS each however, the emphasis of our Lake District Navigation Skills Training Courses are to give you the basic skills to find your way around using a map & compass only.

The pair thoroughly enjoyed Iain's input in getting them to identify from the map to ground and also from ground to map and Martin, in particular, found learning this skill most rewarding.

By the time photo two was taken, we had gone on to discuss how to find a location on the map using Grid References and how to use the compass to take; and then walk on a bearing.

Time flew as it always seems to on our Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lake District - but the pair had only booked a half day. We had time to cover just a few more legs using pacing and the compass and we also had to "box" around a marsh as well.

So despite only having a half day out map reading with Iain, the pair were given a lot of Navigation Skills input and were fortunately able to pick things up quickly. They were both very satisfied with what was covered in the available time.

If you would like a bespoke half day Navigation Skills Training Session in The Lake District then we will happily run one for you but would really recommend a full day out. However, if you want to get best value then you should consider booking on to one of our weekend courses run (provided we get a minimum of four persons booking) at only £80 each for the weekend course. Check out our website here for details!

Kayak Journey on Windermere. Kayaking session in The Lake District. May 1st 2014

Last Thursday, Iain spent a day Kayaking on Windermere with returning client Colin Brook.

Colin first contacted Iain way back in February wanting to relearn kayaking skills due to his impending participation in an adventure race across Ireland. On that occasion Iain took Colin for a Kayaking Skills Training Session on Rydal Water - a picturesque lake between Ambleside & Grasmere.

Colin then returned a fortnight later wanting to get some mileage under his belt - again in a Kayak. This time, we went to Waterhead near Ambleside and paddled down Windermere almost reaching Belle Island before crossing the lake and heading back north covering about four miles in four hours which Iain didn't think was bad.

Photo one from this post sees Iain (left) & Colin on Thursday morning about to get in at Fell Foot at the south end of Windermere. The plan on this occasion was to paddle the whole length of the Lake - some 11.23 miles to Waterhead at the north end!

We set off at about 09:50 from Fell foot. Fortunately for us Iain's partner Kirstin was off work that day so dropped us off with the proviso that Iain would give her a call when we reached Bowness on Windermere - a little more than halfway along our Kayak journey. We would then be collected by Kirstin, later on, at Waterhead.

Conditions for kayaking were good for the first half of the journey with our being sheltered from any easterly breeze by the high ground running north from Gummers How. In only  about an hour & a half we were already approaching our midway point. Photo two sees Colin just south of the Temple of the Heroes next to Storrs Hall - just south of Bowness on Windermere.

At about mid-day, we pulled up outside of the National Parks Lake Wardens HQ at Ferry Nab where Steve Phelps - a mate of Iain's greeted us with a hot brew and spent some time with us whilst we had lunch. Just before 12:30, we were off again - noticing that the easterly wind had now picked up considerably!

This wind was to make life quite a bit harder for us during the remainder of our Kayak Journey on Windermere - trying to paddle north up the lake in what was now, at times, quite a strong cross-wind. However, we soldiered on and still made good time arriving only about 40 minutes later at Waterhead than Iain said we would - but that was definitely only because of the wind! Photo three sees Colin & Iain both a bit pooped after our harder second half of our Lake District Kayak Journey on Windermere but very satisfied indeed with our time of only around four hours of journeying.

Colin should go on to manage that 16 miles on his Irish Adventure Race with ease we think and we certainly wish him all the very best. We may see him again as his next challenge is to go journeying on rivers in New Zealand so he may be back to learn some moving water skills with Iain soon.

Kendal Mountaineering Services offer half day and full day Kayaking Sessions in The lake District and prices start from £45 per person. You can enjoy a fun filled activity session with us on any of The Lake Districts Lakes, learn kayaking skills to be able to go off and kayak on your own or if you wish - join us on a journey either on a lake - as Colin did; or on one of the areas rivers instead. So, there are many possibilities for kayaking for you, you family or friends. Give us a call to arrange your Lake District Kayaking activity session. We look forward to working with you.