Friday 12 September 2014

Lake District based Scrambling Skills Training Courses. 9th & 10th September 2014.

Last Tuesday & Wednesday, Iain ran a Scrambling Skills Training course in The Lake District for Russell Cullen and his father Stephen.

Stephen, now retired, thoroughly enjoys spending time in the mountains and particularly enjoys scrambling - which he often goes off and does on his own.

Russell had bought one of our Activity Gift Vouchers last Christmas for his Dad as he thought that  it would be an ideal way of making sure that Stephen gained some proper tuition in the skills required for safe scrambling. He then decided to join his Dad on this course. Photo one sees the pair enjoying some easy scrambling on Tarn Crag in langdale and practising the skill of "Spotting" that is to keep each other safe by the use of hands to prevent a slip or fall - generally all that is required on this type of scrambling terrain.

We spent the morning and early afternoon of the pairs first day on an easy grade one buttress looking at all of the skills required for safe scrambling. Having started with Spotting, we then moved on to "Short Roping" which is used on steeper terrain where spotting alone would be ineffective and where a slip could definitely turn into something more serious.

Short roping does, as the name implies, involve using a short length of climbing rope attached between a scrambling pair - kept tensioned by the lead scrambler to protect the second as they climb steeper sections of scrambling terrain.

Of course, the leader has to remain safe themselves whilst providing this tension (known as belaying). Sometimes, merely a braced stance - pulling in the rope hand over hand will do, but sometimes a more secure method of belaying is needed on steeper rock to prevent the leader from being pulled off by a falling second. In photo two, Russell uses a direct belay to lower Stephen down a short steep rock section.

Whilst short roping, we practised the various options of belaying available for use by the pair. These included an indirect or body belay seen being used by Russell here in photo three and various "direct" belays such as that seen in photo two.

A direct belay can take the form of a sling around a solid spike of rock to which a pear shaped karabiner is attached. An Italian Hitch (friction hitch) is then used to safeguard a second. Italian Hitches can be used for both belaying a second up or down a scrambling pitch. Other forms of direct belay include merely running the rope around a spike of rock or using a Wallnut or similar anchoring device c/w an Italian Hitch. What is important is that the anchor MUST be solid, ie it must not be likely to move or fail when loaded!

Usually, day two of our Scrambling Skills Training Courses in The Lake District will see us consolidating the learning and practical work done on day one through further practice & coaching.

This will be done by visiting a further two graded scrambles (one will have already been climbed during the latter part of the first day). We might have returned to Langdale to Tarn Crag - ultimately moving on to Jacks's Rake ( a classic Lake District Scramble) for our "finale", but Stephen had already done that scramble some time previously.

So, Iain decided to take the pair to the Coniston area in order that they could ascend the area's highest peak - the Old Man. But instead of following the usual route - ie one of the many footpaths, we followed the scrambling line of Low Water Beck (grade 3) seen here in photo four as Russell sets off up the very first pitch.
Low Water Beck is a fine long scramble with some steep, rock in it's first section where it follows the right hand side of the precipitous watercourse (a great little winter climb when frozen).

Pitching is necessary all the way to the top of the first section and direct belays are required to protect the second. Above here, the angle and "exposure factor" eases although there are still few pitches requiring good solid belaying techniques interspersed between some "moving together" terrain.

At the top we had lunch before moving past Low Water (the tarn in photo five and climbing the final slope to the top of the ridge by way of the pleasant and relatively easy grade 2 route Brim Fell Rib.

On this route, Russell & Stephen were able to move faster as the terrain is less steep and serious than Low Water Beck. Moving together was appropriate here as were simple belaying techniques such as body belays, hand over hand as seen in this photo and the use of the rope around the odd rock spike.

The final photo from this post about a Scrambling Skills Training Course in The lake District is a view north from the summit of the Old Man of Coniston looking down on Low Water.

Our first scrambling route had followed the line of the stream issuing from this small tarn and whilst we were following it, we saw only two other persons. The second route takes the line of the rocky outcrops that can be seen rising from the tarn towards the top left hand of the photo and on this route, we saw no-one.

This just goes to prove that if you want to get the the top of a mountain without seeing too many people then a scrambling line is the best way to go - providing exhilaration, challenge; and a little exposure along the way!

Both Russell & Stephen thoroughly enjoyed their two day Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District with Iain and paid just £80 each per day. The fee includes instruction and coaching by a qualified Mountaineering Instructor as well as the provision of helmets, harnesses, rope and scrambling rack.

To book your Guided Scrambling Course or Scrambling Skills Training Course in The lake District contact us here. Don't forget - we also run these courses in North Wales and Scotland! We look forward to working with you.

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