Sunday 25 January 2015

What's been happening in January 2015 at Kendal Mountaineering Services?

January 2015 has been a mixture of work and play for us here at Kendal Mountaineering Services.

The beginning of January saw Iain out with Darren Willis and his mate practising Scrambling Skills on Tarn Crag in Langdale (photo one). Darren has spent a number of years successfully building up his business and now wants to develop his mountaineering skills ultimately being able to lead multi-pitch climbs in both Summer and Winter. This day was spent looking at secure methods of belaying for scrambling and despite being a chilly day in the valley, conditions were fine at the crag for working. Darren is hoping to join us in Scotland next month for our Winter Courses and has already booked a place on our May Trip to the Cuillin Ridge of Skye!

Generally, the weather hasn't been great in the Lake District recently for any sort of climbing - rock or winter-wise!

Iain & Kirstin therefore chose to take off for a week of Mediterranean sun and some sport climbing on the island of Malta.

For those of you who don't know, Malta lies almost smack bang on the middle of the Mediterranean Sea about 50 miles south of Sicily and the two main islands (Malta & Gozo) are composed almost completely of Limestone - ideal for sport climbing.

Around the edge of both islands are valleys running down to the sea and in many of these sport climbing areas have been developed. Photo two was taken at a venue called "Flakeout Walls" near the town of Mgarr Ix-Xini on Goza
There is a whole climbing guide devoted to sport climbing on Malta which has been developed by the Malta Climbing Club. The guidebook can be puchased online or from MC Adventure in Malta. There are sport climbing venues throughout both islands - but be prepared to be climbing at 6a+ if you want to get the most from the guide and your time climbing!

Many people from the UK head south in winter to climb in the Mediterranean and there are lots of good climbing venues in may of the regions countries. Be aware though, that being winter - it can rain too; and unfortunately, three out of our five potential climbing days were thwarted by wet weather - it's the luck of the draw we guess. However most days would, at some point, look as pretty as this west coast view on Malta - following a rather wet morning!

So what have we got to look forward too? Well, Christmas was a busy period for us with many people buying our Gift Certificates to pay for activities and skills Training Courses for families, friends and loved ones. Indeed - if you are looking for that special gift with a difference - then visit the webpage to buy a Gift Certificate here.

One of the most popular purchases were places on our Weekend Navigation Skills Training Courses in The lake District (photo four) and indeed - next weekend Iain runs one of these courses on a bespoke basis for five women from a Preston based running club. We hope the weather is kind to all of us!

Finally, Iain is look ahead to February's Scottish Winter Season.

We have a Winter Skills Training Weekend in Glen Coe (photo five) taking place during Saturday & Sunday 7th & 8th with two people currently booked on at £120 for the two days - but by all means do join us! If we get more than four then the price drops down to £100 each, so it's worth considering.

Immediately following that weekend, we have five days of winter Mountaineering and Winter Climbing Courses running - also in the Fort William/Glen Coe area and we would be pleased to have more join on these. Cost is between £60 & £90 per person per day depending on the course you book on to and includes helmets, harnesses, ropes and winter climbing rack as well as tuition from a Mountaineering Instructor. Crampons & Ice Axes will be required but not provided; although we can advise where to hire yours. To book a place on any of our winter courses contact Iain here.

We look forward to working with you.

Sunday 11 January 2015

West Coast Scottish Winter Climbing Courses. Monday 9th - Friday 15th. 2015

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, its 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 then we can organise this for you.

To this end, we intend to be in the Glen Coe/Fort William Area during most of February. We are specifically offering you the opportunity to learn the techniques of Winter Climbing or be guided on one of the areas winter routes at anything up to grade IV in standard depending on your ability. This will be during the week of February 9th to the 15th.

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 forecastand 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.

All of our courses are intended to be progressive. They are designed to improve your understanding of winter climbing techniques and improve your confidence to go on to try bigger & better winter climbing routes for yourselves!
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 threeWe will be based in the Glen Coe/Fort William area during the week of February 9th - 15th to provide your Winter Climbing Course. You can book as many or as few days as you like, you can also attend on your own as we already have other people booked in to these courses who will be looking for climbing partners! Meet them here on the Facebook Event Page!

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 there is likely to be availability at short notice and in that instance - please ring Iain. We look forward to working with you.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

West Coast Scottish Winter Mountaineering Courses. Monday 9th to Friday 13th February. 2015.

Interested in a Winter Mountaineering Course? Kendal Mountaineeering Services  will be running such 
courses in the Glen Coe/Fort William area between Monday 9th and Sunday 15th February 2015. There will be more dates to follow in March!

Are you thinking of spending some more time in the mountains this winter?  You have already 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 per day for 1 - 2 persons or £180 per day 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 to work with your party 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 photos 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. As mentioned here at the outset, Iain will be in the Glen Coe/Fort William area between February 7th & 15th 2015 - so get in touch to book your Winter Mountaineering Skills Training Course for then! We look forward to working with you in the coming months.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Into Winter 2015 with Kendal Mountaineering Services. Winter Skills, Winter Climbing & Winter Mountineering Courses.

Winter conditions in The Lake District are coming & going at the moment. Photo one was taken the day after boxing day. Sadly the snow has all but disappeared again. We would like to be able to run Winter Courses here in The Lake District but that is not going to be possible unless we get a good dump of snow followed  by some freeze/thaw conditions - but not too much of the thaw mind!

Yiu can view other pics from this snowy lake District day here. It was a day worth getting out for!

Starting towards the end of January, we will be in readiness to run our Scottish Winter Courses. These will include Winter Skills Courses and our first projected date for these is February 7th & 8th 2015. The venue for this winter skills course will be Glen Coe and the cost will be £120 per person for the two day course with a maximum group size of six persons per instructor.

If we don't achieve a minimum group size of four then the course will be cancelled - so do tell anyone you can think of who might be interested in joining!! Book by the end of January and get your two day course  for only £100.00!

Food & accommodation are not included on these courses but if you contact us to make a booking, we will put you in touch with a number of bunkhouses, hostels and B & Bs in the area.

On our 2 day Scottish Winter Skills Courses you can expect to cover a comprehensive syllabus. The course is designed to help you become self sufficient in the winter mountain environment and deal with snow & ice of different consistencies. One of the first things we'll show you is how to use your ice axe to prevent a slip turning into a slide. There are a number of ice axe braking scenarios to cover and the chap in photo three is about to arrest from a forward facing slide.

Amongst other techniques, we will also show you how to provide security for your peers when you are out in the winter environment.

There are many methods of making belays (anchors) by using the snow, a rope, your ice axe or even just yourself and a hole in the snow. We will look at basic snow & ice anchors, buried axe anchors and how to use Deadmen (a shaped aluminimum plate specifically designed as a snow anchor). Other methods include the use of a body belay from a bucket seat and the use of equipment in other ways such as the Stomper Belay or the boot axe belay as shown here in photo four.

Many winter skills courses do not cover the scenarios of belay construction and basic ropework - but we do, because we think you ought to know what to do when you might need to!
Amongst other skills we'll cover snowpack assessment and avalanche prediction. Avalanches are a real source of injury & death in the mountains in Winter so you will need to know what to look out for in the snowpack as a result of wind action and recent snowfall. Reading forcecasts from the Mountain Weather Information Service and the Scottish Avalanche Information Service are really good places to start as we will explain.

As well as being able to interpret snowpack and deal with security of steep ground, we will also show you what to do if you are caught out by bad weather, injury or benightment.

There are a number of options for building an improvised shelter - the easiest is to tunnel sideways into a bank of snow to build a snowhole but you may have to build a shelter from blocks of snow or by other means. We'll show you what to do!
Finally, you'll need to be able to use crampons to deal with hard snow (neve) and ice when kicking or cutting steps becomes too laborious a process.

Crampons can be a life saver on one hand or a serious hazard on the other.

We will teach you how to use crampons properly during you winter skills course using as many points as possible in contact with the ice to give you maximum security on icy terrain; and how to change the way in which you use them as the angle of the ice gets steeper.

To book your place on our West Coast based Winter Skills Course taking place in Glen Coe on Saturday & Sunday 7th & 8th February 2015 contact us here, give Iain a call on 07761 483364 or join the facebook event page here.