Tuesday 16 June 2015

Rock Climbing Skills Training Courses in The Lake District. Sunday 14th June 2015.

Last Sunday morning, Iain met Alistair Seddon & his girlfriend Cat in Langdale for a day of Rock Climbing Skills Training.

The pair regularly get out bouldering  and sport climbing when they can - so know how to tie on to a climbing rope and belay. However, they had done no "trad climbing" and wanted to learn these skills in order that they could go out and do more varied rock climbing; as most climbing in the UK is trad (traditional).

"Trad climbing" refers to the art/skill of placing your own anchors whilst leading on outdoor rock using wires or nuts as they are known, Hexcentrics and camming devices. When correctly placed in flared cracks (or in the case of camming devices - in parallel sided cracks) these can then be used to "stitch" you to a rock face in much the same way as sport climbing involves clipping into bolts using snap-link karabiners and extenders.
Iain took the pair to Upper Scout Crag in Langdale where there area number of fine easy multi-pitch trad climbing routes and although there was a team ahead of us on Route One, by the time Iain arranged his rope for "self lining" so that he could look after Alistair & Cat, this team were well up the route.

As is often the case, we see people who think they know what they are doing - climbing, in a style which could be a "better way". The leader of the team we observed allowed himself to get out of sight and pretty much out of sound of his seconds which resulted in some confusion when it came for them to follow; and at one point, he belayed (safeguarded them) attached to only one anchor which could be fatal if one of the seconds took a slip on slack rope and "shock loaded" the belayer. If his one anchor had failed then all three of them could have plummeted down the crag resulting in almost certain death for the leader and serious injury for the others" - there was another anchor point available close by that he could have used in conjunction! The plus point of these observations was that it is always good to be able to show your own team what not to do!

Iain kept his eye on this trio whilst coaching Alastair & Cat in good climbing techniques - safe and appropriately placed running belays. How to bring two anchors to a central attachment point at stances using slings or tying in with the rope if leading alternately (always use screw-gate karabiners to attach to anchors at stances if possible) and the importance of being able to see and speak to your seconds; or have a system of rope tugs in place to let seconds know what is happening :- 2 tugs for "safe" and 1 long tug for "climb when you are ready".

Whilst we were on Route One we observed rain showers in Upper Langdale and also down the valley, but we avoided them until about 1pm when we finally got a wetting. Lake District Rock is great when dry, but it becomes seriously slippery in the wet. We observed the other parties vacating the crag at this point, but Iain still had to provide something worthwhile for the afternoon as the pair had booked a full day out!

In photo two Cat can be seen belaying Alastair from he second stance on route one whilst Alastair has just overcome the crux (the hardest part) of the climb. In photo three, after lunch, the pair are seen trying out a stacked abseil retreat from the Oak Tree on Route Two. Rather than continue to lead climb in the wet, Iain had suggested leading the pair up to the Oak and showing them how to arrange an abseil retreat which is a useful technique to know if one needs to escape from a rock climbing route for any reason.

As an alternative for the rest of the afternoon, we headed down to Lower Scout Crag - the scene of a recent post about a day of Introductory Rock Climbing in The Lake District where Iain further demonstrated anchor placements and the bringing together of two anchor points to an equalized central attachment point - to be used for attaching the climbing rope for a top rope/bottom belay system.

We also discussed the importance of extending the top anchor over the edge of climbing routes to prevent rope drag and the importance of using rope protectors with the ropes & slings where there is the chance that the rock could abrade and wear through these. If it is happening - then failure can occur very quickly -with catastrophic results!

Cat & Alistair then spent over an hour here (photo four) enjoying tackling the problems on both Cubs Groove (Severe +) and a route to the right - The New Partnership (E1,5b). They climbed both routes easily - evidencing their ability in both bouldering and climbing bolted sport climbs.

Despite the occasionally damp weather; and a slight itinerary change as a result, the pair thoroughly enjoyed their Rock Climbing Skills Training Day in The Lake District with Iain and will be calling him if they return to the area again.

Alistair & Cat paid just £80 each for a full eight hour day of Rock Climbing Instruction with Iain and the fee included the provision of helmets, harnesses, rope and climbing rack as well as coaching provided by this experienced & knowledgeable Mountaineering Instructor. To book your Rock Climbing Skills Training Course in The Lake District contact Iain here. We look forward to working with you.

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