Tuesday 3 May 2016

Winter Mountaineering half day Sessions in The Lake District. Tarn Crag, Langdale. 29th April 2016.

Last Friday dawned looking rather ominous here in Kendal. From our home, Iain could see that the cloud was down to 300 metres on Potter Fell; and the snow that had been put down the previous day was still there to a lower level.  Also, it was raining. Not really a day for rock climbing then!

However, we had a Rock Climbing Session booked and so Iain set off to Langdale to meet Jon Calthrop. This was the view in Langdale  at 09:00!!

Jon turned up rather later than expected having experienced difficulties in getting over Kirkstone Pass (he was staying in Penrith). As Iain pointed out - today wasn't a day for a Rock Climbing Session in The Lake District, but if Jon was interested then a Winter Mountaineering (Winter Scrambling) Session was an option?? He was keen, so we got packed up & ready to go with our sights, initially on a winter ascent of Jack's Rake!

Jon had been in the area for a week on Holiday and had been out the previous day on Cam Crag in Langstrath with another Mountaineering Instructor. They would have undoubtedly encountered some snow on that route as we were also in Borrowdale that afternoon and you can see how snowy it was if you look at the post. Today in Langdale, there was noticeably more snow as we trudged up through it towards Stickle Tarn. (photo two).

For a 67 year old, Jon was going very well, but it  became apparent at around the time photo two was taken, that doing Jacks Rake was going to be a bit ambitious for a four hour (half day) session.

So, Iain offered Jon the option of doing two routes on Tarn Crag which was very much closer than Jack's Rake. In photo three, we were making our way up the easier South West Buttress of Tarn Crag - only grade 1 ground and one of our favourite locations for teaching scrambling. The good thing about this place is that there are a number of options for picking one's way up ground of different grades of difficulty - Jon was quite happy to be on the easier stuff; and also very happy to be on a rope as well!

The terrain proved to be ok on the rock which was dry and not too snowed up. The bits of grassy terrain between proved to be treacherous - wet grass overlain with wet snow meant it was very slippery indeed!

We got to the top of the lower buttress of Tarn Crag with time to do another route, so Iain suggested a winter ascent of The Spur (grade 2) - another of our favourite teaching scrambling routes.

This scramble starts at the foot of a rocky rib towards the south side of the main buttress of Tarn Crag and takes a line that weaves out right before moving back up on to the crest of the rib - finishing  up a few steep walls before arriving on the summit of Tarn Crag.

It was certainly a bit more exciting today with a covering of snow and the initial move across the exposed slab was interesting, but ok. Jon found it quite exciting though - he looks quite pleased with himself as he moves up to join Iain at the stance at the top of the first pitch  (photo four). That's the summit of Harrison Stickle in the background which had recently put in an appearance as the blizzard had temporarily ceased!

The second pitch of the route was much more snowed up and time was rapidly moving on, so Iain deviated  from the line of the route into an interesting gully that would soon bring us out on to an easy grassy slope from where we could escape the crag.

We descended a gully to the south which brought us out near to a ruined building on easier ground near to a footpath which descended to join the main route between the valley floor and Stickle Tarn (photo five).

The ground was extremely slippery with its covering of wet snow; and despite his Scarpa Mantas, Jon was struggling to keep his footing so, Iain kept him on the rope all the way to the main path; and a good idea it was too!

We got back to the vehicles at 13:45 and Jon was very grateful for what he reckoned, had been a much better session than he had experienced the previous day - that was nice to hear!

The session had been much more challenging than that originally planned - Rock Climbing to Winter Mountaineering, but Iain had looked after Jon well and pitched the session at just the right level for him. As an experienced Mountaineering Instructor, Iain will always attempt to give you the best possible experience regardless of the conditions; and exceed your expectations every time!

We'd like to think that's it for Winter now - but who knows! However, if you are looking for a Rock Climbing Course or Scrambling Course in The Lake District, Wales or Scotland then contact Iain here. We look forward to working with you!

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