Wednesday 26 April 2017

And since Easter? Further activity sessions and skills Training Courses with Kendal Mountaineering Services.

And after the Easter weekend, the work continued. Iain had a welcome day off on Monday and was then back out with Ray Palmer and his daughter Nicole who were back once again visiting The Lake District. Once again, they were keen to be guided by Iain for the day on a "moderate" fell walking day on the Tuesday.

Iain took the pair up Loughrigg Fell - not the highest, but one of the most central fells in The Lake District with a commanding view north to Grasmere (photo one), Windermere & Langdale. We had a lovely hot sunny & calm day (now that's more like it!) and did a route from High Close straight to the summit before descending south and then east to visit Rydal Cave. The pair enjoyed an excellent lunch at The Old School Room Tea Shop at Rydal Hall before we returned to High Close via the Old Coffin Road and Loughrigg Terrace. Thanks to our friends at Mountain-Journeys for the work.

Last Thursday and Friday saw Iain back on the water with Nick Halliday and his partner Karin. Again, visitors from London. Nick & Karin had booked not only to do some kayaking with Iain, but also booked to join us on our our forthcoming Navigation Skills Training weekend.

The pair had arranged two half day Kayaking Sessions with us, so, on Thursday, we went to Rydal Water to learn skills and enjoy some peace & tranquility on this unspoilt lake (photo two). Once again, Iain showed the pair every skill he could think of and they picked them up well; although it was quite clear from the outset that neither were complete novices as both could paddle the kayaks in a straight line from the start - and that's no easy feat!

On Friday morning we went to a different venue - Ullswater - The Lake District's most north easterly lake which is again, relatively unspoilt and pretty.

We put on to the lake at it's southern end and visited the main river flowing in at this end - Goldrill Beck flowing in from Patterdale (photo three). The pair enjoyed our short journey on this relatively sheltered if a little shallow stretch of river before we returned to the lake and did a tour of its southern end in somewhat chilly & breezy conditions. Iain's opinion after two half day sessions on flat water was that the pair needed to move on to river journeying; and they readily agreed. We'll be seeing then again for some of that we hope.

Saturday saw us on The Kentmere Fells just to the north of Kendal running one of our Mountain Navigation Skills Training Weekends for a large number of clients - two groups of ten in fact!

These courses run in the Spring & Autumn and are priced at £80 per person for a two day course which is designed to give you all of the map reading skills you'll need to venture into the UK's mountains in any conditions, with confidence. Photo five sees Iain's group toward the end of day one; and by this time, they had been walking from one grid reference to another - on a bearing, whilst pacing, for several hours. Good skills!

Our final photo from this post about all we've been up to in the last week sees everyone who attended last weekend's Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Course on the summit of Shipman Knotts - we had to take one photo to prove all twenty persons had been there!

Our Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses are also ideal for anyone preparing for a Mountain Walking Leader Training Course, Assessment Course or re-assessment of their navigational ability. We are teaching skills to ML standard on these courses and they do represent exceptional value. You can view the next course dates here and we are looking to fill all courses - so do join us!

And that's all at the moment. We head to the Isle of Skye this coming weekend for the next adventure, can't wait!

In the run up to: and during Easter weekend 2017 with Kendal Mountaineering Services.

Hi Folks, it's been over a fortnight since we've posted anything on our Blog, so for those of you who follow that - here's an update or two!

Working; and keeping on top of social media too is quite a time consuming business - regular updates have been posted to our Facebook page though!

After our busy first week in April spending loads of time with people Rock Climbing & Scrambling in gorgeous weather, we had a few days off and then came back to...not such good weather! In fact we had to cancel day one of Sue & John Paddon's learning to lead Rock Climbing Course. However, we did manage to get out on the second day (photo one) and give Sue & John enough skills that they now feel confident about their ability to go out and climb multi-pitch rock routes. Job done!

On Easter Friday, we had a booking courtesy of Bowness Bay Tourist Information Centre who had been handing our leaflets out. This resulted in a call from James McNeilis and his girlfriend Claire who had travelled from London to spend their Easter break in The Lake District and were interested in Abseiling.

Iain met the pair at Skelwith bridge and took them along to Hodge Close Quarry - the Lake District's most epic abseiling venue.

In the woods seemingly on the middle of nowhere, a vast pit has been hewn out of the local slate resulting in 3 different places where one can abseil - an easy angled slab about 35 metres long just to get you started, a shorter more vertical drop to get some more adrenaline flowing and "the big one" the abseil into Parrock Quarry at over 40 metres in vertical height. James & Claire attempted all three abseils and can be seen in photo two attempting a tandem abseil (yes that's right - they both go together!!) at the easy slab. Good effort you two!

Saturday Morning saw Iain meeting Simon Eddison & his fiance Vicky in Borrowdale for some Introductory Rock Climbing. The pair had been getting out at their local climbing wall (they also live in London) and were wanting to try out some climbing on real rock whilst they were staying in the Keswick area.

Iain took Simon & Vicky to Brown Slabs, Shepherd's Crag - a famous venue for trad rock climbing of all grades. Brown Slabs is...a big slab of rock with loads of long easy routes where beginners can get stuck in to really enjoying rock climbing.

Iain set up a top rope - bottom belay system similar to that used in a climbing wall. The rope is anchored to the top of the crag and the climber climbs up from the bottom whilst being belayed by an another person (see photo three). It's a great, easy way to take those first steps on to outdoor rock in safety. Simon & Vicky loved it!

Sunday saw Iain working in a completely different environment - on water, not rock! As it happened, the weather was now completely unfit for any form of outdoor rock climbing having turned cold and wet, miserable indeed!

Iain had a double half day session from Fell foot Country Park on Windermere teaching people the art of Kayaking. Firstly, he was joined by Peter Newman who merely wanted to have a go as he is considering getting into the sport of Sea Kayaking. And then in the afternoon, Iain was joined by Conrad & Matthew Hall from Skipton (photo four) who have already bought their own kayaks and had been sent to Iain by Mum - Yvonne, to get some skills training. Iain spent the afternoon showing the pair all of the skills he could think of to get them started out in their kayaks - he thinks they'll do alright!

So that was our busy Easter period; a combination of skills training courses and activity sessions; and nine clients go away having learned new skills and improved their self confidence - as well as having had a great time - of course! And you can expect to have a great time with us too when you book your outdoor activity session or Skills Training Course in The Lake District. Contact us here to enquire, you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Upcoming Navigation & Map Reading Skills Training Weekend Courses with Kendal Mountaineering Services.

Kendal Mountaineering Services are offering a number of fantastic Value Navigation Skills Training Weekends throughout Spring & Autumn/Winter 2017. Our most recent course ran very successfully during March 25th & 26th with a full complement of ten persons.

Our April 22nd & 23rd Course has two groups running and has just three spaces left - book now to avoid missing out on this course!

Our May 27th & 28th Course has two people booked on but we need at least another two persons for it to run. The same applies to our September 23rd & 24th Navigation Skills Training Weekend - we need another two persons in order for it to run so please get booked on!

At £80 per person for a two day 16 hour course, these represent exceptional value for money.

Our Navigation Skills Weekend Courses are designed to give you the skills and ability to venture into the UK's mountains in any conditions with confidence.

View our Course dates here.

On day One of our Navigation Skills Training Courses, we concentrate on giving you map reading skills starting with the most basic skills such as:-
Orientating the map to aid identification of features on the ground.
Identifying features on the ground from information on the map.
Measuring distance on the map
Pacing distances on the ground
Finding tick off features
"Handrailing" ie following a linear feature such as a road, track footpath or bridleway.

Other skills we will show you on day one include:-
Using the grid system on the map to locate a specific place using 4, 6 & 8 figure Grid References.
Using a compass to take a bearing, then walking between Grid References.
Naismith's Rule - how to time between Grid References.

Day two sees us go further up the Kentmere Valley on to higher ground to consolidate skills learnt on day one and add additional skills such as :-

Using the compass to identify an unknown object or location from  a known pointand
transposing between map scales - ie identifying features or objects on different map scales. We will be working between OS 1:25 AND 1:50'000 map scales.

As part of your fee for these Navigation Skills Training Weekends, we provide you with maps in both 1:50 & 1:25 scales.

You need to bring your own compass and this must be the civilian specification Silva Type 4 Expedition Compass shown, at it's current best UK price here.

Our Navigation Skills Training Weekends are also suitable for anyone wanting a Navigation Skills Refresher prior to attending a Summer Mountain-walking Leader Training or Assessment Course or Re-assessment.

Contact us here or call Iain on 07761 483364 to book your place now! We look forward to working with you.

Rock Climbing Skills Training Courses in The Lake District. Friday & Saturday 7th & 8th April, 2017.

Nigel Brown from North Yorkshire booked a two day Rock Climbing Course in The Lake District with us some time ago.

In our discussions, he told me that he used to climb quite a long time ago and now was getting out more & more to nearby Harrogate Climbing centre with his teenage daughter - Georgia.

They had spent quite a few sessions at the climbing wall and were now keen to make the next step to "Trad leading" outdoors.

Iain felt that the best way to approach this would be to provide the pair with a Guided Rock Climbing Day in The Lake District, so that Nigel & Georgia could see how climbing systems work.

Photo one sees Georgia at the third stance on Middlefell Buttress (Diff) at Raven Crag in Langdale with Dad - Nigel, about to join us there.

Middlefell Buttress was a good place to start. The route is a pleasant if not a somewhat "polished" climb, but it allows novice rock climbers to see lots of anchor placements and lots of stance management on it's five pitches (there's a sixth pitch if you want to do it too!). We used the abseil retreat into the gully to the left of the crag so that the pair could have a go at this as well.

They both absolutely loved their first rock climbing route!

Photo two sees Georgia sat again waiting for Dad to join us at the head of Savernake (MS). Climbing this 3 pitch rock climb is a good step up from Middlefell Buttress, it is also polished but the 2nd & 3rd pitches are a good deal harder than anything on Middlefell Buttress. Neither of them had any difficulty with this climb which was great; and again, they both really enjoyed it!
The quickest way to get down from from the top of the final pitch of Savernake is to abseil off. Is it? Well probably not as by the time you've set up the abseil, you could have walked off down the descent route from the top of Raven Crag which passes close by.

However a long abseil is much more challenging and when you are at that top stance on Savernake, the foot of the crag looks a long way below - a single 50 or 60 metre rope wouldn't get you anywhere near the foot of the crag - but two 60 metre ropes does it with loads to spare!

Iain set up a stacked abseil having used the Oak tree at the top of the route as an anchor for the two ropes that he tied together. Georgia and Nigel were attached to both ropes using slings and their belay plates and everything was checked; and double checked before Iain abseiled down; and then beckoned Georgia to follow. In photo three Georgia is down and is holding both ropes to safeguard Dad - just in case he let go of the controlling rope and started to plummet! Good skills!

Having spent the day seeing how Iain guided on Multi-pitch Rock Climbs as a Mountaineering Instructor, day two was all about Georgia and Nigel doing it for themselves whilst being coached by Iain.

In photo four, Georgia has led up the first pitch of Route 1, Upper Scout Crag, arranged two anchors and then equalised them to a central attachment point using a long sling.

On the way up the first pitch Georgia placed four very good ("Bomber" as the saying goes..) anchors and extended them well. Iain placed a camming device in an appropriate crack so that Georgia could see how these work and also how to clip into such a device (you NEVER clip one karabiner into another where a serious shock-load could take place!) Georgia performed well in every aspect of climbing on this pitch. Well done!

After Georgia belayed her Dad up to the first stance, he took over the lead up the second crux pitch of the climb. The Crux basically means the hardest part of the climbing route.

Nigel led on up making good decisions and also placing some excellent anchors and running belays along the way. He also dealt with the crux of the route (just below where Georgia is in photo five) with no problem at all!

We were lucky with both days for climbing; and Saturday in particular really was perfect, warm and calm. No breeze, just blues skies, sunshine and warm dry rock. Just the job!

At the second stance, Iain got Nigel to tie into the anchors using the climbing rope rather than slings - after all, this is what you should do if you are leading alternate pitches on any multi-pitch rock climb!

Our final photo of the day sees Georgia and Nigel at the top of Route 1. Georgia is practising the skill of coiling the climbing wall - something she had learnt at Harrogate Climbing Centre, but wanted to practice some more.

We then dropped back down to the base of the crag and had some lunch before starting up Route 2. We climbed two pitches of this four pitch rock climb and upon arriving at another Oak tree, Iain asked the pair to arrange their own abseil retreat to see if they could remember how we had done it each time, the previous day.

As you might imagine, they both needed a bit of help to remember, but once we had the set-up arranged and they were both safely attached, we were all soon at the foot of the crag again.

Both Nigel & Georgia were extremely satisfied with their two day Multi-Pitch Rock Climbing Course in The Lake District run by Iain; and are keen to get some equipment and get out climbing - that's exactly what we would recommend and we wish them the best of luck! They also intend to come back later in the Summer to us for an appraisal of their climbing skills and a bit more coaching if necessary. This sounds good to us!

Nigel paid just £80 per person per day for the pairs Rock Climbing Skills Training Course with us. Helmets, harnesses, climbing ropes, rack and coaching/guiding by an experienced Mountaineering Instructor are all included in your fee but you can bring along and use your own equipment as long as we deem it fit for purpose.

We have a lot of experience in delivering Multi-pitch Rock Climbing Skills Training Courses in The Lake District, so if you are looking to get out and develop your skills on real Lake District rock - then contact us!

We look forward to working with you.

Corporate Ghyll Scrambling Sessions in The Lake District. Hause Gill, Borrowdale, April 6th, 2017.

Last Thursday, Iain was in Borrowdale to run the first of our annual Ghyll Scrambling Sessions in The Lake District for Energus/Nucleargraduates - a company based in West Cumbria.

The company may be based in West Cumbria, but the group of young people we were working with today are all undergraduates from around the country. All are almost at the end of their university education and most will be attaining degrees in Engineering of one form or another.
Nucleargraduates recruit for the nuclear industry - hence the name. All of these young people have been successful in applying for apprenticeships with Nucleargraduates and in the Autumn, will be be starting their 2 year apprenticeships with Nucleargraduates within the organisation's sponsors which include Sellafield Ltd, Rolls Royce, The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Magnox - just to name a few.

All of the young people in today's group will be working with each other during their two year apprenticeships and Nucleargraduates use our services to provide Ghyll Scrambling as an "icebreaker" in order that these young people can get to know each other better - right at the start of their careers.

So how do we go about making this happen? Well, by impelling the group into an experience where they will have to work together in an unknown and potentially challenging environment; and many of these young people will never have been Ghyll Scrambling before!

We get everyone kitted out in wet-suits, walking boots, a long sleeved fleece top each and a cagoule and also helmets & harnesses; and then we do a journey up a mountain stream ( a Ghyll) bed which can be perceived as a pretty arduous environment.

By working together and looking after each other however, it is possible for the group to overcome all obstacles presented to them and the idea is to "rise to the challenge" positively in order to achieve success. Through this process, the group members form bonds with one another; and this is how an icebreaker works!

As well as giving the group the opportunity to work together and support and encourage each other, we do like to throw in the odd challenge to help people to realise that with a bit of positive mental attitude and encouragement - almost anything is possible.

On today's Ghyll Scrambling Session in The Lake District, Iain made a point of adding one challenge after another and climbing this waterfall in photo four was one such challenge. All but one of the group attempted it; and successfully got to the top. Thanks to the person who didn't climb the waterfall for taking this great photograph - so they still contributed; and that's all that matters!

Our final photo from today's post about Ghyll Scrambling in The Lake District sees the group at the end of their session with us - pretty chilly after several soakings, but very satisfied with what they had achieved together as a team.

And as we've already said - hopefully this will knit them much tighter as a group and help them achieve success as they work together over the next two years - well done!

Nucleargraduates paid just £40 per person for this half day (4 hour) Ghyll Scrambling Session in The Lake District with us. All of the equipment you see the group wearing was provided as part of their fee per person. Ghyll Scrambling is a great fun activity and one of our most popular activities over the Summer months. It is also ideal for bringing any team closer together and is ideal for team-building and corporate events.

Contact us here to book your Ghyll Scrambling Session in The Lake District. We look forward to working with you!

Scrambling Skills Training Courses in The Lake District. Langdale. April 4th & 5th, 2017.

Last Tuesday & Wednesday, Iain ran one of our popular Scrambling Skills Training Courses in The Lake District for Aimee Sewell and her boyfriend Chris.

The aim of these courses are to give you all of the skills to be able to take a Scrambling Guidebook and go anywhere, on any grade of scrambling route, whilst remaining safe - having learnt appropriate skills from us and the judgement to know what methods to use where - on any scrambles in the UK.

In photo one, Aimee and Chris are practising the skill of "spotting". This is a skill used on easy (grade 1) scrambling ground where people move together supporting each other by holding feet in place or pressing on bodies to stop someone slipping or falling off a steeper or slippery part of a scramble.
We spent our first day of Scrambling Skills Training in The Lake District on Tarn Crag in Langdale. After having a go at spotting, Iain showed the pair the skills of short roping and demonstrated this with the pair on the rope as if he were "guiding" them.

Short roping is  a method which should be employed if you are on ground where "a slip could turn into something more serious" ie, you ultimately fall receiving a serious injury. Scramblers tie on to the climbing rope and then the lead scrambler shortens the length of rope between them and the seconds using chest coils - Aimee can be seen wearing chest coils in photo two as both she and Chris scramble up a route on Tarn Crag. This system allows for flexible use of the rope whether you be "moving together" or "pitching" (climbing).

We also looked all different manners of belays for keeping people secure whilst scrambling - direct belays, body belays, et cetera.

Following a morning of coaching, the pair were allowed to put the skills they had learned from Iain into practice on a grade 2 scrambling route in the afternoon - this is what Aimee is doing in photo two!

We always recommend a two day Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District with us. This is in order that we can effectively teach you all of the scrambling skills on day one; and then a further day of coaching allows you to consolidate all that you have learned whilst putting it into practice on yet more great scrambling routes.

We started day two with Chris leading on the East Rib of Tarn Crag - another fine grade 2 scrambling route. In photo three we were not very far from completing this scramble and Chris is leading off up one of the short steep buttresses to be found at the top of the crag. Up to this point, Chris had demonstrated appropriate methods of belaying (keeping safe) Aimee on the lower and harder part of the scramble whilst being coached by Iain. Chris did a very good job indeed - well done!
We finished day two of Aimee & Chris's Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District by ascending the well known, popular and under-graded scrambling route - Jack's Rake on Pavey Ark. (Grade 1 - should be grade 2!)

This upward slanting ledge starts out as a comforting groove which gets steeper and then peters out towards the top of the first section meaning that the scrambling becomes quite serious and exposed. Slips here have lead to the deaths of several people who basically, shouldn't have been there as they were neither appropriately equipped nor had the necessary skills or experience - something that happens a lot on this route!

Aimee did a fine job of leading on this first difficult section and used appropriate methods of belaying for Chris who is following (photo four).
Photo five sees a very satisfied Aimee & Chris just beyond the very top of Jack's Rake.

Aimee performed well on this scramble using appropriate methods of belaying whilst coached by Iain. We got to the top of the route, packed up and then took in the summits of Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle (two new "Wainwright summits" for the pair) before heading back down to Langdale Valley floor.

Aimee & Chris paid just £80 each per day for their Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District with us. The fee included the provision of helmets, harnesses, scrambling rack and rope as well as coaching by an experienced Mountaineering Instructor. Rather than getting yourself into a "tight spot" book a Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District with us - you'll learn what to do where and you won't be disappointed! Contact us here to book your course - we look forward to working with you.

Introductory Rock Climbing Sessions in The Lake District. Shepherd's Crag, Borrowdale. Monday 3rd April 2017.

Last Monday, Iain met Adrian Valentine & his son Joshua in Borrowdale for an Introductory Rock Climbing Session in The Lake District.

Josh and his dad have been doing some rock climbing at their local climbing wall in Hertfordshire and during this visit to The Lake District Adrian wanted to introduce Josh to the delights of climbing out of doors on real rock. This was something quite new to Josh, but he took to it well (photo one).

The pair were staying near Buttermere, but Iain persuaded them to come over to Borrowdale and meet home near Shepherds Crag which has a number of great Introductory Rock Climbing venues - ideal for trying out your first real rock climb!
The system we set up here for Adrian & Josh, is very similar to what you'd expect to find at your local indoor rock climbing wall - but no multi-coloured holds bolted to the rock here - sorry!

The belaying system is the same though. The climbing rope is anchored to the top of the crag and both ends of the rope hang down to the foot of the rock face. The climber is tied on to one end of the rope and the belayer operates from the other side of the rope. Photo two demonstrates how the system works - as Josh climbs up the rock, Dad "takes the rope in" on the other side keeping the rope between the pair tight so that if Josh were to slip, he would not fall.

The idea once one reaches the top of the climb, is that you lean back and put your weight on the rope; and are lowered back down by the belayer. Josh wasn't keen to do that so Iain had to climb up and walk him back down the path from the top of the crag in several occasions. This was no problem at all as we wanted the little chap's first experience on rock to be a positive as it could be!

Josh is only nine years old and needed fairly regular rests from rock climbing. This presented Dad - Adrian, with an opportunity to have a go at rock climbing himself and he was very happy to do this.

Photo three sees Adrian; ( being belayed by Iain) who, having reached the top of the rock climb, is now being lowered back down the crag. Adrian, had enough confidence that he was willing to allow Iain to lower him whilst he leaned out backwards with straight legs and walked backwards down the crag. When abseiling, it is important that you keep your body straight and have your feet flat on the rocks at all times - even if it means leaning out even further backwards.

We do run Abseiling Sessions in The Lake District in their own right as an activity - ideal for Stag & Hen Events and great for getting a real adrenaline rush!

Adrian paid just £50 each for an Introductory Rock Climbing Session in The Lake District for himself and Josh and was very happy with what they received for the money. Their fee included the provision of helmets, harnesses; and coaching by an experienced and enthusiastic Mountaineering Instructor who knows all of the best rock climbing venues in The Lake District from where to run your Introductory Rock Climbing Session. Photo four is the view from our rock climbing venue at Upper Shepherd's Crag in Borrowdale - looking straight up the valley, isn't that view just stunning!

Contact Iain at Kendal Mountaineering Services here to book your Introductory Rock Climbing Course in The Lake District here - you won't be disappointed!

Thursday 6 April 2017

Scrambling Skills Training Courses in Scotland. Glen Coe. Tuesday 28th March 2017.

On day two of what should have been a Winter Skills Training Course for the Cambridge University Hill-walking Club, Iain found himself being asked if it were possible to change from the Navigation Skills Training Course we had provided the group as an alternative; and would it be possible for some of the group to go and do some Scrambling Skills Training instead?

This was of course possible as Iain is a Mountaineering Instructor; and part of his remit is guiding & coaching Scrambling Skills. However, this should be done with a maximum of no more than three persons per MIA/MIC. As at least half of the group wanted to do this, Matt - the club president got all of those keen to "draw straws" and as it happened, three of Iain's group from the previous day drew the longest straws!

Left to right sees Alex, Jilles and Prab on the footpath en route to our Scrambling Skills Training Venue for the day which can be seen in the background in photo one. We were heading for the left hand side of Gearr Aonach where The Zig-zags make a popular scrambling route in Summer and a mountaineering route in Winter. Iain has been here with clients quite a few times in the past!

We got up to the foot of the nose of Gearr Aonach and Iain got everyone roped up so that we could go and practice "short roping" skills. Basically, if a slip could possibly turn into something more serious such as a fall, then the climbing rope should be deployed.

Short roping involves a leader who carries most of the climbing rope as "locked off" chest coils. This leader is also attached to the others (in this case the three guys as in photo two) and uses various belaying techniques with the rope to prevent any slips turning into something more serious. The rope should be tight between the leader and seconds whenever there is any scrambling taking place to prevent a slip. Iain took the three on a scrambling tour up the lower eastern side of Gearr Aonach where we could look at how short roping works; and how & where to apply the different types of belaying techniques available to the aspiring scrambler.

After spending the morning demonstrating short roping and belaying, it was time to coach Alex, Jilles & Prab in the techniques of scrambling.

Firstly, Iain got them all to tie on to the rope - both as seconds and as leaders, then, as it was already early afternoon, it was time to go and put all of the skills input to good use on a scramble.

Whilst we had all been having lunch, Iain had been studying the north face of Gearr Aonach and thought he could see a "scrambling line" that "would go" that is to say - a route that the lads could follow that would allow for variation in the application of belaying techniques whilst remaining safe. This route would also bring us out at the point on The Zig zags where the route changes from heading north to heading back south again - jut below the route's most interesting and technically demanding pitch.

The plan worked well; Ian put Alex in charge of looking after Jilles & Prab - guiding them up this scrambling route using all manner of belaying techniques such as the direct (Italian Hitch) belay seen being used in photo three.

We reached the change in direction on The Zig-zags after about an hour of scrambling during which Alex had used a range of appropriate techniques from moving together to "pitching" using a combination of body and direct belays where indicated by Iain.

Moving up the steepest part of The Zig-zags allowed Alex to bring the pair up to his stance before lowering them back down the pitch and then rejoining them by way of a counterbalanced abseil retreat to maintain his own safety.

We then headed off back down The Zig-zags (photo four) with Alex short roping Jilles & Prab - leading on ahead, whilst he applied appropriate belaying techniques as the three descended back towards the foot of the route.

All three lads thoroughly enjoyed their Scrambling Skills Training Course in Glen Coe with Iain who hopes that they continue to get out as a three practising what he showed then here today....of course they can always return to The Lake District in July for a refresher if they wish!

Scrambling takes you on to more exhilarating terrain in the mountains - enjoying a good scramble is so much better than merely using a footpath to gain a summit. If you are interested in learning all about Scrambling Skills..whether it be in Scotland, The Lake District; or North Wales, then contact us to book your training course. Prices start at just £80 per person per day and this fee includes the provision of ropes, scrambling rack, helmets & harnesses as well as coaching by an experienced & qualified Mountaineering Instructor. You won't be disappointed! 

Navigation Skills Training Courses in Scotland. Glen Coe. Monday 27th March 2017.

After his weekend in Glen Coe providing a Winter Skills/Winter Walking Course for Matt & Ellie, Iain had another course booked in for the next two day in the area.

Cambridge University Hill-walking Club have used our services for the last two years to provide an annual Scrambling Skills Training in The Lake District and they decided to book a Winter Skills Training Course to be run by us during their half term week in March. Unfortunately, this also coincided with the end of decent winter conditions in the area - not that there had really been any decent conditions all winter it would seem!

Therefore we had to offer an alternative training course for this group of ten people; and appreciating the situation, they were happy to accept a two day Navigation Skills Training Course - right from the front door of their accommodation (the SMC Lagangarbh Climbing Hut) at the head of Glen Coe.

Iain & Rich - our assistant instructor for the two days, met the group and split then into two. Iain took his group of five (photo one) and headed up on to the slopes of nearby Beinn a' Chrulaiste.

We started the groups Navigation Skills Training Course by discussing orientating the map to align it to the landscape - thus allowing us to identify features more easily. We also discussed the differences between the 1:25 and 1:50'000 map scales that we commonly use.

We then learnt how to measure distance on the map and pace it out on the ground before starting our journey - initially following a fence as a linear feature looking for tick off features such as fence/wall junctions or streams intersecting our route. Time soon went by and by the time photo two was taken, we had learnt how to find eight figure grid references and had used one of the previously mentioned streams to "handrail" up to this small pool of water (an attack point) before taking a bearing to a nearby spot height (summit). All good textbook Navigation Skills work.

By this time, we were into the afternoon and the group's first day of Navigation Skills Training was due to end at 5pm, but the group asked if we could get a mountain top in? Of course this was no problem. The summit of Beinn a' Chrulaiste was a mere 1375 metres away - in a straight line that was!

Iain got the group to take a bearing to the summit from our spot height and then walk - looking for features that were in line with the direction of travel arrow on their compasses; in a straight line, to the summit (photo three). Fortunately, the weather was very good; as was the visibility, but 1.375 kilometres is a very long leg and even a very small error in a bearing can lead to one being a long way off the mark when arriving at the intended destination. However, we were a mere 30 metres to the south of the summit after walking all that way. Now that's excellent Navigation Skills!

By the time we reached the summit of Ben a' Chrulaiste, it was approaching 4pm, so we had to turn and hike back fairly rapidly along the route we had come.

Just below the summit, we found a large patch of old snow and as the group had been given a helmet each and had brought ice axes - just in case. They couldn't resist, just for a laugh, having their photo taken in the Ice Axe Arrest position. Not sure if Jilles thought he was flying or just tripping over Erin who was laid down in the snow! The group were a lot of fun to work with.

This group enjoyed their Navigation Skills Training Day in Scotland with Iain and learnt a lot of useful new skills which we hoped would help them with their future hikes into the area's mountains during their week-long stay at Lagangarbh. It was fortunate that we could be so flexible and come up with an alternative plan for the group; and Iain would further demonstrate that flexibility the next day by taking three of this group elsewhere for some Scrambling Skills Training in Glen Coe - but that's another story.

For details of how we can assist with your Hill-Walking or University Mountaineering Club's Outdoor Skills Development Plan contact us here. We look forward to working with you.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Guided Winter Walking day in Glen Coe. Sunday 26th March 2017.

Day two of Matt & Ellie's Winter Skills Training Course in Scotland dawned just as fine as the previous day. Once again, there had been a light frost in the glens, but temperatures were due to be between 6 and 9 degrees C at 900m. This did not bode well for the remaining snow cover.

The view as we set off from the upper car park in Glen Coe, was absolutely stunning (photo one). Our intention was to head to the back of "The Lost Valley" (Coire Gabhail) where Iain had noticed a large bowl of snow well sheltered from the sunlight. Surely there, we would find old Neve - ideal for covering the remainder of the pair's Winter Skills Syllabus.

An hour later, we reached the floor of Coire Gabhail - a flat area of grassed over alluvium created after the valley floor was dammed by a massive landslide from the east face of Gear Aonach. This massive rock fall is famous for the apparently impenetrable barrier that was created and it was behind here that the MacDonald Clan hid their livestock from the marauding Campbells during the famous Glen Coe Massacre of 1692.

The effect of the sun further up the valley beyond Ellie & Matt is evident in as much as there was loads of snow on the slopes of Beinn Fhada to the left; and virtually no snow at all on the south east facing slopes of Gearr Aonach to the right. Our objective was the snow right at the head of the valley under the obvious col.

Arriving at this area well over an hour later, Iain quickly gave up any idea of being able to complete Matt & Ellie's Winter Skills Training Course. Whilst there was a considerable amount of snow at the head of Coire Gabhail, there was up to a foot of fresh, slightly consolidated and stable wind-slab from the snowfall the previous week lying on top of the old hard neve and clearing it would have been a mammoth task. As it happened, Matt & Ellie were just happy to be out enjoying another great day in the mountains. Photo three sees Ellie as we approached the Bealach Dearg (col) at the head of Coire Gabhail with the intention to now summit the nearby top of Bidean Nam Bian (1150m) - Glen Coe's highest mountain.

Moments after photo three was taken, we would step out over the cornice at the Bealach Dearg and out of the shade. The temperature went up by some ten degrees C almost instantly and whereas minutes before we were in cold shadow amongst snow with runnels of ice amongst the rocks, we were now on grass and dry rock with hardly a hint of snow to the south.

We trudged up the ridge towards the summit of Bidean Nam Bian and it was like being in The Alps in mid-Summer - no wind; and people walking towards us in their shirt sleeves using ski poles and sunglasses. The view from the top of Bidean (photo four) was just amazing. The tops of Arran were visible due south as was Ben More on Mull; and way out west one could see The Cuillin Ridge and Blaven. Up here it felt like mid-Summer and not later Winter...not at all!

After enjoying the views and having a well earned rest, we descended due north into the couloir dropping into the very head of Coire Gabhail from the summit of Bidean Nam Bian (photo five).

Here, we did find the right sort of snow for a Winter Skills Course, but it was much too steep an angle to be safe for ice axe braking or covering any other part of the syllabus. However, it was good for Matt & Ellie to be able to put into practice some of the skills learnt the previous day by reverse daggering down the initial steeper part whilst kicking steps before we "heel plunged" the rest of the way into the upper corrie.

The way down into the head of Coire Gabhail became progressively more arduous as the snow cover became progressively thinner and more broken and we were getting quite tired by the time we reached that main path to the valley bottom.

That considerable melt of the remaining snow-pack had taken place was evidenced by the amount of water going over this fall in the final photograph of the day as the third stream of water nearest Ellie & Matt had not been there in the morning and as we reached the valley floor, the stream there was clearly bigger in volume and flowing further out on to the alluvial flat than it had been when we were there earlier in the day.

Iain had been unable to deliver the complete Winter Skills Syllabus for Matt & Ellie due to the unseasonably warm weather, but hey! they were more than happy to have enjoyed a good winter walking day with plenty of variety in one of Scotland's most famous mountaineering areas.

We arrived back at the Mondeo at 7pm and were truly amazed to find the ambient temperature gauge reading 15 degrees C - now that's a Summer temperature in this part of the world.

Matt & Ellie paid just £80 each for their Winter Walking Day in Scotland with Iain; and fully intend to return next Winter to finish off the core Winter Skills Syllabus with us. We've advised them to book their course for early to mid February next time. Interested in joining one of our Scottish Winter Skills Courses next year? Keep an eye out on the Facebook page and the blog; and contact us here to book your place. We look forward to working with you.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Winter Skills Training Courses in Scotland. Glen Coe, March 25th 2017.

A little over a week ago, we were in Scotland for the first time in 2017. The intention - to run a Winter Skills Training Course for Matt Bishop & Eleanor Good pictured here in photo one. As you'll see from all of the photos, the weather was just great - but Matt in a T shirt at 1800 feet; and with all of that snow around! What was going on? Well, the weather was all wrong to be truthful. The temperature was probably about 10 - 12 degrees C at the time photo one was taken!

Scotland has seen it's mildest winter ever this year; and despite a dump of fresh snow the previous week, the generally "above freezing temperatures" had resulted in few deposits of Neve - that's old hard snow which has resulted from a series of freeze/thaw cycles; and it was this we were looking for in order to run any Winter Skills Courses.

We did find some Neve on Buachaille Etive Beag in a popular area that we last used two winters ago. Just below the Bealach (col) between Stob Coire Raineach and spot height 902 is a north west facing bowl that often gets used by groups for Winter Skills Courses. Iain spotted a shaded bank of snow and after a short period of "bulldozing" was able to uncover an area of Neve buried under six inches of recent soft snow that was ideal for "Daggering" (photo two). This skill is commonly used for ascending or descending a steep bank of Neve which is hard enough to just kick steps into whilst pushing the pick of the axe into the hard snow to give security whilst moving up or down such ground.

Our patch of Neve was only some ten feet wide by some 30 feet in length, but we certainly put it to good use.

As well as Daggering here, we also had a go at the basic technique of Ice Axe Braking - this is useful if one slips and starts to slide on hard snow or ice.

The Ice Axe is held diagonally under the chest with one hand over the head of the axe and the other holding the bottom end (spike) of the axe. By pressing the axe into the snow using the weight of ones chest to press on to the shaft; and pressing the pick in to the snow; one can slow to a halt quickly. Ellie is lying in the typical ice axe braking position - feet up to prevent crampons catching in the snow, knees pressing down, back arched, chest pressing on the ice axe which she is pulling down under her chest. The head of the ice axe is pulled in to her right shoulder and she looks away from the adze (part of the axe head) so that if the axe bounces out of the snow it doesn't hit her in the face. Good skills!

We also had a chance to practice a few snow belays whilst at this particular location. In photo three Ellie is sat in a bucket seat  having just brought Matt up to her location using a body belay.

This type of belay is the most basic form and should only be used on grade one or two winter ground - ie very easy slopes. The integrity of such belays can be markedly improved if they are used in conjunction with a buried ice axe or a "Deadman" (a type of wedge shaped Aluminium plate that is buried in the snow)
We practiced setting up a buried axe anchor and also a reinforced buried axe testing both for strength. We also set up a snow bollard (photo four) which can be used as an anchor; or as a means with which to abseil down a steep slope and then be able to retrieve the climbing rope afterwards.

Snow bollards vary from the very large (3 metres across) to the very small - usually known as an ice bollard and the strength of the medium determines the size. A bollard is a horseshoe shaped structure with the arms facing downhill and the lip around the top is cut downwards to act as purchase for the rope which is looped around the whole structure at it's mid point. Either end is thrown down the slope (with an overhand knot in each "tail" to prevent one abseiling off the end of the rope. Once people have abseiled down then the rope can be retrieved by pulling on one side - make sure you take the overhand knot out of the other side though - you don't want it to "jam" in the bollard!!

As with all of our Skills Training Courses, it is amazing how quickly time goes by! Having started Winter Skills at about 10:30 am, we soon got to 3pm and there was still much to do. We had, by this time, pretty well destroyed the surface of our ten foot by thirty foot Neve patch, but there was another nearby gully containing a steep bank of snow in which Iain reckoned it would be possible to dig a snow-hole.

We set to - going straight into the bank; and in no time, Iain & Matt had dug out a chamber going in about five feet; and being about 12 feet wide by 3 feet high. If you are "benighted" in the mountains in winter, then being able to dig your own snow hole may mean the difference between surviving; or freezing to death! People are always amazed by how warm and sheltered you are in a snow-hole. In photo six, Matt emerges whilst Ellie looks on.

At about 4:30 pm, we packed up and prepared to leave the site of day one of our Scottish Winter Skills Course in Glen Coe (photo seven).

The weather was warm in the sun and as you'll see if you compare the snow on the distant Aonach Eagach Ridge in photo six as compared to the first photo, a significant amount of snow had melted away on that ridge during the course of the day. Save for the snow, there was nothing else winter-like about the weather today - it really felt like Spring had arrived in the high mountains. We would go hunting for more Neve the next day!

Our Scottish Winter Skills Training Courses can be run in the west in the Glen Coe area; or in the Northern Corries of The Cairngorms. The cost for these two days courses ranges from £80 per person per day to as little as £50 per person per day depending on your group size. We do also run Winter Skills Training Courses in other locations such as The Lake District if suitable conditions exist. Contact Iain here to enquire. We look forward to working with you.