We run a lot of navigation courses here at More than Mountains and our customers bring along a wide variety of compasses. I have never seen one that is more suited to purpose than my favourite; it is the one piece of kit I am happy to recommend outright, whoever you are. Whether you are just about to come on your first ever course or are hoping to do your Mountain Leader assessment this year we would strongly recommend you get a Silva Expedition 4 compass. They cost around £25 and, you never know, one day it could save your life.
The only compass you will ever need.
Silva compasses are very good quality and it is possible to get cheaper Silva compasses than the Expedition 4 but I would not recommend it. For your extra money you get a larger baseplate which makes measuring distances on your map a lot easier. There are scales on the base plate for measuring on both 1:50,000 maps and 1:25,000 maps. The fact that the scales go down two sides of the compass makes taking a grid reference much easier too.
Cheaper compasses often start the scale at the very edge of the compass – this means that if even the tiniest part of your compass is chipped off your measurements will no longer be accurate. I even saw a compass the other day that started the scale from the edge of the compass but had rounded the corner of the compass so that the scale started somewhere in mid air.
Another common problem with poorer quality compasses is that they must be held perfectly level when being used to follow a bearing or the needle will get stuck and point in the wrong direction. It is good practice to hold a compass level anyway but the Silva will give accurate readings even if it is tipped slightly.
The Silva Expedition 4 also has a magnifying glass which is useful for looking at the really fine detail on the map. The version in the photograph also has glow-in-the-dark markings supposedly to help with navigation in the dark. Personally if I am navigating in the dark I will have my head torch on in order to be able to read the map so I do not find the glow-in-the-dark markings useful but they do not cause any problems so there is no harm in having them just in case.
We do not have any affliation with Silva: we have just spent years using their compasses and watching others make their lives more difficult with cheaper compasses.
If you are not sure how to use a compass then come on one of our navigation courses – we also have compasses for you to try – Silva Expedition 4s of course!
The Keswick Mountain Festival is now less than two weeks away. We still have places available on all the courses we are running in conjunction with the festival. Please follow the links for further details;
If you are on the look out for a new rope then Needlesports are exlusively stocking the Mammut Saturn – a 10.2mm single rope that is a perfect hard-wearing single rope suitable for most rock climbing activities.
UKClimbing is an incredibly useful website packed full with loads of information on rock climbing and mountaineering. A new series of videos that are being posted on the site in association with Wild Country offer an insight into the wonderful world of crack climbing and jamming, with some great instruction to get more from these positive techniques. Click here to watch it now.
And finally if you are looking for some inspiration to get out climbing then this will certainly get the adrenaline flowing!
If you are coming to Keswick for a course or personalised guided day with us you might want to take some time out to browse some of the latest equipment in one of the many outdoor gear shops here in the Lake District.
One of our favourites is Needlesports an independent specialist technical climbing equipment shop founded in 1990 by Stephen Reid. The friendly and knowledgeable staff are always happy to advise you on the next shiny piece of kit to complement your rack.
Another shop that is well worth taking the time to visit is George Fisher, particularly if you intend to drop by their well known cafe and try some of the excellent cakes on offer!
On the Market Square either side of the Moot Hall you will find Cotswold and Mountain Warehouse. Both have a good range of waterproofs, fleeces and camping equipment at reasonable prices. Cotswold’s ‘rock bottom‘ store in Grasmere is also worth popping into if you are passing as there are often a number of very good bargains to be found.
One of the more recent additions to Keswick’s outdoor shops is EDZ which specializes is selling technical base and windproof layers produced locally in Cumbria.
The Keswick Boot Company on Station Street is worth hunting out as it stocks hard to find boots from Aku and HanWag. Although these names are relatively unknown in the UK they are very popular on the continent.
Last and by no means least it is always worth taking the time to pop into the Oxfam shop as a few outdoor bargains can often be found in there. It is a good source of climbing guidebooks for all over the world and recently I have picked up a pair of rock climbing shoes for £4.99 and a Patagonia R2 fleece for under a tenner!
This is just a few of the outdoor gear shops in Keswick and I haven’t even started on Ambleside! All have very friendly, helpful staff who will make sure you have the right kit for an enjoyable day in the hills.
This is the perfect walk to follow a delicious Cumbrian breakfast; with the aroma of beautifully browned toast and freshly brewed coffee still lingering in your nostrils you can set out on this walk up Souther Fell in the knowledge that it will follow on sublimely from your leisurely breakfast.
A view of Blencathra (otherwise known as "Saddleback") from Souther Fell
There are some walks that demand vigorous exertion straight out of the car but this is not one of them. The highest point of the walk is the summit of Souther Fell, which is 522 metres high, but this route takes such a gentle, scenic approach that you hardly ever feel as though you are walking uphill.
Start in the lovely little village of Mundrisdale – you can park just before the pub on the wide grass verge by the side of the river. Walk past the pub and to a hairpin bend and turn left onto a footpath that leads you past a red phone box. The footpath climbs ever so gradually along side River Glenderamakin, crossing a couple of streams and a few boggy sections.
Local sheep - a Herdwick and a Swaledale
When you reach a substantial footbridge the path doubles back on itself and sets off up the gentle flanks of Souther Fell. Don’t forget to keep looking behind you for wonderful views over to Blencathra – from this angle it is easy to see why its other name is “Saddleback”. There is no path marked on the map over Souther Fell but it is clear on the ground and leads you up over the summit and down the front towards Mungrisdale. The summit of Souther Fell is not dramatic but the views are breathtaking: from the flat, lush fields of the Eden Valley to the rocky outlines of Blencathra and Bannerdale Crags.
The summit of Souther Fell
The decent is certainly steeper than anything you have come up but most of it is on a wide grassy path with just a couple of rockier sections nearer the bottom. The village of Mugrisdale is in sight but you will need to follow the permissive path off to the right to drop down to the gated road from Scales. Follow the road left until at the bottom of the road you see a grassy track leading down towards the river. It looks as though you are going to get your feet wet but just in time you will spot some stone steps over the wall on the right and on the other side of them a footbridge. Cross the footbridge and follow the footpath signs through the fields to the road. Turn left again and you will soon be back at your car.
The whole walk can easily be done in under three hours leaving you plenty of time to drive back home, finish painting the kitchen, help the kids with their homework or whatever else it is you find yourself doing on Sunday afternoons.
View of The Tongue and the beginning of the walk
The clocks have gone forward and the sun is out. Spring is a great time of year to get out and about and try new things and have lots of fun along the way. Rock climbing has been one of the fastest growing sports in recent years and there is no better place to try your first ascent than the home of rock climbing, the English Lake District.
Our beginners’ rock climbing course will introduce you gently to the skills required to get you up the rock face. A fully qualified instructor will take the time to coach personal movement skills and teach the basic ropework required to safely enjoy your first climb.
As a special offer to readers of this blog we are offering two places for the price of one on our beginners rock climbing courses this year. All you have to do is ‘like’ More than mountains on Facebook and when you book your place on the course you will get a second place free of charge.
Please click on the link to find our more about our beginners rock climbing course.
We are currently offering 10% off all 2012 courses if you book before the end of February. So if you would like to:
try this on one of our multi-activity days.
enjoy this view on one of our guided walks.
have a go at rock climbing in settings like this.
Then contact us before the end of February and get 10% off.
Make the most of your trip to the Lake District.
Temperatures have taken a dip at the moment and we have had some gloriously cold and frosty mornings in the Lake District over the weekend. One of the biggest dilemas that seems to crop up every year is the eternal search for the perfect glove. Though this may not justify why I now own at least two drawers full of them. Last week when the temperature dropped a bit I dug out one of my favourite pairs made of windstopper fleece. Windstopper is one of those technical fabrics out there that sounds awesome but gets mixed reviews. Personally I’ve only ever owned gloves made out of the stuff and I think that is where it is best used. Heading out for a walk with friends over the Wainwright’s of Knott and Great Calva my fingers were snuggly warm and yet the gloves were still dexterous enough to enable me to take photos and eat snacks without taking them off. So next time you’re on the look out for a pair of warm, thin gloves for hill-walking check out the many pairs available made from windstopper fleece.
It was rather wet and windy on Helvellyn today but the crags are still showing off a winter coat. The gully lines are looking complete but they need a good freeze to come into condition for climbing. A layer of fresh wind blown snow is sitting on top of an old icy layer which sheared easily when I tested it. Fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow. There are more photos on our facebook page.
Some snow has survived on Raise and looking across to Helvellyn the edges still looked in winter condition. For some photos of today please have a look at our facebook page.
I went back up to Brown Cove Crags on Helvellyn yesterday with friends Roy and Martin. The weather forecast was good and plenty of other people were out walking, climbing and skiing. We climbed a variation to Stepped Ridge taking in some steeper sections of ground to make it more interesting. The heavy snow cover is still insulating the ground meaning that some turf is not fully frozen making careful placements with axes and crampons essential.
The weather is looking warm and wet for the next couple of days but fingers crossed but a return to colder temperatures should see conditions come good again.
More than mountains are off down south for their annual Christmas break. We hope you all enjoy the holiday season and we look forward to seeing you out in the hills in the new year.