Rock climbing can give you a new challenge in life such as helping to overcome a fear of heights. Learning the techniques required to get you to the top can open up many new adventures along the way. Employing the services of a fully qualified mountaineering instructor will ensure that you safely learn the correct techniques to enjoy rock climbing for yourself. You may alternatively want to relax and be guided up some of the classic rock climbs to be found in the Lake District, Snowdonia or further afield.
Scrambling is often seen as the next step on from hill walking. Exploring rocky ridges and steeper buttresses can offer a new way to get to the top of your favourite mountains. If you are new to scrambling it may be worth considering a mountaineering instructor to help show you the way and introduce simple rope work and techniques to keep you safe on more exposed sections. The Mountain Instructor Award is the minimum qualification allowed to take people on graded scrambles where the use of a rope may be required in the UK.
If you want to improve your navigation skills, a mountaineering instructor will be able to coach you in taking a compass bearing and following it accurately using pacing and timing to find where you want to get to!
So next time you are planning a new adventure in the hills it might be time to hire the skills of a qualified mountaineering instructor to help you discover new places or learn the skills to get more from the mountains in your own time.
The British Mountaineering Council have produced this video to help explain what someone who holds the Mountain Instructor Award has to offer.
Mountaineering Instructor Award from team_BMC on Vimeo.
As the highest mountain in England Scafell Pike can be summited by as many as 1500 people over a busy summer weekend but away from the crowds following the main trails to the top there are other quieter routes to enjoy including some of the longest scrambles in the Lake District.
Seathwaite is a small hamlet at the head of the Borrowdale valley. It’s name comes from old Norse and translates as ‘clearing in the sedges’. Rather unfortunately it is famous for being the wettest place in England! There is plenty of parking along the lane before the farm but it is worth getting there early, particularly on a weekend as you can find your walk extended by up to a mile the further away you end up parking.
From the farm take the track due south to Stockley Bridge. After crossing the bridge turn left and the first big climb of the day ascends along the side of Grains Ghyll to come up underneath the magnificent north face of Great End, well known for the winter climbs that ascend its gullies when filled with snow and ice. Bear left and then right to head up onto the saddle of Esk Hause. This col is known as the central ‘hub’ of the Lake District from which the various ridges spread out like the spokes of a bicycle wheel with the valleys lying in between. Most folk turn right here to continue up through Calf Cove and straight on the top of the ‘Pike’. Instead of this, carry on over and drop down into Upper Eskdale and upon reaching the bottom of the valley a choice can be made as to which route to follow to regain the summit of Ill Crag.
Cockly Pike Ridge at grade 1 is a fantastic introduction to the delights of scrambling. Interest can easily be maintained by sticking to all the rocky steps along the way, or the steeper sections can be avoided by following grassy ledges around the sides. The first point to aim for is the knoll of Cockly Pike itself, from here the next rock barrier is crossed by following a grass rake to the left and then moving back right on the best rocks. As height is gained the slope becomes more littered with large block and sections of scree. The many slabs and ribs of rock that protrude from this to provide the best scrambling. The final tower provides a fitting finish to this great ridge.
For more of a challenge it is worth heading up and round further to the left to climb the South-East Face of Ill Crag which is given grade 3 for its central slab and steep upper buttress. The scramble starts by picking out the best line up clean slabs of rock to reach the impressive Central Slab. Start in the centre of the slab and climb straight up until it is possible to traverse out left to reach a heathery groove. Cross this and follow the edge of the slab to the top. If using a rope to protect this section of the scramble it is a full pitch of 48m. The rest of the scramble continues by again picking out the best of the rock and including some steeper sections along the way.
If you are feeling fit and there is still plenty of time, it is possible to descend via Little Narrowcove from the top of Ill Crag to pick up the scramble of Thor’s Buttress and Pen for another grade 3 route on to Scafell Pike. This is excellent alpine training given the amount of height gain and time spent on exposed rocky terrain by combining the two routes.
The summit cairn of Scafell Pike is now not too far away across the boulder field of Broad Crag. The best line across this is clearly marked by cairns before the short drop into Broad Crag Col and back out again for the final push to the summit. On a clear day the fine views of the rest of the Lake District fells can be taken in along with Blackpool Tower and the Isle of Man.
To make the round trip back to Seathwaite descend back to Broad Crag Col and continue down to the left to pick up the start of the Corridor Route. This follows a broad shelf above the upper reaches of the Wasdale Valley and below the steep sides of Round How, Broad Crag and Great End. Be careful to ascend the short rock-step part of the way down to keep on track and not be tempted to keep descending into Piers Gill, a notorious black spot for the local mountain rescue teams. Continue round to the left to find the stretcher box and the picturesque Styhead Tarn. Follow the path around the side of the tarn passing underneath Great Gable to start dropping down alongside the waterfall of Taylor Ghyll Force and back round to Stockley Bridge. On a hot day it can be very tempting to take a quick dip in one of the amazingly clear pools that can be found in the stream below this point. The final section of track back to the farm at Seathwaite gives a good opportunity to stretch out and relax after taking in on of the finest mountain days the Lake District has to offer.
A rock climbing article on the Guardian’s website today about indoor bouldering-only climbing walls where you climb above a crash mat without the use of ropes and a harness has highlighted it as one of the fastest growing sports in the county.
If you have got into the sport of rock climbing through one of these centres and want to try outdoor climbing for the first time our ‘beginner’ and ‘introduction to rock climbing’ courses based in the Lake District are an excellent taster to many more adventures that lie ahead.
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.
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.
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.
Well the forecast looked as good as it was going to get for a while so I took a walk up to Brown Cove Crags on Helvellyn this morning from Thirlmere to see how winter was progressing. It was raining as I left the car and low cloud made it difficult to see what conditions were like in the cove but I thought at least the walk would do me good.
There were a few deeper drifts around but also some more promising patches of older snow. On some slopes there are wind blown deposits sitting on the old layer which are best avoided due to the avalanche risk.
I decided to make my way up Stepped Ridge, a nice grade II scramble. It felt very wintry with ice starting to form over some of the rock in places. The turf still isn’t very well frozen as it has been insulated by all the snow. Although I couldn’t see much I could hear the voices of other climbers nearby.
Topping out onto the plateau it was quite icy and had been scoured by the wind. Crampons made for much easier travel over this. Some of the wind blown snow formations I saw at the top of the ridge were an indication of how cornices might be forming over east facing slopes.
Although today was not the most photogenic I did manage to shoot a little video at the top which you can view here.
Over the last week or so snow has fallen on the Lake Distict hills. We have also experienced rain, hail and strong winds at all levels. Temperatures have been fluctuating with the freezing level (height above sea level where temperature is 0 degrees centigrade) not remaining very stable.
This has led to a lot of snow being blown around the mountains and deposited on lee slopes. A build up of different layers of snow, hail and wind blown deposits often sitting on wet grass has already caused avalanches on Blencathra and Helvellyn.
The BBC reported on winter conditions in the Lake District this morning and the need to take this into account when planning your day out.
Backcountry Access have published some very useful and up to date information and resources for avalanche safety on their website which is well worth taking the time to look at.
When planning your day out look carefully at the weather forecast and think particularly about wind speed and direction and whether your intended route may cross avalanche terrain.