Monday 9 May 2011
Weekend work in the Lakes
I have just spent 4 days working with students from The Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive on an introduction to outdoor climbing course. With a mixed forecast we took them to the north Lakes to see what the rock would let us get done.
On the first afternoon having driven down from Ayr the team put up their massive family tent at a site near Keswick and we headed to the recently reopend sandstone crag of Scratchmere Scar. A very friendly farmer gave us permission to access then crag through his land and a short walk took us the base of the routes.. We spent a little time bottom roping to get the feel of climbing on the sandstone and then started introducing the team to replacing and removing protection and building belays. We were lucky to get a fine dry afternoon as that night the heavens opened and it was thunder and lightning overhead.
Day 2 and we headed to the easy angled Seathwaite slabs at the top of Sourmilk Gill. The easy angled rock and the groups’ previous indoor experience meant that we quickly had them undertaking their first leads. Rain halted play and we fled back down to the valley.
Day 3 and it was a wet start so we went to Keswick Climbing Centre where we had a very friendly reception. We looked at belay building in the dry as well as working on some movement skills with the team in the morning. Despite ongoing showers we decided to believe the weather and headed out to Shepherds Crag. Brown slabs started very slimey but soon the rock out of the trees dried out to give more pleasant climbing. Those who still had some energy (Kate and Pauline) followed Neil and I up the first 2 pitches of Little Chamonix but soon we came up behind a father and son team. The lad (about 12) had done great to lead the crux pitch but was now out of site terrified and their rope work was a little bizzare to say the least (they both seemed to untie from the rope at each stance??). We gave them a little space to extricate themselves which somehow they achieved without mishap. By now huge black clouds were building and Neil decided to bail before the heavens opened. Kate and I stepped it up a gear and topped out and just got back to our bags when the thunderstorm hit us. We got a good soaking running back to the bus.
A final morning of activity and Neil and Pauline took Todd along with them to their unfinished business on Little Chamonix. I was back with the other 4 at Brown Slabs enjoying the long single pitches of dry exposed rock and letting them have a last bash at removing gear and trying something a little harder before the journey home. Another long weekend with the same team in a couple of weeks- should be fun, they are the first students who I’ve worked with in a long time who are always punctual and well organised!
After a quick boulder back in Glasgow that afternoon I’m on the train back to the Lakes for a coupe of days play and a work meeting on Thursday morning. Then it will be back to Fort William for an SPA Assessment at the weekend.
Someone was taking the mickey today about me not doing days off but having just reached the ripe old age of 40 I reckon its even more important to make every day count now. I enjoy my work and my playtime almost equally- and I can rest when the body falls apart completely in years to come!