On the hill – a lot!

Busy times lately with lot’s of great activity.

All well and good except it has slowed down the input of information here.

MTAF was a great event. well organised and only a few showers and midges to spoil the beautiful border scenery. Two groups of walkers keen to learn the intricacies of hill skills and navigation. On the downside, two hours isn’t a lot of time to cement the learning that went on but on the upside those that came along were eager and quick to learn. Some good groundwork put down for later detailed training! Well done all.

Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award practice expedition. A small group from William Howard School walked from Keswick to Buttermere first night, Buttermere over Haystacks to Stonethwaite for the second night and finally back to Keswick on the third day. Quite hot weather and very competent candidates. It was almost as if they knew where they were going!

Back to a Langholm connection next and a team from Langholm Academy with an assault on England’s highest mountain. Enthusiastic walking in misty weather made short work of the ascent of the Pike and were rewarded by clearing clouds and some loveley views of Lingmell and the corridor route scenery on the return journey. They were going so well we took the scramble down past Taylor Ghyll Force with ease.

A quick visit next to Staffordshire and some walking and scrambling along the Roaches one day. On the way home a stroll along to Lud’s Church chasm.

Next came DofE Bronze qualifying expedition for three groups again from William Howard School. teesdale walking from the watershed past Cow Green reservoir to Middleton in Tessdale for one day. Next day continuing south along the Tees via Eggleston, Romaldskirk and finishing at Cotherstone.. Knackered kids but happy that they all passed their award.IMG_2377 IMG_2380 IMG_2385 IMG_2452 IMG_2454 IMG_2476 IMG_2396 IMG_2401 IMG_2411 IMG_2429 IMG_2430 IMG_2433 IMG_2436

MTAF Recce

I will be doing a recce for the Navigation course at the Muckle Toon Adventure Festival (Langholm) and need a few (half a dozen or so) volunteers to check the session out. It’s a short walk (2hrs) from the cafe near the Rugby club on the A7 just north of Langholm. Meet at 1800 there.
Anyone interested in a free Nav walk?

ML Training weekend one. May 2015

A very fulfilling weekend with five strong candidates who were on similar levels of ability.

It’s great to be moving around the hills with good company and a real treat to see quality trainees in action. These guys and gal will make very competent Mountain Leaders in the future. We never stop learning and appetite for improvement fuels excellence! Well done to Craig, Jo, Greg, Ash and John. Looking forward to weekend two when we will do river crossings, micro nav, review rope-work and of course the two day expedition in the eastern fells. Thanks to Andy Brown of Adventures in Cockermouth for running the course.

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M: Assessment weekend 1, 26th April 2015

A weekend of contrasting weather types. On Friday night it poured with rain. The morning of Saturday was windy and raining with very low cloud. As we progressed from Honister to Grey Crags, down to the foot of Gillercombe Buttress, up to Gillercombe Head and had lunch we walked through snow showers. The beginnings of a clearing sky could be seen in the north across the Solway Firth. This was to be the final fling of this frontal weather feature. A beautiful late afternoon developed as we walked over Haystacks, under High Crag and finally across Birtness Combe and along to Buttermere where we had a bar meal in sunshine on the patio!

Sunday started frosty with a cold northerly wind while we went through steep ground work. Again the day improved steadily.

A good effort from all candidates. There’s always some learning to do but the split weekend format serves to allow for some practice and “head straightening” to be done ready for the expedition phase of the second weekend.


Thanks to Andy Brown of Adventures, Cockermouth.


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Walk into Dark

Walk into Dark turned out to be just that. A beautiful “summer’s” evening over Bowscale Fell and The Tongue finished appropriately. Lot’s of navigating going on by Rob Robert Hunter, Gosia Baranowska, and Frances Bendle. Marred only by narrowly missing last orders at the Mill Inn.
Adding a bit of night navigation helps to build confidence and skills for any weather not to mention having the hills to ourselves and a great sunsetIMG_2096 IMG_2097 IMG_2098 IMG_2099 IMG_2100 IMG_2101 IMG_2102 IMG_2103 IMG_2104

Cross Fell from Kirkland

Perhaps not the first days of perfect weather this year but a stunning Spring jaunt from Kirkland over Cross Fell in a clockwise direction and back again in a comfortable four hours. Absolutely no-one around on the summit ridge. Not too wet underfoot either, just a few places where choice of line made a difference. On this occasion I had a day off from being a Mountain Leader and I was accompanied by John Moore and my dog JoJo who enjoyed lots of snuffling about in the grass. She reminded me of an ascent nearly twenty years ago with our previous Golden Retriever pup Corrie who was entertained for a while by the challenge of a cherry tomato at our lunch stop. No grouse to be seen this high up I presume because of the lack of heather but quite a few Curlew, Wheatear, LBJ’s, and I think the piping of an unseen Golden Plover.

The summit cairn / shelter is an impressive new affair and a super place for lunch with seating protected from all adverse wind directions. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photograph of it- will have to go back again! Shame!

Cross Fell is a Hewitt the highest English hill outside of the Lake District and much appreciated in these conditions. I can also recommend it as an evening walk to see the sunset if you are able to plan it. Navigating off the top in the dark  can be a challenge and in reasonable visibility a number of large cairns can be misleading so pay attention. My previous visit on a winter’s night was in rain and cloud and I have to admit, was not pleasant! In summer, however, there is always a lot of light after sunset to enable you to stroll north and west to pick up the good track down. Lower down we came across recent woodland planting along both sides of a little stream presumable to afford increased habitat for wildlife and maybe as a result of some agricultural grant or other.


Phil Tinning

Mountain Training cpd Northumberland

Alex paused his steady stride along Britain’s most iconic historical cross-country landmark and peered through his dripping hood towards the ground. Rain sodden, we were following a narrow but well-worn track guided by an old, correction, very old stone wall on the right and a steep pine covered slope on the left. Along the dolerite cliffs at the eastern end of Crag Lough in Northumberland a tiny flag of bright green nestling amongst the usual debris and litter of the forest floor under partially sheltering pines had caught attention. Wood Sorrell he says, taste this. For such a miniscule sample the effect was surprising. A sharp apple / lemon tang hit the taste buds inviting a second and third nibble to repeat the effect. I’ll have a bag of that!

Paul from North East Guides had organised a Mountain Training cpd day almost in my back garden. Too close to miss this opportunity to update and expand my outdoor skills repertoire. It was great to see such good attendance and folk travelling from far and wide and furthermore a range of capabilities and ages added to the mix.

Luckily Alex’s two hour session wasn’t overly scientific so no unpronouncable latin names to remember more an eye-opening tour to stimulate further interest in flora and fauna and promote further investigation. We picked up on lichen and moss, grasses and rush, not to forget the find of the day, the tasty Wood Sorrell. Birds were in short supply apart from a pair of swans feeding and nest sitting on the lough untroubled by tufted ducks but a jackdaw / kestrel squabble livened things up briefly. Then there was the famous Sycamore Gap in the Wall. Now what kind of tree was that again?
Returning to our meeting place for a lunch break through sleet turning to thick wet snow was somewhat surreal as my memories of these crags are of summer evenings climbing clean rock routes on fine grained rock offering little friction and parallel jamming cracks. Weirder still was bumping into a small film crew bemused by the snow and hoping to film two axe weilding heathens in mortal combat. Goodness knows how they’re going to deal with continuity from those shots! Whilst we had been out and about Heather had been astute in holding the geology session partly under cover of her 4×4 and for an amateur she certainly knows her stuff. More stimulus for future investigation!
Soon the ground had an obliterating cover of wet snow. Having returned from Chamonix the day before I thought my skis would have been called for again but security on steep ground work was to be on foot with Nick Pilling. His morning session was well attended working up and down the slippery screes and steep grass under Peel Crags. Three of us got to grips with Nick’s succinct run-through of what we need to know as Mountain Leaders. Tania got the short straw. In for assessment in a few weeks she wanted bringing up to speed. A maths teacher from Lancaster, Tania was under the cosh with the expert Nick plus Paul Mitchinson and I, two Experienced ML’s, on hand there was plenty of input, discussion and feedback. A really good session which demonstrated the advantage of small ratios in teaching. Short roping, close control, belaying, belay selection, rope care, group management, knots, obstacle handling and route choice were all covered very comprehensively. Tania survived the experience. Willing to ,earn and with a great attitude she will make an expert ML I’m sure. Personally I found it satisfying that my own knowledge was in line with current thinking and best practice and hugely appreciated Nick’s calm expertise and advice. There’s always something to learn.
Thanks to Paul for organising the day, Alex, Nick, Heather and MT’s Belinda Fear for their professional competence and work in organising the cpd and also to  those who I worked with John, Mick, Dan and Tania.


Raise on skis

Almost Spring-like weather for a relaxed tour up from Thirlspot to Raise with Andy Brown and Howard. Across and down to the Lake District Ski Club hut for lunch then backover Raise and a great ski down Brund Ghyll. Terrific views over Keppell Cove to Helvellyn. Loads of good skiing potential still.


Time on the hills.

There’s no substitute for experience and time on the hills is where you get it. Working in a wide variety of situations keeps the mind and body tuned in and prevents complacency! Over the last few weeks we have had some genuine winter weather and I have been able to take full advantage. I have walked in the Lomond Hills and Lake District in frosty conditions with temperature inversions, winter climbed on Great End and Brown Cove crags, and I have been ski touring on Skiddaw, around the Tarmachans near Killin, and Whiteside and Raise next to Helvellyn. This week I worked with GCSE students as part of their PE course Over Grisdale Pike and Whinlatter forest.

If you are keen to learn more about travelling in mountain areas, want to improve your navigation skills, or perhaps are becoming qualified as a Mountain Leader I can help. Get in touch by calling 077 66 916 702 or emailing freetimeoutdoors@gmail.com.