‘Tis the season to explore…….

Explore our capabilities that is.

For some the season never goes away however many take stock as the autumn months approach and review their summer experiences, plan for next year or perhaps the coming winter.

Having had the summer off to discover new areas such as the Brecon Beacons, bits of The Lake District that I had neglected in the past and a couple of weeks of lofty Alpine climbing activities, I am about to start teaching in the hills again. Mountain Leader Assessment and Training are the serious end of the business with courses run by Andy Brown and with myself enlisted as an expert hand on the job.

In addition I will be teaching Hill Skills and Navigation for Cumbria County Council on their Community Learning and Skills courses – evening classes to those of a certain age – based at Shap and Carlisle. These courses are run over five evenings and include a night navigation session plus a long half day on the hill to put it all into practice.

Thursday, 21st September 6pm-8.30pm (last session will be a 5.5hour walk)

At Pennine Way CDC

Cost £60.00 (concession £30.00)

Tuesday 3rd October 6pm-8.30pm (last session will be a 5.5hour walk)

At Eden CLAS(Shap Primary School)

Cost £59.40 (concession £29.70)

As ever, should you wish to add to your mountain capabilities or simply enjoy a good walk, feel free to get in touch.


I want to be a Mountain Leader

I am asked quite often how to become qualified to take groups out on the hills. Sometimes people just want to confirm a higher level of personal skill.
OK, ML. Actually ML (summer). The main website for Mountain Training is here: http://www.mountain-training.org/walking/skills-and-awards/mountain-leader
In summary, you think about what kind of work you want to do and what qualification is necessary. MLs is widely respected and pretty much covers everything in the hills in GB except rock climbing and winter mountains. Obviously though not canoeing, mountain biking and the like.
You can do other, lesser, hill skills qualifications but no cheaper and not worth missing out on the full deal.
You need to have experience in at least three major UK mountain areas. These would be The Lakes, Scotland and Wales although The Peak, Dartmoor and Northern Ireland count as well.
You register on the scheme with Mountain Training and fill in a log book. This would show your experience in mountains going back as long as you can remember. The minimum number of Quality Mountain Days (QMDs) to attend a training course would be 20.

Continue reading “I want to be a Mountain Leader”

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.


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.