28 December 2008

Clear, Blue Skies

"The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it."
- John Ruskin

We met some friends down in Coniston at 10am and we were soon heading away from the village and up the Coppermines Valley in walking boots. On the trundle up the valley, Church Beck was flowing downhill on our left. I occasionally glimpsed the rocky bed ideal for gorge walking, and when there's even more water, kayaking as well.

Looking up the Coppermines Valley to the Youth Hostel and the Coniston Fells.

We eventually reached Levers Water, which was partially frozen, and hear we parted company with the guys we had met up with in Coniston and headed for the ridge running from Swirl How, in the north, to The Old Man of Coniston, in the south. We gained the ridge by a steep climb to Levers Hawes and then headed for our most southerly point first, The Old Man of Coniston, before tracking back north.

Levers Water with Little and Great How Crag rising up from the water.

Marking the path to Brim Fell and The Old Man of Coniston.

Once at The Old Man of Coniston, where it seemed many of the Lakeland walkers had congregated, we headed back the way we had come, over Brim Fell, on past Levers Hawse and on along Little and Great How Crag to Swirl How, our destination.

Frost covered rocks at Sam Bottom on the way to Swirl How.

Once at Swirl How, we turned east to descend from our vantage point, which was being battered by a cold easterly wind and had little to behold as cloud had rolled over the fells, to Swirl Hawse before making our final, long drawn out climb to Wetherlam so that our fourth summit was completed.

Looking out over the Langdale Fells from Wetherlam.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

27 December 2008

Merry Christmas to y'all...

I know it's late, but what the heck.

The Lakes has been hit by a band of high pressure, meaning two things:
  1. There's no water in those rivers we love so much.
  2. There's going to be some amazing views from the top of those fells we love just as much.
This, for me, only means one thing; leave the boat at home, don some boots and head for the hills with camera in hand and friends at my side who don't usually accompany me on the Lakeland rivers.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

21 December 2008

Lacking in...

Confidence or Motivation. I'm not sure which?

My boat sat at the take out for the Kent.

A post popped up on the UK Rivers Guidebook the other week about how to deal with a lack in confidence whilst paddling. At the time I could draw some comparisons with what was being said and, only now, after having a day out in the Lakes on two rivers, which I have probably run the most, out of all the rivers in the Lake District, come to the conclusion that I may also have lost a bit of my confidence.

On the opening stretches of the Kent.

Today, whilst on the Kent I was decidedly edgy above rapids, that previously I have bombed off without question, and all the way down the river I was slightly apprehensive about the 3m+ drop of Force Falls at the very end. I don't know why this is though?

In the main gorge of the Kent.

Yes I took a swim the other week whilst paddling the Fairy Glen, and that could be attributed to the nature of the river, however deep down I know it was more of a problem with my roll than anything else. Maybe that's what it can all be attributed to; a decline in my roll. It's not been coming easy of late and today was a prime example when I had a bit of an inverted moment on the drop above the L-shaped weir. I had two or three attempts before I managed to drag, and I emphasise drag, my boat the right way up so I could breath oxygen again.

Force Falls.

One blessing can come from today's paddle down the Kent however and that was my dry line down Force Falls. The river was at a fairly high level today, opening up a boof line on river left, which I have seen before, but have never really gone for. I went for it today, mainly because I didn't fancy the line down the middle, which probably would have ended up with me getting a kicking in the hole at the bottom.

Maybe that's where my confidence has been lost; in negative visualisation. However, of late, it seems that holes have been my downfall and I've either ended up getting surfed in them or flipped by them. I suppose this could be one of those annoying Catch 22 scenarios. I get all tense around holes, making the boat really twitchy, thus the force of the recirculating water has more of an impact on the boat, causing a drop in confidence, meaning I'm all tense around holes and so on.

After the Kent we headed over to the Leven for a quick blast down the river. The prospect of the fall under Backbarrow Bridge had me all apprehensive, just like Force Falls had earlier. In the end I decided to walk the falls, which probably was the best thing for me at that specific time. If I had run the falls and took a bit of a beating, like on my previous run a couple of weeks ago, my confidence would probably spiral downwards ever more.

Below Backbarrow Bridge, the falls and the weir.

As for the question: 'confidence or motivation. I'm not sure which?' I would probably say that the fall in confidence is directly related to my level of motivation towards paddling. I need to be able to keep my moral for boating at a high level so that I can spend time in the boat, and on the water, which is what, from skimming the posts on the UK Rivers Guidebook, is said to help improve your confidence after a slight knock. I suppose some work on my roll will be essential so that it feels more solid and is at a similar standard to a few years back, therefore helping improve my confidence.

I could be off over to Swaledale tomorrow to fall down the Keld Gorge. It could be just what the doctor ordered.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

20 December 2008

Future water...

Crammel Linn on the Irthing.

Yesterday I said that I would be going paddling today. I lied; I never did go paddling. There had been a long term plan to go and paddle the Irthing over on the English/Scottish border in Northumberland. For the entire week I had a constant eye on the weather forecast and I thought that it may have been a goer today. However, it was all cancelled at the last minute and I was left with no real plans. I set about finding some people to paddle with, in order to make use of the heavy rain that was falling for most of the evening. That showed some signs of success. However this morning, the text with the final plans came through rather late and didn't bring the desired effect. A trip down the Greta, a river I had done only one week ago, instead of what may have been a bash down the Swale or a slide down Langstrath Beck. I resounded myself to a day away from boating, and half way through the afternoon, in a bid to while away the time, I set off, alone, to the Irthing, to scout it out for a future descent.

I looked over the bridge at Gilsland. There wasn't that much water coming down the river channel, but comparing it with what's written in the guidebook I reckon it could have been on. I headed further up the valley to hunt down the drop I had studied so often of late in pictures and videos on the web. It goes by the name of Crammel Linn and is one of the bigger drops in the Lake District area. This is what had attracted me to this particular river and probably will draw me back again, and again until I eventually hit it at the perfect level and fire off the lip into the pool at the bottom.

I may try and get out in a boat tomorrow. Who knows?

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

19 December 2008

Black Out

For the past two days I've been down at the University of Cumbria's Ambleside campus on a two day first aid course run by Adventure Learning. The course itself was brilliant and I'm all topped up on first aid knowledge for the next three years, which allows me to walk onto any NGB training course now without worrying about the first aid prerequisites.

However, I was reluctant to commute, both days from Carlisle so I decided that I'd stay over in the Windermere area and sleep in my van. Ultimately, meaning that I could have a lie in, but also save fuel and money by cutting out the drive there and back, and then there and back again. To kill the time on Thursday night I decided to go out for a bit of a stroll up Loughrigg, which towers down over Ambleside. Obviously this was all in the pitch black and my Petzl Tikka + headtorch came in use. Obviously the pictures are a bit dull as it was pitch black, but I managed to get a glimpse of the odd rock, sheep or tree.

See, there's a tree.

I slept the night on the shores of Windermere at Red Nab and woke in the morning to a lovely pinkish glow over Windermere.

See, there's the pinkish glow over the lake.

Tomorrow I should be off paddling.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

14 December 2008

A mad dash...

down south after I looked at my phone at 11:45am to find a text message saying that some mates were paddling the Greta, which runs through Keswick, and were meeting around mid-day. At first I thought I wouldn't be able to make it in time, what with not having any of my kit packed, or a boat on the roof, and I let them know this. Then, when I stopped and thought about it, it started to sound quite possible that I would be able to load my van and drive the thirty or so miles to the put-in, in time.

It was all go. I decided that by kitting up in the comfort of my own home would save time, so I quickly shoved my dry suit on, threw all my other kit into the back of the van and then chucked my boat up on the roof. This was done wearing the dry suit; I got some funny looks from the neighbours who were leisurely pottering around the street on their mid-day, Sunday business. I then jumped into the van and drove, slightly possessed, to the river and arrived just after half-twelve. Not bad, not bad at all. The boat came off the van, the rest of my paddling kit was slipped into and we were off down the river with hardly a second lost.

Looking upstream at the snowy hills.

I have done the Greta a fair few times now so it was nothing out of the ordinary. It was at a good level because of the thawing of the snow, which has been lying up high for over two weeks, and some light rain over the past few days. I had done it higher than today, but then again I had also done it lower than this; it was a perfect level I suppose after three weeks out from paddling.

On the lead-in to Magnetic Rock rapid.

Surfing a wave.

Trying to be a bit arty with a focused bit of driftwood in the foreground and a paddler making an eddy behind.

Nothing much happened during the descent; we all caught eddies, we all surfed waves and we all got off the river with heavy arms and happy faces. I jumped back in the van, still clad in dry suit, and headed back to Carlisle to sort my gear and a bit of a rest before my final week at university before breaking up for Christmas.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

13 December 2008

Walking my name sake...

However, paddling may have just been as good an option; when I called in on the Greta there was a respectable flow, which would have made for a sporting paddle. However, walking was just as good.

We reached our destination of Chapel Bridge in the Newlands Valley in good time and sat for a few minutes whilst we waited for the van coming up from Preston to arrive. We were soon on foot heading off along the road, and then the footpath which ran along the western bank of Scope Beck. After a while we started climbing up the fell side to reach the small plateau on Robinson. This is the fell I share my surname with, which I noticed on
the map last week, when I was walking along the ridge line running south from Cat Bells. It definitely had to be climbed just for the novelty factor and it just happened that today was that day. To be honest I hadn't planned to be walking Robinson so soon, but it just seemed like a good idea when I was hunting out a route on Thursday night.

The bleak ridge line along the top of Robinson.

Once at the summit of Robinson (737m) we briefly stopped for dinner, but long enough to catch a slight chill from the falling snow and slight breeze, which was whipping across the fell. From here we carried on south to one of the two Robinson Crags, via Hackney Holes before climbing Littledale Edge to where Hindscarth rises up from the valley floor.

Looking down, along Littledale Edge and Hindscarth running up from the left.

There was an option to descend down Hindscarth back to Chapel Bridge, but with plenty of light left in the day we carried on along Hindscarth Edge to reach the summit of Dale Head (753m).

On Dale Head looking across to High Spy.

We had looked at Dale Head from High Spy last week and noticed that the ascent up the northern face was exceptionally steep. However, today we were going to descend down this face back into the valley.

Descending the north face of Dale Head from Dalehead Crags.

To begin with the descent was slightly sketchy. We had to traverse above the top of Dalehead Crags, which was covered in some deep powder slope before we finally reached the tight switchbacks at 400m and eventually the valley bottom, where the headwaters of Newlands Beck were flowing quite well, making the crossing as sketchy as the earlier snow traverse.

Looking up the valley: Dale Head to the left, Hindscarth running from middle to right and Robinson in the back on the right.

All that was left to do now was traverse the base of the fell, following Newlands Beck on its journey downstream back to the vans and the hours drive back to Carlisle. There's quite a bit of water around the Lakes at the moment, what with the rain and the temperatures rising slightly meaning the snow is starting to melt. Maybe I'll go paddling tomorrow.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

12 December 2008

Hitting the trails again...

It's Friday again so another day spent playing in the hills as part of my Practical Outdoor Activities module. Today was our second, and final day mountain biking. The week before we were left with the option of a ride up and down a fell, or a ride on some more trails up in the borders for our second session. However, today when our instructor met us nice and early at 9am we were told Newcastleton was our destination as the fells may still be too frozen for good biking action.

Newcastelton is one of the Seven Stains in the borders of bonny Scotlandshire. We rode a red route, like the previous week, which was 10.5km and according to the Scottish Forestry Commission ...
"whizzes through the trees on fast, narrow single track for nearly 3km near the start, crossing bridges and boardwalks, and the final exhilarating descent from Swarf Hill will have you going round for a second lap."
We did go round for a second go, but only did the last section from Swarf Hill before hitting up the North Shore at the start of all the trails.

Still the small group of four were not exhausted so we set off for the Caddrouns Blue Trail, but found that there was a reason for the fencing blocking the start of the trail. It was still being constructed. We tried to get down it, but eventually gave it up as a lost cause and walked back up to the forestry road and headed back to the minibus for tea and medals.

Off walking tomorrow.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

06 December 2008

Winter wonderland

Yesterday I said I would be playing in the snow at some point this weekend. Today was that day, but I may do the same tomorrow. A quick search on Friday night gave me a route, which would take in Cat Bells, on the western shore of Derwent Water and then many miles of high level walking, guaranteeing snow covered fells, before descending back down to the valley floor.

Saturday morning came and there was a distinct lack of get up and go, however we managed to leave Carlisle at 9:30am. Only half an hour later than planned. We were off walking at 10:30am and walking along the Allerdale Ramble so that we could ascend to Hause Gate.

Blencathra peaking through the trees on the ascent to Hause Gate.

Once at Hause Gate we skirted north to reach the summit of Cat Bells where it seems that every man and his dog, and every other relation to that same man and dog, were picnicking on this fine December day. Why wouldn't they be here? There was no cloud in the sky, the views were amazing, there was snow on the ground and even light exercise kept you warm as the December sun burnt down.

Derwent Water from Cat Bells.

From Cat Bells we back tracked for a short period, before we were on new trails taking us across Maiden Moor with amazing views over the Derwent Fells to the west, but also the Helvellyn Range to the east, and back north was Skiddaw towering over Keswick as well as Blencathra off in the distance.

Looking, from Bull Crag, towards the Derwent Fells.

The beehive cairn at 650m on High Spy with the Helvellyn Range in the background.

Our final summit today was High Spy (650m), which had an amazing beehive shaped cairn marking the summit, but even more amazing were the panoramic views. We could look down on the Newlands Valley and then north to Skiddaw and Blencathra before looking out east to the fells rising up from the shores of Derwent Water and those beyond. There was also to the south, views of Great Gable and it's neighbouring fells. From here we made a descent to Wilson's Bield and then off through the disused, Rigghead Quarries and down Tongue Gill to rejoin the Allerdale Ramble.

Looking downstream on the Upper Derwent as we traverse the fell side via the Allerdale Ramble.

More pictures from the day can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

05 December 2008

Rolling along the trails

Friday again; mountain biking on the trails in Whinlatter Forest as part of the Practical Outdoor Activities module I've to complete.

Over the past week the Lake District has been hit by some real winter conditions with a lot of low lying snow from Thursday onwards and before this I was constantly defrosting my van every morning so I could drive into lectures down in Penrith.
It has however warmed up slightly, but still when we hit the forestry roads and trails in Whinlatter Forest we were plagued with little traction and bairly any control when away from the cover of the trees. This lead to a rather interesting experience as we tried to ascend to the top of the trails to find our back wheels spinning round, and round in the snow and our front wheels sliding out from beneath us. It lead to some rather interesting riding, and probably wasn't the most ideal conditions for improving your mountain biking.

The snow on the forestry roads, which take you to the top of the biking trails.

To begin with our instructor from Cyclewise Training worked on our body positioning on the bikes when making ascents and descents before looking at breaking. We then headed into the forest for a couple of runs on the opening sections of the North Loop trail to look at flowing from one turn to another by looking into the turn and leaning the bike rather than turning with the handlebars. It was amazing to see such similarities between this and surfing a kayak on a wave.

Cycling back along the forestry roads after completing a section of Whinlatter Forest's North Loop.

We then broke for lunch and escaped into the warmth of the bike shop at the head of the trail. We headed out once again to beat our way up through the snow, to make a descent of a section of the South Loop.

Ascending the South Loop.

Descending a part of the South Loop trail.

To round off the day a couple of the group made a quick ascent and then a descent of another section of the North Loop. It was amazingly steep and at times slightly sketchy as you power slid around a berm on the ice to drop down into a series of small jumps.

Starting the descent from the top of the North Loop.

Despite the far from ideal conditions for mountain biking I had amazing fun, and learnt a lot from the days tuition. I imagine that I'll be playing in the snow again at some point this weekend.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

01 December 2008

When there's water...

A couple of shots featuring your's truly from the UniYaker selection weekend courtesy of Tim Burne.

Me dropping around the corner of Boatbreaker, Aberglaslyn Gorge.

Lining up for the sideways boof on the opening drops of the Cwm Llan.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

30 November 2008

It's all gone a bit arctic

Shap International Kayak Film Festival came and went last night. There was a splendid line up of films including Olaf Obsommer's film on the Stikine; Max Bilbow's new film, premiered in Leeds on Friday night, Means of Production; as well as the latest offering by the Fat Cats, 60˚ North, introduced by Ali Marshal himself. There were also a few announcements about the positive steps being made with the EA regarding the release of river level beta for paddlers and fisherfolk alike, as well as the opening of the Rainchasers short film competition. There could be some ideas knocking around the old noggin already.

With a cold night's sleep in the back of the van and a rather loose plan for paddling today I soon found myself back home in Carlisle thawing out after a top-notch night, where I was able to catch up with everyone I've been out paddling with since I moved to Carlisle back in September. It seems that the Lakes has dried up and frozen over giving no chance of any boating action in the coming days or even weeks if Metcheck is anything to go by.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

28 November 2008

Winter Woodland

"There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations."
- Washington Irving

On the banks of the River Eden in Eden Brows.

A newly felled tree.

The afternoon sun rising over the brim of the hill, to illuminate the woodland.

Flames licking the damp wood scavenged from the woodland floor.

All these pictures were taken today as part of a Practical Outdoor Activities module. The day was focused on the environmental side of the outdoors and how the outdoors can be experienced for what it is, and not just the apparatus allowing participation in 'extreme' sports like kayaking and climbing. It was quite interesting really, and just gave me time to enjoy the outdoors for what it is; the outdoors.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

27 November 2008


Like mentioned in the past I don't have lectures on a Thursday so I am pretty much free to do what I want, when I want. With the lack of rain in the Lakes I didn't have that much motivation to find a paddling crew for a descent of what would probably be some lubed up rocks. Instead I headed into the fells for a chance to stretch my legs, and log a few more mountain days to help fill my Mountain Leader logbook I received a couple of weeks ago. I found what looked like a nice walk on one of the many websites dedicated to routes in the area and then checked it out on the map. The aim was to summit three peaks all above the 650m mark all on my bill so I had to rely on my own navigation skills. This meant that first of all I would tick off Little Man (865m), then Skiddaw (931m) and finally Sale How (666m) before traversing around the foothills of Lonscale Fell via Glenderaterra Beck.

A monument on the hill sides above Whit Beck.

The weather was far from ideal on the ascent up to Little Man with strong winds and ravishing rain, which stung any exposed flesh. I reached the top of Long Man and decided that climbing a further 60m+ to the top of Skiddaw, whilst on my own, was not the best idea in the present conditions. Instead I descended down to the col between Long Man and Skiddaw, then tracked out east. Now away from the ridge line I was protected from the strong westerlies and could pace out, in low cloud by compass bearing, across Skiddaw Forest, ticking off Sale How before reaching the Cumbrian Way. This would take me down Glenderaterra Beck and around the front of Lonscale Fell, back to the van.

Looking north-east from Skiddaw House as the sun starts to burn through the cloud.

The weather improved somewhat and I beat away from the Cumbrian Way so that I was closer to the falling water in Glenderaterra Beck as I had read that it was possible to paddle much of the length of this mountain stream. It was definitely too low for a run today, but I suppose under heavy rain it could bring it up enough to warrant the 2.5km walk in with a boat for the grade 4 descent.

Looking down the Glenderaterra Beck valley to the Helvellyn range beyond.

The Glenderaterra Beck Valley in the foreground, with Low Rigg and High Rigg in the middle ground and the Helvellyn range in the background.

The afternoon sun burning through the clouds over Derwent Water and the north-western fells.

All in all it wasn't such a bad day. The weather was far from ideal for my first solo walk, but I suppose that added to the fun of it all. On the positive side, at no point did I get lost, and I could have pointed out, on the map, where I was at any given point. It's something I'll definitely be repeating when there's no water in the rivers and there's no one around to head out for an adventure.

Right now I'm in the library on campus using the wireless technology that has just been installed, waiting for the climbing wall to open so that I can go and help out supervising a group. This is for the group supervision section of my Climbing Wall Award logbook. It seems, right now, that everything I do in the outdoors - be it climbing, walking or paddling - has some ulterior motive; mainly ticking boxes and filling pages in NGB logbooks. I suppose it's got to be done if I want to forge ahead and have a career in the outdoors.

It's Shap International Kayak Film Festival this Saturday so a chance to watch some paddling porn, party and then maybe some boating on the Sunday after a night spent in the van. Should be good.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

25 November 2008

Sunday Wrap Up

The British University Kayak Expedition Team '09: (Back Row L to R) Tim Hamlet, Stuart Watson, Ben McKeown, Andy Jaunzems, Eoghain Johnson, Stuart Haywood, Nathan Fletcher, (Front Row L to R) Tom Haywood and Luke Farrington.

When Sunday came around there wasn't that much enthusiasm for paddling, even after what must have been a heavy nights rain. After consulting with the Conwy phone gauge we were left in the knowledge that the Fairy Glen was too big to paddle. There was talk the previous day about a blast over to the mighty Tryweryn for a bit of a Boater X and Big Air session, but that went by the wayside and we were left to reside over cleaning up the bunk house and heading our separate ways, back to our respective institutions for lectures the next day.

This has been one of the best weekends of boating I have had in a long time. Probably due to the fact that all the rivers I had paddled were personal first descents and that most of the boaters on the weekend were a lot better than me; meaning I had few worries about the others on the water, enabling me to fully concentrate on my own paddling. I am slightly disappointed that I didn't make the final expedition team, but then again I did make the selection weekend, which some people did not, and have an awesome three days of paddling, socialising and getting to know like minded individuals. At the end of the day I feel that everyone on the team fully deserved their place and, by a long way, were much better paddlers than myself. However, I am sure that over the summer I'll be able to get abroad for some foreign paddling action with some of the guys I met this weekend, which will be awesome.

More pictures from the weekend can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...