31 October 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

... but only 55 days too early. It's Friday again so it means only one thing; more practical sessions for my Outdoor Leadership degree. Today was the first of our two walking sessions and it could have been the best weather for walking, and walking was probably the best session to be doing with the weather the Lake District has been experiencing for the past week. On driving into University, after spending a good five minutes defrosting the van, I was greeted with snowy tops on the Lake District's northern fells.

Driving into University on the Catterlen road to High Dyke with snowy views over Blencathra.

We were quickly on the road again, after having a briefing from our instructor for the day, heading for the southern tip of Haweswater. The plan was to ascend Long Stile from it's most north-westerly point right on the shores of Haweswater, with the final aim of summitting at 828m on High Street.

Looking north along Haweswater Reservoir from Long Stile.

From the very beginning of the day it was cold, but as we ascended the wind got much stronger and the temperature plummeted. However, when looking down the Haweswater Valley there was still patches of sunlight on the lower fells, and when looking up at the higher peaks you were greeted with rolling cloud and frozen, snow covered ground.

Ascending a snowy Riggindale Crag with Blea Water below.

When eventually the long ascent of Long Stile was complete, we were on High Street and in the clouds. Visibility was down to something well below 100m and through a bit of tuition we headed off for the summit following a little red compass needle bobbing around on its axis.

On High Street in the 'White Room' heading on a bearing to the summit.

Snowy shoes.

On reaching the summit we did not dwindle for any great amount of time, but instead, carried on along High Street before starting to drop down, along a path which ran, someway from the edge, along the top of Blea Water Crag.

Making a snow man above 700m somewhere on the top of Blea Water Crag.

The wind had really started to pick up now and at times there was nothing you could do apart from hold onto your hat, lean your body into the oncoming wind and walk in the hope that it would soon ease.

Crossing the outflow of Small Water on the descent back to Haweswater Reservoir.

When we eventually started dropping down the Nan Bield Pass we were out of the really strong winds and the minibus was in sight down on the shores of Haweswater. All that was needed was to skirt the side of Small Water and walk along the outflowing beck, which eventually converged with Mardale Beck just before entering Haweswater.

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

26 October 2008

Big Water, Tree Sunday

Another day and another day's paddling. A couple of phone calls the night before and a further call in the morning had a plan set to meet up at 9am and do what we do best; paddle. I was slightly apprehensive about the day's paddling as the previous day had seen biblical amounts of rain being dumped over the Lake District. Couple this with Thursday's heavy rain and you were left with an equation that equaled big river levels. Today we reckoned would be more of a case of finding a river low enough to safely paddle so it was decided we'd head over to Sedbergh, to the Lune Valley, to take a look at the Rawthey with the idea of paddling the Clough as well. On arriving at Sedbergh New Bridge the river looked big, but when getting on the Rawthey upstream, after seal launching from the top of a hill into the flow, it was decided that it was more of a medium level. Obviously it had stopped raining in the early morning, meaning that it was on the way down. Still the level was good.

The first hole, with a reputation of looping boats, was unrunnable with a fallen tree covering the lip.

With a portage of the tree, and one of our group walking out after deciding that a longer recovery from Thursday's swim down Troutbeck was needed, three of us carried on downstream with the news that their was an aggressive farmer looking for a fight with us neoprene clad kayakers.

One of the flatter sections of the river, with views over the Howgills.

Dropping into Loup Falls.

At the bottom of the awkward twisty slot marking the end of the Rawthey Gorge.

The main interest was now over and we drifted downstream, paddling when it was needed, admiring the interesting, geologically speaking, Conglomerate Gorge before passing under Straight Bridge and descending gently down to Sedbergh. On passing the confluence to the Clough and seeing the water coming over nearly all the final fall a plan was put together for a second river.

The shuttle was quickly run and we were off down the Clough, inspecting everything, like on the Rawthey, from the boat as we went. This was a speedy descent and we were soon entering the Clough Gorge. I was slightly apprehensive because of previous visits to the river. I had been told horror stories of recirculating boats in the hole near the bottom and from previous experience the entrance to the gorge can sometimes be nasty. Luckily, my line entering the gorge was good and I floated past the undercut left hand side from a distance. We had a quick bank inspection of the hole I was worried about and it was just how I remembered it. I stopped to take photographs.

Running the hole described as 'strong' in the Lake District bible in style.

My line through the hole was alright. I escaped it's grasp anyway, but seemed to end upside down on the run out. I went for the roll, came back up and went back over as the aerated water offered little support. I rolled again and this time I stayed upright. We descended the rest of the river quickly and took the main line, instead of the chicken chute I have taken previously, on the final fall with a big stroke on the left to boof the boat onto the foam pile of the hole and into the waiting eddy.

Another good day on the water. Supposedly the temperatures are going to be dropping now, so it may dry up around here for a while. Hopefully I'll be able to find something to keep me entertained.

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

23 October 2008

Big Water, Tree Thursday

Well I don't have lectures on a Thursday so that means I have a day off for working on assignments as well as going kayaking and climbing. This was the first time that I had actually managed to do something that didn't revolve around assignments and it all came down to a phone call I received on my birthday asking if I was free to go paddling on Thursday. I said: "yes" and a couple of phone calls later I was on the road to the greasy-cafe in Penrith to meet the boys at 10am. The plan was to go and paddle the Kent and the Leven. I mentioned that I had never done the Sprint and Mint so a route was planning that would take us over Shap, call in on the Sprint and then, if no good, carry on to the Kent. We never made it to the Kent. When looking over Garnett Bridge we were greeted with a good amount of water, which later on, when at the measuring weir, was hitting the 0.9 mark.

Getting on below S-Bends in an effort to void aggravation with the local landowners.

This was the first time on the river and it was good. There was plenty of water, a fair few trees, but it was good all the same. We were making good progress downstream until one of our team took a swim: we got them out of the river pretty sharpish. I managed to get their paddle on a bank, but the boat just went and went and went. In the effort to chase the boat we had to make a quick portage of Slot and Drop and carry on downstream. I, at this point, was giving up on seeing the red CFS again. I was wrong.

The CFS pinned on a tree in the river. Thank-god for them trees.

Everything was quickly sorted once the boat was removed from the tree and we carried on downstream. Trees were still a problem, but it was all good fun. We eventually came up to Sprint Mill Falls, and made a quick inspection before three of the group blasted through and one portaged.

On line on Sprint Mill Falls.

We carried on downstream. Everything was good apart from the sheer amount of trees in the river and the main interest was over so we bumbled onto the take out where a few other paddlers were thinking of getting on the water. They were a bit unsure though. However, I'm not sure what their final decision was because we were shooting off for our second river; Troutbeck.

This was the first time that I had been on the Troutbeck, so you could say it was a day of personal first descents. We got on the water quickly, once we had got our kit back on and headed off downstream. Again trees were a problem and at times it felt like everything was going terribly fast and we were more surviving, than descended the river in control. However, it was good and unusual at the same time. It didn't feel like Lake District boating. However, just before Pipe Bridge Gorge, on trying to make an eddy so that we could inspect downstream one of the group ended up out of their boat because of a run in with a tree. Thankfully they managed to get themselves, and their boat out of the flow, however their paddle went floating off downstream. I chased it briefly, but gave up as I was starting to drop into the gorge unsure what was coming up. I quickly made an eddy and got out to regroup. Luckily the car was not that far away, where there was a spare paddle. This was quickly retrieved and we carried on downstream.

Looking up into Pipeline Gorge, from the Pipeline.

The descent of the gorge went well. It was impressive and we carried on downstream in a similar vain. Everything was going well until we were descending the last couple of rapids, after managing to make a quick inspection. There was a swimmer again and I found myself upside down for a while getting a good old beating. I took a few blows, but managed to roll up and begin the chase of the swimmer and their kit. The chase went on and on and on. Luckily the river had eased off and with the swimmer happy on the front of my boat we just floated downstream until the ideal opportunity cropped up to get them out. The boat was left to its own devises and was found later on pinned to a tree just before entering Windermere.

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

17 October 2008

A bit of a bumb and a scrape...

down Stoneycroft Gorge. It was the last day of the working week once again so it only meant one thing; University Practicals. We've now moved on from kayaking and for today, and today only, we were gorge walking down Stoneycroft Gorge in the Newlands Valley.

At the top before setting off down the gorge.

Resurfacing after sliding down a slab.

The group descending one of the flatter sections of the gorge.

In the gorge getting a bit moist.

Sliding down a slab as Superman.

This was the first time that I had been gorge walking and yes it was cold, it was wet, but it was also really good fun. However, I think I may be nursing some aches and bumps for a while.

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

12 October 2008

Not a lot doing...

A cold October morning on Derwent Water, Keswick.

I've not done much today. In fact I've done nothing. Friday saw a lot of rain, which would have meant there would have been water in the becks and rivers on Saturday however I didn't manage to get out as I had visitors. Today, the water has all gone and with no plans made to meet anyone for a paddle I resided myself to a day of nothing. I have given my van the once over and topped up the windscreen wash, but that's the most productive I've been. Trawling the internet has taken up much of my time and I briefly read the latest Canoe Focus and sent a few emails off.

I have, whilst reading Canoe Focus and trawling the internet come acros
s, not for the first time, the biography of Andy Jackson, which is entitled Tall Stories; Andy Jackson a Biography. It's written by Ronald Cameron, published by Pesda Press and the royalties from the book are going to be devided equally between the Andy Jackson Fund for Access and the IcFem mission in Kenya.
"Andy Jackson was Scotland's most eminent kayaker ever. Andy's limelight lasted the decade that kayaking took centre stage. He was the emerging leader when there were fewer than 20 Topos in Scotland, and still followed now there are hundreds. It will never be possible again, to do so many first descents in Scotland. Andy was the key instigator of the first comprehensive guidebook, and will have died happy that Scotland has emerged as a world leader in access legislation for ordinary people. Andy's huge frame matched his huger personality, and without giving lessons he taught everyone he met something frequently life changing."
- Andy England, 2005

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

10 October 2008

Scotland, not Scotland, Scotland

Today was another day of kayaking practicals and they were kicked off, once the trailer and bus was loaded up, with a mad dash north across the border into Scotland to hopefully paddle a river over there. Through out the hour long drive the rain lashed against the van, on crossing the Eden we were greeted with a big brown, frothing torrent so when pulling up at our final destination there was little surprise in what we would be greeted with.

The face of our instructor as we stare over the bridge...

and what greeted us on the other side of the bridge.

With our tale between our legs we said enough was enough and headed back across the border to England to go and find something to paddle. It was decided that it would be Ullswater. That big lake in the northern Lake District, which was a good hour-and-a-bit of a drive away so a lot of time in the van was the order of the morning.

Entertaining ourselves on the road back to the Lake District.

Eventually we reached our final destination. A car park besides a raging Glenridding Beck. We kitted up, once we had filled our bellies, and got on the lake for a blast around on the windy waters. Once exhausted on the lake we played around on the lower section of the beck before heading across the lake to jump off some rocks into the water.

Descending Glenridding Beck.

Crossing Glenridding Beck.

Unfortunately I've no pictures of us tomb stoning into the lake as my camera started playing up. However, this rock jumping gave me the ideal opportunity to test the new neck seal I fitted this week using the bread bin and a lot of Aquasure. I'll probably be off paddling this weekend at some point.

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

09 October 2008

Lower Kisdon Force

Auto-boofing the second step on Lower Kisdon Force. Photo: Tim Blundell.

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

05 October 2008

Elbow Pads and all...

I think in the last post I mentioned that a job for the weekend would be to replace my neck seal on my dry suit. Well, to be perfectly honest, I never managed to replace the seal as I didn't have the seal (they're in Preston) and I had no glue. However, I did go to Brookbank Carlisle to try and rectify the absence of glue, but they were all out as well. The trip wasn't all that unproductive mind; phone numbers were exchanged with the staff in the chance that a trip was on the cards the next day. It was bucketing it down and I had cycled the seven miles to the shop!

Anyway, I got a text message that evening, plans were to hit Langstrath Beck, and all I had to do was have my kit ready by 8:45 to be picked up and whisked off into the Lakes. In true boater fashion we never got to Langstrath Beck (fears of lack of water) and instead headed east to Swaledale with a paddler we had met in Penrith. On the way to the Swale we had a cheeky look at Swindale Beck in Brough, it was too low, before eventually reaching Wainwath Force. We kitted up, ran the shuttle and got onto the river for the quick blast through the Swale's Keld Gorge. This would be my first proper river trip in a long time where elbow pads wouldn't be laughed at. The last time they were out could have been over two months ago when I paddled the Tummel up in Perthshire.

Boofing out on the right hand line on Wainwath Force.

Lined up and locked in for the slide down Rainby Force.

On the second half of the unnamed double drop just after Rainby Force.

A bit of creek boat freestyle in a hole.

On the second half of Catrake Force.

Pulling on a big right-hander to boof out through the main chute on Upper Kisdon Force.

Tucking up on Lower Kisdon Force in an effort to save the back from impact with the rock shelf.

Walking out from the gorge to Keld.

This was my second descent of Keld Gorge and it was roughly the same level as my previous visit. Everything went well, and everything was ran with success. I near enough had a dry head day apart from the line I took on Upper Kisdon, which took me straight through the chute of water coming off the ledge protruding in the middle. On getting back to the car at the top of the gorge plans were made for another river. First of all it was going to be the Belah over by Kaber and then the Upper Eden over by Aisgill. We managed neither, but did look at the Belah and dismissed it as too low before heading for Carlisle and home.

More pictures can be found here.

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

03 October 2008

Trailers, Minibuses and Kayaking

Today was the end of the third week at university and the first day of our practical sessions, which count towards our degree. What better way of kicking off the practicals than a day's kayaking with Sean from Wild River Coaching. I was a bit sceptical about the day as there was a vast range of experience in the group ranging from myself - been kayaking five years - to people who didn't even know the difference between a kayak and a canoe. However, the day was a great success for everyone in the group no matter what their experience.

Packing everyone into the minibus before departing.

The day kicked off with an hour of sorting gear and packing it away into the trailer and the minibus. We were then on the road heading for Derwent Water where we would be spending the day. Most of the morning, once we had arrived, was spent looking at paddlesport fundamentals like connectivity with the boat, posture and driving the boat. Then in the afternoon, once fed and watered, we carried on around the lake shore to the mouth of the mighty Derwent for a river descent.

On Derwent Water admiring the nature and scenery.

The Derwent was definitely mighty. There was some current evident and we all just happily floated down the river chatting away, laughing and joking. Eventually we came to a small measuring weir where some of us tried to surf a small, green wave with no foam pile what so ever. It was fun anyway. The day was rounded off with some swimming practice in the current before packing up and heading for home.

Beating our way up wind to the mouth of the mighty Derwent.

Walking back to our boats after a bit of swimming practice.

One major thing I learnt from the day is that my dry suit is like a sieve. In inspecting the neck seal I think it may need replacing so there's a job for the weekend and with crossed fingers that should then be a fully working dry suit once again.

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