30 January 2009

Red Sky and all that...

A late January morning sky over Carlisle.
Red sky at night; shepherds/sailors/climbers (delete as applicable) delight,
Red sky in the morning; shepherds/sailors/climbers (delete as applicable) warning.
-Weather Folklore
Awoke this morning to a lovely red sky over Carlisle and headed into university for a day of climbing as part of my Practical Outdoor Activities module. According to the ever so popular weather folklore, cited above, a red sky in the morning is a warning sign and it certainly was. On the 19 mile drive into university I went from a dry, rather nice Carlisle into a wet Penrith. The executive decision was made by our instructor for the day that by heading east, into Yorkshire, we may just be able to avoid the weather system that had moved into blanket the Lake District and get some ascents on the limestone at Twistleton Scar.

Climbing Twistleton Scar.

It was certainly drier over in Yorkshire, however the limestone was wet and a nice strong, buffeting wind howled across the face making the going quite tough. Eventually the weather closed in and rain was looking like it could make a cheeky appearance. We packed up, turned tail and sped back to Penrith to finish the day off, like the previous week, on the climbing wall.

On the climbing wall.

I'm not so sure what the weekend entails. I think I'll stay away from the rivers as there isn't that much going apart from the normal Kent and Leven options. I may head out walking one day and just blast through some university work on expeditions on the other one.

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

26 January 2009

"When words become unclear,

"I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence."
On average, I drive from Carlisle to Penrith, four times a week and on most clear mornings I am rewarded, near the end of the drive, with some lovely views over the flat lands of northern Cumbria and the back of Blencathra. I always purposefully slow down to have a gander over at the mountain, which marks the northern border of the national park, always to think that it would make a good picture. On the times I have remembered my camera the view has been ruined by low cloud, however today everything came together and I was able to catch the snow covered fell.

A morning haze lies over the flat lands, with a snow-capped Blencathra in the background.

During one of my free periods at university I popped into Penrith to have a chat with a paddling chum and get some copies of the pictures taken on Wasdale Beck and the River Sprint during Thursday's mission.

On the opening stretches of the beck.

Just after one of the more interesting sections of river, about to drop under a footbridge.

Cutting across the flow to hit the exit of Sprint Mill Falls.

Then when I got home, in my inbox lay some pictures snapped of Jemma and me on yesterday's duo mission down the Greta.

Looking for a break out under the A66.

Pictures of Wasdale Back and the Sprint are courtesy of Tim Blundell and the picture of the Greta is courtesy of Allan Hacking.

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

25 January 2009

Keeping 'em sweet

Since September I've been living in Carlisle with Jemma, commuting to university each day, and at times I think she gets slightly neglected when I go jetting off into the Lake District on exotic beck bashing missions in the deepest and darkest regions of Cumbria. However, today Ribble Canoe Club were venturing north to descend the River Greta and after some ingenious planning on Friday night, and some further work on Saturday, I was able to get an Eskimo Topolino Duo brought up from Preston, which meant that I was able to bring Jemma along for some fun.

A smiling front seat passenger somewhere near the top of the river.

The Greta, for me, has turned into my local run. Since moving to Cumbria it has been the river I have paddled the most. I've had quick midday mad dashes over from Carlisle to catch it when I've not paddled for a while, or quick apres-lecture mad dashes over from university to catch it because I could. However, this has left me with a great knowledge of the river meaning that I was more than confident in the fact that I could get a two-person kayak down the river and still play the features.

Surfing a wave.

I have paddled a Topo Duo previously; on the Washburn over in Yorkshire and on the Rothay in the South Lakes so it wasn't that unfamiliar to me. In some ways the Topo Duo and it's one-person version are very similar to my Rocker and therefore it handled much the same on the river. Obviously I had to talk through my thought processes on the river in order for Jemma to know what to do and when to do it in order to make an eddy, or ferry across the current, or even surf a wave. This made me feel like I was back on the Durance, guiding inflatable buses down the river once again.

Breaking out underneath the A66.

The river was at a good level. The last time I had seen any river data for it was Friday morning and that had said it was dropping so I was slightly dubious as to whether the drive for the boys from Preston would be worth it. However, on arriving at Threlkeld Bridge it all looked good. There had been rain Friday afternoon and early Sunday morning, which the data I use for river levels wouldn't have taken into account, meaning that it gave a false representation of the river conditions. However, it is a mightily useful tool to have only a few clicks away.

Tucking up to punch through a 'meaty' hole.

Arriving on the outskirts of Keswick.

All in all it was a good day; the levels were good, the company was excellent and at times the weather couldn't have been any better. However, it's back to lecturers tomorrow.

More pictures can be found here.

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

23 January 2009

Ascending rather than descending

What with being back at university and it being a Friday we were forced to head away from the classroom and do practical things. For the group I am a part of this meant climbing and to be honest I wasn't in a climbing mood as it was cold, damp and rather overcast. Ultimately this meant the rock was soaking wet, but the day was beneficial all the same.

Faffing around with some gear practicing placements.

We ended up at Scratchmere and at times the sun shone through the trees warming the place up and drying some of the rock out. We top-roped a couple of climbs each ranging from Diff. to E2, but also looked at rigging systems and placing gear for leading and such like.

Watching some climbing action on a moist hunk of rock.

A couple of us also did some jamming up a rope, which ran besides the E2, meaning we could get some close up pictures of the ascents. These didn't come out too well as the static rope was rigged on the side which gave a lovely view of the climbers arse instead of their face; it's something I'll work on in the hope of getting some good results.

From the static rope.

The weather started to turn around 2pm so we headed back to campus and messed around on the climbing wall for an hour or so before packing up and heading for home.

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

22 January 2009

Singing the praises of the dry suit

I'm not in university on Thursday and the weather was kind enough to put some water down over night. This meant one thing; the rivers were flowing, but what was even nicer was the fact that it had stopped raining, meaning the pictures of the day would be full of sunny goodness. Let's not get started on pictures however; my camera is still playing up, meaning there is only a small selection for the blog at the moment, but that problem should be rectified next week.

The first river of the day was Wasdale Beck. Not the well known Wasdale over near Great Gable, but the lesser known Wasdale near Longsleddale and the River Sprint. I've called in on this beck once before on my first visit to the River Sprint, and had a quick look at Shap Wells Falls, but have since forgotten about it. However it looked good today and we were soon heading to the top of the run to bash down the boulder strewn river bed.

At Wasdale Old Bridge on the A6 about to head for the water.

There was only two of us on the river - one of the problems with mid-week, last minute boating missions - so we took it easy, scouting sections of the river from the bank as once in the flow there wasn't many eddies to hop down the boulder strewn rapids.

Inspecting another section of the beck.

We knew that a strainer loomed downstream that was far from pretty and this was our main worry and the reason for the continuous inspection of sections, which probably would have gone without grabbing a look from the bank. Luckily we found the tree in good time. I was on one side of the river, which made for a nice portage of the tree, which looked to have been trimmed back slightly, however the other paddler was on the opposite bank, which didn't offer up the nicest options for a portage.

I threw a line across and swung the boat across, what must have been one of the only free flowing sections of water, to the good bank. Then the process was repeated with the paddler and we were off on our portage. This is the first of the singing the praises of the dry suit. The suit allowed us to move across the river quickly without hassle and worry about immersion in water and it's heat sapping effects on the body.

A typical view up Wasdale Beck.

We moved on downstream in a similar vein. We did some rearranged of the driftwood in the river with a z-drag and then ran the section we had tided up, which finished in a nice boof manoeuvre over a smooth roosters tail. The bank inspection was reduced now as the river eased off giving more eddies and less boulders. There was a bridge across the river with little clearance and then two fences across the stream. The bridge was portaged and the first fence was good to go as a section had been removed, but the second one was not so good. On portaging this fence we had a run in with the local farmer. Words were exchanged, he wasn't happy with our presence, we apologised, chatted to him for a while, and then moved on downstream to the finale of the run, Shap Wells Falls.

Shap Wells Falls from the drive of the hotel with the same name.

There was a hurried inspection of the falls, conscience about our run in with the farmer, and also concerned about the drop in the river level. The falls still went and to my surprise there was little contact with the local granite geology as you plunged over the three tiered fall. That was that done and it was only knocking on 1pm. We moved onto the River Sprint, putting on below the S Bends, like on my previous run, and headed off downstream at a brisk pace. We portaged the Slot and Drop rapid as we didn't fancy the consequences of getting recirculated with only one paddler to depend upon for the rescue.

Putting back on downstream of Slot and Drop had us soon coming upon Rock and Roll. A quick bank inspection told us that it was clear of wood and we cruised on down. I however, did not cruise, but swam instead. On my previous visit I had to roll on the entry into the rapid, however today my back rest popped as I went over; I missed the roll a few times before popping my deck. The swim was quite pleasant as it flushed me into a bit of slack water allowing me to climb out of the gorge with my paddle and because of the dry suit I was quite comfortable after my immersion in the melt water filled river. I thought I may have been able to get my boat as well, but this floated off downstream to get recirculated in an eddy a little bit further down. This was retrieved and hauled up the bank before we moved off downstream to tick off the last couple of miles without incident.

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

19 January 2009


some 53 hours and we're back at Aira Beck. I got hold of some picture today, during a break between lectures, from one of the chaps who was on the river the other day. Unlike my camera, his was working perfectly well

On the main drop of the Seven Sisters.

Resurfacing after missing the boof.

All pictures courtesy of Tim Blundell.

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

18 January 2009


Looking east to the Lake District.

I mentioned yesterday about what today entailed; a 4 Star Leader refresher with Wild River's Sean McGrath. This was held on the Eden from Lazonby down to Armathwaite Bridge and encorporated a run of, the much talked about, Armathwaite Weir. I have only paddled this section of river once some years ago and it brought back happy memories. What was even more spooky was the fact that the water level seemed almost identical. That could have been down to two things; one, being that it actually was the same level or two, being that my memory is too hazy to make a more accurate analysis and thus concluded that it was the same level. Either way it was a good day on the water and was beneficial for my paddling development.

Back to the lecture suite tomorrow just as another weather front is hitting the Lake District, but there could be some boating in the pipeline for the end of the week. Also, sorry for the lack of quality pictures over the last few days; my camera is playing up. I think the battery could be a bit knackered. I hope that is the case anyway.

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

17 January 2009

Uncharatered waters

"Wild stream of Aira, hold thy course,
Nor fear memorial lays,
Where clouds that spread in solemn shade,
Are edged with golden rays!
Dear art thou to the light of heaven,
Though minister of sorrow;
Sweet is thy voice at pensive even.
And thou, in lovers' hearts forgiven,
Shalt take thy place with Yarrow!"
- The Somnambulist by William Wordsworth
Since Monday's paddle and Wednesday's walk in the clouds the weather has been mixing it up and rain has been put down, but amounts that make you question if it's really worth paddling. However, paddling is always the right thing to do so some plans were put in place late Friday night via Facebook, and then by phone, to meet up in Penrith and head off and find a beck or two to bash down.

We met up and headed for Ullswater, and then up one of the valleys, to just above Dochray, on the banks of Aira Beck. This beck isn't mentioned in the guidebook meaning that only recently boaters have started running it. Kit was sorted and boats rearranged before vehicles followed the same course. Heading off on foot, across country, brought us to an entrance into a gorge, with the beck at the bottom.

Heading into the river from above Dochray.

Much of the opening stages of the river were scouted from our boats, however after a paddle got wedged we got to experience the true pain of being deep in a gorge. The easiest way to retrieve the paddle was from the river right bank, however to get up the bank and back down to the paddle involved a nightmare climb up steep, muddy banks where for every two steps forwards, one was spent sliding back downhill. Eventually we moved on downstream and passed through Dochray, making point of how the river was dropping like a brick, before heading for the bank so that we could inspect the main interest, what I think is named the Seven Sisters.

Looking up the Seven Sisters.

There were some sweet lines down the Seven Sisters, however my line wasn't the most picturesque. I had too much speed going over the drop in the background of the above picture, which meant that I got the desired boof but on landing I ramped up onto a slab of rock. This was no problem, it was just more of an annoyance. The remaining drops went well though.

The first portage of what is still an un-run twenty footer.

Aira Beck is renowned for its big drops and none more so than Aira Force, however we soon came to a section that did not look pretty what so ever. We portaged the fall, but spent some time staring at it. It certainly did look possible, but just rather nasty if, when in the plunge pool, it didn't really go your way.

Getting back on the water after another portage.

Moving on downstream we were soon portaging again, and like the previous portage we scouting out the drops as they may just have been possible. The last few certainly were and one of our group stepped up and ran them with some degree of success. They got washed into a cave, the right way up, got spat out through a slot and ended up upside down for a while before rolling back up.

The final mandatory portage of the twenty meter Aira Force.

The really big one was on us, and no amount of water or protection will ever open this monster up. The water drops some twenty meters, slamming, about halfway down into the cliff side before, on finally reaching the bottom, flowing through a really narrow slot. We portaged, however I think the tourists on the footpath's were hoping for some macho showmanship on our part; we ran away with our tails between our legs.

We put back on the river below a staircase of three drops that did look possible, but none of us fancied them in these conditions. The first one didn't have a defined boof lip and pencilling it look far from ideal, the second one was almost immediately afterwards and the third one looked pretty nice, but would have just been a hassle to run if the first two were portaged.

We eventually made it downstream, the lake in view at the bottom of the beck, and got off by the gauge reading 7. When we pulled up at the river it was reading 9 so the river was definitely dropping like a brick. There's more boating tomorrow, however for me, it'll be a 4 Star Leader refresher course, bringing me back up to speed so that I can get the prerequisites for the 5 Star Leader. It's all a bit annoying, but I suppose it's got to be done if I want a career in the industry.

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

14 January 2009

Red needle over red arrow...

is all I've been doing today. For the past few days I've been closely watching multiple weather forecasts in the hope of catching the best day of what looked like a rather grim week so that I could head to the hills and get some half decent views. Supposedly that day was today and to be honest it was all going well until I clicked on the indicator to turn off the A66 to cut down to Ambleside via St John's in the Vale; there was cloud covering all the central fells, which was just where I was heading.

Anyway I carried on and pulled up in the car park at the New Dungeon Ghyll, I dropped my money into the parking meter and after putting £5.20 of change in the machine it let me know that the transaction was cancelled and refused to issue me a ticket, or give a refund. I had no more money on me so was now in a dilemma: do I leave the van with a note in the windscreen and hope I get away with the £60 fine, or do I turn tail and head for home, or abandon the van on the B5343, which is littered with signs stating: "POLICE. NO PARKING,' and hope it doesn't get towed away.

In the end it was none of the above as what can only be described as the nicest person in the world, the owner of the New Dungeon Ghyll, who was just setting off to walk her dogs, gave us permission to park in one of her free parking spaces by Stickle Cottages. Problem solved, but the
National Park will be getting a few whinging messages sent there way about parking fees and actually trying to pay them.

As for the walk, it's as the title suggests, most of it was done by taking bearings from the map and religiously following them in the hope of hitting the right paths at the right time. It did work to some degree.

Stickle Tarn.

We managed to summit Sergeant Man after reaching a bleak Stickle Tarn, and then hit High Raise for a quick dinner stop in the stone shelter before carrying on to Thunacar Knott.

The triangulation point on High Raise, which was a blessing when it reared up in front of us.

I'm still unsure if we actually reached Thunacar Knott's summit, and that is maybe why we had so much trouble finding the 736m high summit of Harrison Stickle. A friendly rambler, who appeared out of the mist, was able to reposition us on the map with his GPS as I was starting to loose hope of ever finding the summit. We eventually reached it, took a westerly course off the top and starting looking for the next one, Loft Crag. When the path started descending I guessed that we were on the wrong one again, gave up and just followed the path as it carried on down the side of Dungeon Ghyll to retreat back to the van, giving up hope of bagging the last three summits.

A break in the cloud, on the early descent, reveals the cascading waters of Stickle Ghyll.

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

12 January 2009

Catching the morning run off

I'm still not back in lectures, but instead have another week off before the second semester kicks in. This is nice, as I get to relax and chill out a bit more after the Christmas break, but when a lot of rain is put down over a day-and-a-half, its just rude not to go boating.

Today's boating came about through one simple text message sent to four kayakers living around the Penrith area. Two replied; one wasn't in the area, but knew of people heading out, and the other was game. A few minutes later and everything was put in place to meet up at a house in Penrith at 7:30am, get out on some rivers, which had been empty on Saturday, and were now in spate.

At Garsdale Head, waiting to put on the morning run off.

Once everyone had met up all bleary eyed plans were made to head over into the Lune Valley to see if we could catch the run-off on the Upper Clough. I have done this river before, but never ventured so high up the valley as it needs a lot of water. Some of us were slightly sceptical about the possibility of getting it in condition, but the early start gave us an advantage over the water, which had fallen on Sunday, and was now starting on its journey to the Irish Sea. When we got there it was on. The upper section was a goer and soon enough, whilst the shuttle was being run, a couple of us hucked our meat off the first bedrock fall at Garsdale Head.

Central line on the first bedrock fall.

All was going well until a land rover pulled up on the A684, which runs besides the river, and the occupant got out and started huffing and puffing about us being on the water. Fair game, he had a point, we were traipsing over his land without his permission so we moved on downstream, via the road, like he suggested, to find an alternative get on. He did mention that if we had asked permission beforehand he would have been more than happy to co-operate.

We were all eventually reunited on the river and bumbled on downstream boofing the many rock sills, which make up much of the interest on this section. Then the big one was upon us, the drop I had stared at countless times in the Lake District oracle, Lemmings Fall. There was much time spent umming and arrghing over the lines and eventually someone stepped up and ran the shizzle. The line wasn't ultra-tidy; there was a bit of time spent upside down in the hole, with the bow of the boat teetering on entering the cave behind the fall, but it worked.

Lemmings Fall.

About to get surfed along the hole, upside down, with the bow teetering on entering the cave.

Two more descents were made of the fall; one was by myself and the other, another member of the group. I had a good line, with a late boof off a diagonal ledge, which carried me on the perfect line to boof out over the hole at the bottom of the final 3m drop. It was, I hoped, styled to a degree, but that may have been more accidental than anything else. After the rest of the group had portaged we carried on downstream.

One of the final grade III/IV drops on the river.

We floated the rest of the way downstream, flicking the switch at certain times when some speed and navigation was needed, but the get out was soon up on us. There was some debate about carrying on to bag another river, but apathy had set in for some of us and the enthusiasm wasn't really there so we headed for home instead.

Today was a really rewarding day on the river, the 6:45am start from Carlisle was worth it in order to catch the run-off on a section of river I've never done. It was definitely needed, as by the time we had got off the river, it was too low to contemplate heading back to the top for a second run. It was also, for me, what the doctor had ordered for the things mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It did me the world of good and started to make me feel more positive about my boating; when inspecting things from the bank I was able to hit the line when back in the boat.

More pictures of the early morning adventure can be found here.

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

10 January 2009

Interviews and Walking

I had an interview today. This was the second interview I have ever had; the first was with Morrisons some time back, which proved unsuccessful. However, I hope this is more successful than that; if it is, I will be spending the majority of my Easter and Summer holidays, as well as the odd weekend, working over in Whinlatter Forest for Go Ape on their aerial assault course.

Not one for driving relatively long distances without good reason I donned my boots after the half-hour interview, and headed off into the overcast fells. I only had a short walk up to the top of Latrigg, which looks, from 368m, down on Keswick. It was windy and offered little in the way of impressive views over Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake because of the grey cloud hanging over the Lake District, but It did mean that for the two hours spent sat behind the wheel I actually did two-and-a-half hours of activities, which made the journey worthwhile.

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

09 January 2009

Going deeper underground

For the past three days I relocated to some rather splendid timber lodges, known as The Timberlodges, over in Ingleton. These three days were for my degree in Outdoor Leadership, the main aim was to head underground, explore the many cave systems in the Yorkshire Dales and learn how to plan a caving trip for a group of peers.

A snow blanket laying over Newton Rigg.

Tuesday night came and put a lot of snow down over the region and made the drive into university, to get the minibus, down to the Dales rather interesting. We had a morning of collecting gear, travelling and lectures before heading underground around Selside into the Long Churn Cave system.

Entering Thistle Cave by the Shake Hole.

Walking back to the van at the Ribblehead Viaduct.

When Thursday came we had further lectures before we eventually got back into the damp gear of the day before to explore Thistle Cave and Runscar Cave just east of the Ribblehead Viaduct.

Walking up to the Great Douk Cave.

Limestone Pavement on the side of Ingleborough.

After descending these caves, which appeared considerably sedate compared to the previous days caving, we headed over to the cave system of Great Douk, which livened things up as there was a very long crawl in a very confined space down a nice cold, stream.

Abseiling into Calf Holes.

Somewhere in the cave system of Calf Holes and Browgill Cave.

On the final day we entered the world of vertical caving with an abseil and a ladder climb into Calf Holes, which leads down to Browgill Cave. However, the group I was with entered at Browgill Cave went up through the cave, with some poor route finding, before eventually climbing the ladder and then abseiling straight back down to descend through the cave and pop out, once again, at the exit of Browgill Cave.

This was my first time caving and I thoroughly enjoyed myself underground in some fairly confined spaces. I may even venture into the caves again and see about getting some more interesting pictures one of these days.

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

02 January 2009

Ain't No Reason

Setting off from the public slipway at Ferry Nab, Windermere.

Two day's into 2009 and I'm back in a boat. I met up with some of the gang that I went walking with the other day for a gentle cruise along Windermere. We covered something like 5 miles; it was a good day. On the journey north, back to Carlisle, I ended up playing Brett Dennen's Ain't No Reason over and over again. I don't know why, but it seemed to sum up the last couple of days rather well. The lyrics are pasted in below, in between a collection of today's pictures.

Heading north between Belle Isle and the eastern shore.
There ain’t no reason things are this way.
Its how they always been and they intend to stay.
I can't explain why we live this way, we do it everyday.
Preachers on the podium speakin’ of saints in seance,
Prophets on the sidewalk beggin’ for change,
Old ladies laughing from the fire escape, cursing my name.
I got a basket full of lemons and they all taste the same,
A window and a pigeon with a broken wing,
You can spend your whole life workin’ for something
Just to have it taken away.
People walk around pushing back their debts,
Wearing pay checks like necklaces and bracelets,
Talking ‘bout nothing, not thinking ‘bout death,
Every little heartbeat, every little breath.
People walk a tight rope on a razors edge
Carrying their hurt and hatred and weapons.
It could be a bomb or a bullet or a pen
Or a thought or a word or a sentence.
Journeying north with the Langdale Fells in the distance.
There ain't no reason things are this way.
It's how they always been and they intend to stay
I don’t know why I say the things I say, but I say them anyway.
But love will come set me free
Love will come set me free,I do believe
Love will come set me free, I know it will
Love will come set me free, yes.
Approaching Millerground Landing.
Prison walls still standing tall,
Some things never change at all.
Keep on buildin’ prisons, gonna fill them all,
Keep on buildin’ bombs, gonna drop them all.
Working your fingers bear to the bone,
Breaking your back, make you sell your soul.
Like a lung that’s filled with coal, suffocatin’ slow.
The wind blows wild and I may move,
The politicians lie and I am not fooled.
You don't need no reason or a three piece suit to argue the truth.
The air on my skin and the world under my toes,
Slavery stitched into the fabric of my clothes,
Chaos and commotion wherever I go, love I try to follow.
Looking through the slats of a jetty at Millerground Landing.
Love will come set me free
Love will come set me free, I do believe
Love will come set me free, I know it will
Love will come set me free, yes.
Looking over the top of a jetty at Millerground Landing.
There ain't no reason things are this way
It’s how they always been and they intend to stay
I can't explain why we live this way, we do it everyday.
Heading southwards into the afternoon sun with some ominous clouds hurrying our paddle stroke.

More pictures can be found here.

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