27 September 2009


Looking across to Buachaille Etive Mor from the Glen Coe Ski Centre car park.

I'm back from another weekend in Scotland. This weekend's excuse for the trip north was the small matter of a river race on the River Etive, which surprisingly enough can be found in Glen Etive. This was the second year of operation for the race and it was the first time I had entered. I was the other half of UoC1, which was made up entirely of University of Cumbria students.

Matt Tidy and Ed Smith of Team Palm on their way to a second place in the sponsored class.

We travelled up on Friday morning, and arrived early that afternoon. This allowed us to get on the Etive for one quick blast, just so that we could remember the lines, and try and work out where we could shave time off our run. To be honest I think it was the crossing of the flat sections, between the drops, which won or lost you the race.

Our pre-race warm up was less than favourable if we were being honest; I took two swims, one at the bottom of Right Angle, and another at the bottom of Twist 'n' Shout so I wasn't really in a good place when it came to lining up on the start line.

Team Disco Beaver styling Letterbox which secured them third place in the open class.

However, the river had dropped by about six inches when race day was upon us. This settled my nerves somewhat and we were soon off racing down the classic section of the Etive. Our lines through Triple Step felt good, and I even had time to break out and watch my partner over the final step before charging off after him.

The first half of Hopoke's Obese Hamster running Right Angle, which secured them second place in the open class.

With in no time at all I had developed a stitch in my abdomen and my arms were starting to scream for a rest, but we continued on, ticking off the drops as we went: Letterbox... Ski Jump... Crack of Doom... Crack of Dawn... Rock Slide... and finally the big one, Right Angle Falls.

Boats piled up at the finish line, whilst their owners watch the race.

My partner went over the falls first, I waited for a couple of seconds before I followed his line; I didn't want to land on him from six meters up. I plugged the drop, capsized and hastily rolled up to begin the sprint across the plunge pool to the finish line, where my partner was complaining of a sore rib. The medics checked him over and came to the conclusion that he'd either broken a rib or torn a muscle, but at least we finished in good time, 12:49:29, which put us in ninth place in the open class.

More pictures can be found here and the results have been published here.

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

23 September 2009

Four Days of Activity

In a canoe on Ullswater.

My weekend began on Friday with Wild River; I was on a Level 2 Transfer course, which is allowing me to transfer onto the new UKCC scheme. To be honest it's a bit of a ball ache, but essential for my long term career development, and now having attended the course it does seem that it's all geared up to produce a better standard of paddling instructor.

Once I had finished the course, it was straight into the van for the long drive north as the following day saw the beginning of the Wet West Paddle Fest. I made it as far as the Clachaig in Glen Coe, where I grabbed a couple of cheeky pints of Thatchers before bumping into Jimmy Saville and retiring to the van.

Jimmy Saville in the Clachaig.

Once the after effects of the Thatchers had been slept off it was back on the road to Invergarry for some light hearted fun on Scotland's classic play run, the Garry. I ended up arriving at the river with no one to paddle with, but as soon as I stepped out of the van, which I had got stuck in a pile of grass cuttings, I had a fine selection of people to paddle with. This was a familiar theme throughout the weekend, and it was a good opportunity to catch up with past paddling buddies.

Plastic fantastic: one of the shorter queues for the main playhole on the river.

Looking upstream as another wave of paddlers head on downstream.

Once the Garry had been dispatched I headed back to Fort William, to stock up on calories and get ready for the evening festivities in the BA Club. It was a superb night, with even more opportunities to catch up with paddlers I've met along the way during my five or six year paddling career. I eventually retired to the van so that I was wide awake for the next day's carnage on the Morriston.

A rainbow forming in the early morning drizzle as I brewed up at the Commando Memorial.

We arrived early at the river, before the shuttle service had even begun, so we kitted up in the hope of missing the masses. However, it wasn't to be; not long after we got on the water the first minibus of paddlers turned up and it continued that way for the rest of the day. It was never too busy though. There was always space to do what you wanted to do, but at times it did prove amusing to watch paddlers pile into last chance eddies, which were already on the full side, before firing off one of the many drops found on the Morriston.

Looking back at the top drop, which never really had enough water to make the line.

Once we had completed one run, we shouldered our boats and went for another. The river had now filled up considerably with people, but unfortunately the water had not come up much more so the left hand line on the top drop still didn't look pretty in my eyes; I went for the right hand line with a big boof straight into the undercut.

Taking a face full, whilst on line styling the drop, which appeared in an Original Source advert.

One of the last rapids of the top section.

The second run of the top section was soon dispatched and after quickly loading the cars we headed off downriver to take in the delights of the lower section. If I was being honest, I wasn't really on form here - I took a swim on the slide just after the road bridge and then got a bit of a shoeing in a hole at the bottom of the last main rapid. However, this didn't spoil my weekend and once changed and the delights of the Invermorriston Village Hall's catering team had been taken in I headed south in the hope of getting some climbing in on Buachaill Etive Mor for the next two days.

Scrambling up some wet rock on Stob Beinn a Chrulaiste.

The plan of climbing didn't quite work out. I was greeted, on Monday morning, with a cloud filled Glen Coe where the rain was beating down in a horizontal direction. Climbing was off, but we did manage a morning scramble up some extremely wet rock to the top of Stob Beinn a Chrulaiste and on along to Beinn a Chrulaiste before retiring to the Ice Factor for an indoor climbing session and one last night in the Clachaig.

I awoke on Tuesday, with the hope of getting some climbing in at Polldubh, but the weather was mirroring what had hit us on Monday. So I called it a day, turned tale and headed even further south, back to Carlisle, to sort my soaking gear out. I've got to enroll at university for my second year tomorrow and then I'm heading back up Scotland for the Etive River Race at the weekend.

More pictures of WWPF 09 can be found here.

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

17 September 2009

Going astray

Looking across to the Rosthwaite Fells.

Today I did exactly what I said yesterday; I went climbing at Raven Crag over near Glaramara. Unfortunately we didn't get the early start I wanted, but still we were getting out climbing in perfect weather, in September and in the Lake District. What more could you ask for?

Looking up the hanging valley of Combe Ghyll with Raven Crag to the right.

The plan was to climb Corvus (D), an eight pitch route that took in a hand traverse and plenty of wandering around the crag and that was what we started on.

Looking back down Borrowdale to Derwent Water and Keswick on the approach.

However, we got slightly lost after the second pitch, unable to decided where the third pitch went. I was on the lead, and headed off in the general direction of the route, shown in the topo, and on finding a well worn piece of rock and an eroded piece of turf I guessed I was at the belay for the fourth pitch.

Another climber belaying their partner on Pedestal Wall (S).

We now thought we were back on route and carried on up the rock, but when it came around to my next lead I soon found myself topping out. I brought the second up and after some puzzling we came to the conclusion that my wandering traverse had gone too high, and too far, meaning that we ended up on the final two pitches of Raven Crag Buttress (VD). This wasn't really a problem, but it definitely made the day memorable and there is now a reason to return; to actually climb Corvus.

At the top, confused, but happy with the climb.

Tomorrow I'm off with Wild River on a Level 2 Transfer day and then I'm away up to Scotland. The main reason for the trip north is the Wet West Paddle Fest, but I'm also hoping to get a couple of days in Glen Coe climbing and walking.

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

16 September 2009

September Fun... Continues

Panoramic shot looking across to Great Gable, Green Gable, Base Brown and the fells around Seatoller.

After yesterday's extremely long bouldering session I surprised even myself today. I managed to get up relatively early, get my things together, and head off for a ramble down in Borrowdale. The walk started off from the small hamlet of Seathwaite, tucked away in the remotest corner of the valley, and quickly made an ascent up the fell side besides Hind Crag.

Capell Crag on Thornythwaite Fell with Derwent Water and Skiddaw in the background.

Not only were you greeted with amazing views on the main ascent of the day, but you were also treated to the sounds of the shepherds, high up on the fell sides, herding the Herdwicks down into the valley. It was a spectacle to behold; you could see the sheepdogs running back and forth driving small flocks towards the ravines, which scar the fell side and act as a natural barrier, before driving the entire herd downhill under the command of the shepherd's shouts and whistles. It was the Lake District at it's best.

Looking across to Great Gable with Sprinkling Tarn in the foreground.

Glaramara was the first summit of the day and it was also the penultimate; we tracked south along the broad ridge, which divides the watersheds of Grains Ghyll and Langstrath Beck, taking in Allen Crags before a descent was even thought about.

On the descent down Grains Ghyll, with Derwent Water, Skiddaw and Blencathra beyond.

Our final descent route started from Esk Hause, traversed a section of Great End's flank, before dropping down the side of Grains Ghyll. It was lovely walking along side the ghyll as occasional stops could be made to peer into the gorge at the crystal clear, blue pools below. However, Stockley Bridge was soon crossed and the final trek along the valley bottom was quickly seen to.

Grazing cattle at Seathwaite.

Climbing tomorrow. At the moment the plan is to head back to where we've been today and take in Raven Crag, which looks down on Combe Ghyll, which flows off the eastern side of Glaramara.

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

15 September 2009

Déjà vu

Pocket Slab Right (V0 5a).

It was back to Chapel Stile for me today to continue work on the circuit. I got a fair way through completing the entire circuit; I ticked a further seventeen problems, which means I've ticked twenty-four of the thirty-eight on offer.

The Slab of Death (V0- 4c).

Today's session, was unlike many of my bouldering sessions, in the fact that I had company: two of my work colleagues from Go Ape. This not only meant that there were extra pads at the bottom of the rock, but I was able to boulder for longer as there were people to socialise with and spot, which meant I could rest properly in between climbs.

Attempting The Backside of Death (V3).

Tomorrow I'm off walking in the Borrowdale Valley and I may just head back that way on Thursday for a spot of multi-pitching on Raven Crag, which overlooks Combe Ghyll in the aforementioned valley.

Going home after a good afternoon session.

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

11 September 2009

Playing in the sun... Again

Another beautiful day up in the north, and another day off for me. This run isn't going to last. The good weather might, but the day's off ain't; I'm back in work at the weekend.

Looking across the disused slate quarry, above Chapel Stile, with the Langdale Pikes in the background.

Back to today though. I said yesterday I'd get out bouldering and get some problems ticked. I did just that, but I didn't tick as many as I had hoped.

Looking to make the move out right on Wall 2 (V0+ 5b).

I decided that I would hit the Chapel Stile Circuit today. The circuit has always been something of a mystery, but it is based around the small craglets, both natural and quarried, which look down on the small Langdale village of Chapel Stile. Once I'd found the first problem of the circuit it was just a case of dragging myself and my kit through the bracken to get to the next problem.

Working out the feet in the hope of reaching the horizontal shot hole on H&M Smith Traverse (V2 6a).

I managed to tick off seven problems, and work the sequence for one other, which basically means I will return at some point and carry on from where I left off. There is a possibility that one day I'll be able to tick off all the problems in the circuit, and maybe even do it all in one day, but before that I'll have to get a lot stronger; today I wasn't pulling as hard as I have done in the last couple of months. Perhaps the four days of activity has had an effect on me; I suppose I can recover over the weekend whilst at work!

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

10 September 2009

Delightful Dolerite

Looking across to Peel Crag from Steel Rigg, with Crag Lough in the background.

Like I said yesterday, I was heading out today with a rope for a spot of climbing and boy, what a day it was. The weather was similar to yesterday; blue skies, a few wisps of cirrus in the high strata and a beating sun on the back of the neck.

Heather sprouting around one of the Dolerite blocks on Route One (VD).

The crag, which had our attention today was Peel Crag over in Northumberland. I've visited this crag once before and the plan was to take in Peel Crag, and also have a fleeting visit to Crag Lough, which is a few more minutes along Hadrian's Wall from the car park.

The crux of Easy Crack (VD).

The day was fairly laid back because of the beautiful weather, which meant we only got four routes in, all on Peel Crag, but it was nice to be clambering around on the Dolerite in the sun. Tomorrow I hope to tick off some more stuff during an afternoon bouldering session; venue undecided, but the weather looks just as good as today.

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

09 September 2009

Two Wet Boots

Walking up the side of Deepdale Beck towards Greenhow End.

My full-time contract has eventually come to an end, which now means I've only got two weekends of work each month. This has its blessings, but also its downsides. The main blessing being, at the moment, the amount of free time I've got before starting back at university at the end of September. Yesterday I got some bouldering in at the Sands Centre, tomorrow should see me climbing over in Northumberland and today I got a walk in.

Scrambling up Greenhow End.

It was unlike any walk I have done of late. We started at the bottom of Brothers Water before traversing around the spur of Hartsop above How so that we could walk up the side of Deepdale Beck until we were nearly at the head of the valley. From here we scrambled up Link Gill trying our best to stay as dry as possible. Once the gill had been exhausted we scrambled up the rock of Greenhow End so that we could skirt around the ridge to Hart Crag and on along to Dove Crag.

Looking across to the Helvellyn Range.

From Dove Crag we made a descent to the Priest's Hole before scrambling back onto the top so that we could pick up the cascading water's of Hogger Gill to make a descent back down to Brothers Water.

Descending Hogger Gill.

Hogger Gill was an interesting proposition as it dropped a great amount of height in a very short distance, which meant we were faced with many small, and some not so small, rocky drops, which we were able to scramble down or around.

Looking back to Dove Crag and High Hartsop Dodd.

Eventually we were free of the Gill and could make our way easily along the path back to Brothers Water with water sloshing around in our boots as we walked.

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

04 September 2009

Photo Montage: Crammel Linn

Where it all went wrong: pulling to hard on a left hand stroke puts me off line.

Fighting to get back over to the left.

Trying to get a boof stroke in as I realised it was a lost cause.

Starting to pencil over the drop and being off line by about three meters.

Rolling up at the bottom after going over the handlebars and connecting with some rock at the base.

The result of one missed line.

All pictures courtesy of Dave Tinnion.

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

03 September 2009

Done: Crammel Linn

A sorry state at the bottom of Crammel Linn.

It's been mentioned twice now and I've eventually ticked off the biggest drop in the area. I wouldn't say I styled it, as can be seen from the picture above. I basically ended up off line, flopped over the lip and went over the handlebars. It wouldn't have been too bad if I hadn't connected with some rock at the base, but I did float away from the drop with one big dent in the boat and one sore knee. Thank god for the bulkhead system fitted in the Rocker otherwise I imagine I'd have had two broken ankles after falling twenty feet onto solid rock.

Walking to the Gelt Pool.

Once we had finished up at the Irthing we turned tale and headed back for Carlisle with a call in on the Gelt, which flows out of Geltdale and on through Brampton before joining the Eden, to find that it was at 1.1 on the gauge: a good level would be 0.9. I've looked at this river before, when it has been too low to paddle, as the quartzite boulder, just upstream of where we put on, has some lovely bouldering problems on. It was nice to visit a familiar area, with different equipment and in different conditions to be able to take away more memories.

Boofing into the Gelt Pool.

We kitted up, jumped on the river and headed off downstream with one simple statement in our heads: "Several gibbering wrecks have emerged from the depths of this run wondering what they have just experienced" (Miller, 2003, p.41).

The slot drops near the end of the run.

To be honest we didn't emerge from the depths of the run as gibbering wrecks, but I suppose it could have been a totally different story if we had come across more than one log jam, which we were able to skirt around fairly easily. However, the rapids under Hynam Bridge were some of the best I've experienced in a long while and it was almost a shame that they had to finish so soon. Anyhow, back to work tomorrow; let's just hope my knee holds up to it.

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

02 September 2009

Wasted Miles

A low River Caldew.

At the moment I rack up a fair few miles each week with having to drive over to Whinlatter Forest park at least five times a week for work so when I'm on a day off I am always slightly reluctant to go driving back into the Lake District unless I have good reason to do so. Today I thought I had a good reason; it's rained at some point for the past few days and it has been quite heavy. This had me thinking that the rivers would be stonking, but it didn't seem to be the case. Langstrath was scrapeable, Glenderamackin was similar as was the Caldew. The only thing that was up was the Greta and I was reluctant to put on because it was the Greta.

Instead I turned for home, without even getting the boat off the van roof, and headed for the nearest garage as my exhaust had dropped off somewhere in the Borrowdale Valley. Hopefully tomorrow will have a much nicer tale.

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