31 October 2009


I'm currently working my way through a 200+ piece jigsaw, which is graded as impossible. The grading isn't far wrong to be honest; you can see, in the picture above, that the majority of the pieces are white, there is little detail in the whole puzzle apart from word 'Milk' and five line drawings of a cow. Anyhow it's keeping me entertained on an evening.

Not only is this jigsaw puzzling, but also how my motivations for particular aspects of my outdoor life wax and wain so often. At the moment I feel my motivation for paddling is slipping away by the day. I don't think it is the actual paddling activity which I am losing motivation for, but the logistics behind a days paddling: the recruiting of a boating team; the sitting, waiting and searching for water; and the fact that paddling is so intrusive on your every day life. I know that it will only take one good day, or one good weekend away, to resolve these issues, but it just seems like it will never come.

I suppose this might come down to the fact that I've thrown myself into a very intensive training programme to improve my climbing. At the moment I'm spending roughly three days a week on a climbing wall working on improving my stamina, before I move on to strength endurance and limit strength training. It might not sound fun, and it isn't pushing my climbing abilities, but it is, for some strange reasons, highly addictive, but at the same time fun and rewarding. It is hoped that all this training will eventually pay dividends as I've now searched out my project for next summer.

The reasonings behind my project choice are very similar to those of Dave MacLeod in his awe inspiring DVD, Echo Wall, when it comes to climbing hard lines. The route will be at my absolute limit, where the chance of failing is as big as the chance of succeeding, but if I do succeed I will have tested myself to the full not only on the actual route, but also in the training for the route. Yes the project is considerably easier than Echo Wall, high up on Ben Nevis, but for me, it is as big a challenge as Echo Wall was to MacLeod.

The project is over in the Langdales, on Neckband Crag, and it's called Gillette Direct (E2, 5c). If it all comes off successfully it will be the hardest route I will have lead, but there is also a high chance of failing on the route. Will it be failure though? In order for me to even get on the lead on this route I plan to send a hand full of classic Lake District boulder problems, which are considerably harder than the English technical grade of 5c, lead Glorfindel (HVS, 5a), which shares a portion of Gillette Direct, and also top rope the project until I am happy with the moves, rests and protection. I'm also toying with the idea of getting some bolt clipping in at St. Bees on routes up to F6b+, which is marginally harder than English 5c. So if I do fail on the route, yes it will be upsetting, but the preparation towards climbing the route will have been rewarding and beneficial to my long term climbing development.

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

26 October 2009

Welsh Booze Cruise

Stikine-esk: Team photo, featuring some Cotswold Catalogue poses, before getting on the mighty Dee.

I think I mentioned on Wednesday that I would be off to Wales this weekend. Well now I'm back. The weekend was good, in fact it was very good, but to say it was a paddling weekend there seemed to be a disproportionate amount of time spent in the pubs of Llangollen over paddling the rivers of North Wales.

Messing around by the Chainbridge Hotel.

The main reason for this disproportionate amount of time sat at the bar, with pint in hand, was down to the river levels. To put it simply there was no water, which meant there were no rivers in condition. Ok, the Dee was going and it was nice to get a run down this on the Saturday, but it wasn't so good to be doing exactly the same on the Sunday.

The Serpent's Tail.

As I said we got on the Dee on Saturday. We put on at Horseshoe Falls, took in the Serpent's Tail and Mile End Mill and took out above Town Falls because of the world ranking slalom race, which was taking place.

The first drop of Mile End Mill.

It was the middle of the afternoon by the time we reached the top of Town Falls, and with nothing else to do we traipsed back through town to our accommodation, got changed and then headed back into town for the rest of the afternoon and the night.

The 'sticky' hole at Mile End Mill.

When Sunday came around the plan was very similar. This time we paid our water fees at Mile End Mill and played around here for an hour or two. This did give us the opportunity to introduce some simple moving water technique's to the freshers who had never been on moving water, or as a matter of fact, in a kayak before.

The play wave at Mile End Mill.

Once we had exhausted the opportunities at Mile End Mill we floated on downstream and were able to take in Town Falls on this occasion; the slalom had obviously finished earlier than the previous day. Town Falls was nice, there was just enough to think about, but not too much to get you worried. A lot of the freshers opted to portage the falls, but I think they enjoyed watching us run it with some degree of style and flamboyance.

Some more Cotswold Catalogue poses at the bottom of Town Falls, Llangollen.

The weekend was rounded off with a leisurely night in Llangollen, before retiring to bed amazingly early so that an early start could be had on the long road back north to Cumbria.

Stikine-esk: After running the gnarl of Town Falls.

More pictures can be found here.

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

21 October 2009

Coaching again...

An afternoon on Ullswater.

It's been a while since I've sat in a kayak and preached like a font of kayaking knowledge to an adoring audience, but today I changed that. I've eventually started out on what seems to be a very long road to transferring onto the new UKCC Coaching scheme. There are a lot of hoops along the way, but it does get me out and about in the Lakes, which is always a plus. However it is a bit daunting when I look at how far I've got to travel before my assessment.

Anyhow, I'm off to Wales at the weekend in the search of some water so hopefully there will be some interesting paddling pictures up at the beginning of next week. Finally to finish on; I appear in the poster for this years Shap International Kayak Film Festival, which is always a quality night of paddling porn, drinking and banter.

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

19 October 2009

Making the best of a bad day

Looking down Ullswater, from Oxford Crag, above Patterdale.

It was back to some outdoor lectures today, which are better known as practical days really. It was a shame that the weather was so bad though as I'm still on climbing practicals. However we were still able to make something out of the day as it turned into a revision session for the SPA with a bit of an open forum as well.

Abseiling off the top of Yew Crag on Gowbarrow Fell.

We took in two crags, Yew Crag on Gowbarrow Fell and Oxford Crag above Patterdale so that we could get a variety of topics covered in one day, in a variety of situations. Even though the weather was pretty rubbish, and I didn't even ascend any decent bits of rock the day was still enjoyable to a degree, but I suppose it was made better by the fact that I knew I was going to be beasted at the climbing wall in the evening.

Wide games combine with climbing: multi-person belaying at the bottom of Oxford Crag.

Today was the first day of an intensive ten week training programme I'm implementing as part of a Coaching and Training for Climbing module. At the moment I'm in the four week stamina stage of the programme, which meant that I spent twenty minutes climbing an overhanging wall before taking a twenty minute rest and repeating it twice more. Good times.

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

12 October 2009

Going Astray... Epilogue

Looking across to Raven Crag on the walk in.

I posted almost a month ago now about my climbing adventure on Raven Crag, where I set out on one route, ended up reading the guidebook wrong and finished up another route. Well today I returned to the crag, with a vague idea as too where I went wrong last time, with the hope of starting and finished Corvus (D) on this occasion.

The ropes running out along the rhyolite on pitch 5.

I decided that on my last visit I got the location of the first belay wrong, meaning that we were thrown off right from the start, and it proved to be the case as we discovered today.

The view down the valley towards Keswick from the belay at the start of pitch 5.

With the knowledge that the first belay was actually the second belay in the guidebook we were laughing. We stayed on route for the day and took in the wonderful hand traverse on the sixth pitch. It was such a shame that the traverse wasn't longer as it was so enjoyable.

Making a move up the rib of pitch 5.

On topping out we quickly scuttled around the crag, bagged one other climb, Pedestal Wall (S), walked out, drove back to the university campus and started invigilating for the bouldering competition, which was the opening event for the 09/10 season for the Newton Rigg Climbing Centre.

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

08 October 2009

Self Directed Study...

on Browncove Crags.

The self directed study involved some grade two scrambling.

Looking out from Browncove Crags to Thirlmere and Skiddaw beyond.

The self directed study also involved a short ridge walk to the busy summit of Helvellyn.

A descent was made down Helvellyn Gill to Thirlmere to round off our self directed study.

All pictures were taken today whilst out walking and scrambling around Helvellyn during one of our lecture free days.

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

05 October 2009


A lecture in placing gear.

Being hydrated is key to good learning; putting that theory into practice at the top of the crag.

A lecture in lead climbing on Pleasant Wall (S, 4a).

Leaving the classroom after a good day of lectures.

All pictures were taken today at Farleton Crag during the first day of our second year module Practical Outdoor Activities.

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

01 October 2009

Back to playing in the Lakes

Looking over to the Duddon Valley from the side of Ulpha Fell.

Lectures have started again, but my week is still fairly free, which gives me plenty of opportunity to get out and about for a play in the Lakes. Today I managed to get a walk in down in the south. I started out from Cockley Bridge with a vague route in mind.

The rhyolite buttresses of Crinkle Crags.

From Cockley Bridge I headed off on a traversing ascent of Ulpha Fell so that I could pick up the well trodden path from Cold Pike to Crinkle Crags. Once on this path I headed on to Crinkle Crags and where possible I strayed off the path so that I could scramble up and over the rhyolite crags.

Looking down into the Langdales from the col of Cold Pike and Crinkle Crags.

Once Crinkle Crags had been taken in I headed on north to Bow Fell admiring the view, which was made better by the perfect October weather. I think it was at some point along this leg of my journey that it finally dawned on me; the Lake District is just one big play ground. I'm not sure why I've never realised this before, but I think having views of rock buttresses and tumbling rivers opened my eyes somewhat.

Pike o' Stickle from Crinkle Crags.

I took dinner at the top of Bow Fell and made my final route choice. I could either head down to Ore Gap and head down the valley, which Lingcove Beck cuts through, or head up and over Esk Pike to descend down part of the Esk Valley. I eventually decided upon the former option and headed on.

Sca Fell from Bow Fell.

I descended down the side of Lingcove Beck for most of its length, however when Swinsty Gill, which flows off Crinkle Crags, was crossed I left the former beck and headed into the Moasdale Valley. A quick descent of this valley was made so that I could pick up the Hardknott Pass road and return to Cockley Beck.

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