Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
21st - 26th September 2014
Great Tower Scout Activity Centre
ML or bust!
The time had come for my
assessment for the
Mountain Leader (Summer) Award. To get to this point I've
been studying and training for the past 18 months and the past couple of months have
been very stressful. I knew that I was expected to cope with all that was going
to be thrown at me, despite the weather and navigation in the Lake District
being so testing and despite being reasonably new to rock climbing with ropes.
Just to make things slightly harder I also had to make sure
I could get everything needed for the week, including three days' food, onto
the bike. I also had to
make sure that my 20 year-old Harley was up to the job of getting the team there
and back. That done, all I had to accomplish was an
easy seven hour ride to Great Tower, undergo five days of testing in the
mountains and take a ride back home again.
The first day started in the evening and we had introductions, some admin, an
equipment check and a short exam about mountain safety. We had to hand in a
previously drawn up plan/route card for a weekend expedition in the mountains. This was followed by
questions about first aid and mountain safety. Apparently I must be paying for
previous sins as I have come down with an awful cold. I'm bunged up and
producing mucus at an alarming rate, my throat is sore and worst of all my
temperature is climbing.
The second day had us out
hiking around the Langdale Pikes and onto Silver How with the second of the two assessors. We were
looking at navigation, leadership and the mountain environment. I also gave a
presentation to the group about common birds of the Lake district. I took a turn
for the worse in the afternoon as my temp went right up and I was on my last
legs by the time we finished. I got back to base and dosed up on cold remedies. In the
afternoon we went through our answers for a general paper that we had completed
before our arrival.
Day 3. I was
starting to recover and found myself out on Tarn
Crag above New Dungeon Ghyll showing off my skills at security on steep slopes.
This entailed assisting people through difficult ground and up small scrambles,
belaying people up and down the crag and abseiling down. On return to our base
in Windermere Chalet, we had an exam on mountain weather and prepared for the
The fourth day was the
start of the 2 night expedition and we were dropped off at Old Dungeon Ghyll by 12pm.
A really hot sunny start and we almost immediately headed vertically
through Raven Crag up on to the ridge above. By then we'd just about got used to
our 15kg rucksacks. We continued up and around Pike Of Stickle and onto the high
moors before homing in on Angle Tarn for our camp site for the night.
Ian, myself, Laurie and John - ready for
The Pike of Stickle looking down on the
After setting up camp
dinner we underwent a test of night navigation up on Esk Hause and Allen
Crags which are both on the way up to Scafell Pike. We finished searching for
small features in the pitch dark at 12.30am.
Then the weather started to hit and it continued hitting us for the whole of the
next day. This was typical of Lakeland weather and so the next morning we just
ploughed on regardless up through Ore Gap, along gills and streams, up along the
scree slopes of Bowfell Links and to the large col at Three Tarns. I knew then
that John our assessor was pointing us down through the Crinkle Crags. I always
thought he would, he seems to like it there. Quite frankly so do I. It's a
magical place at the best of times but in the mist it can really mislead you so
you have to be careful. What we didn't expect was to be caught at the infamous
'Bad step' in a howling rainstorm and having to use the rope in a real situation
for a change. It was the best option to get down the 10 foot drop and continue
down a gulley.
Visibility got down to less than 20m but we all managed to find everything we
were asked to find along the way, including the sheepfold built around a huge
natural rock that we camped by that night. There were very few opportunities to
get the phone out to take a few pictures and when there were it was tipping it
down with rain. So sorry, no pictures of that section of the expedition.
Strangely that was the best night's sleep I had during the whole trip to
The next morning we headed steeply down into the Langdale Valley from where we
had left 2 days before. The rain stopped, the clouds parted, the sun came out
just in time for us to demonstrate different forms of river crossings in the
river Oxendale by getting our boots filled with water.
Pick up was 11 and we were back on base at Great Tower by 12. Food and hot
After a small
debriefing we were all told of our results and allowed to leave or stay for a
further night. I opted to stay and leave the next morning after a good night's
Then it was just a
pleasant ride home, in the dry, on a beautiful piece of purring machinery and
this time the team did it in a record 6 hours and ten minutes to be welcomed at
the finishing line by the support team with hot tea and a warm cuddle.
Take the time to read
countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.