Each year we work for South London School in Snowdonia. They have a 3 year rolling programme to complete their Gold DofE expedition section.
- Year 1 Training
- Year 2 Practice expedition
- Year 3 Assessed expedition
Each year the whole group comes up and carries out their 5 day programme. This year, for the first time, we put all the training group through the Mountain Skills course as part of their training. We had 2 groups on training this year and decided to run the Mountain Skills course in the first 2 days of the programme before setting out on a 3 day training expedition involving a wild camp above Pen-Y-Pass.
On day 1 we did much of the navigation part of the Syllabus from Capel Curig making our way up to Crimpiau via Clogwyn-mawr. We had fine views from the top to the North East over Llyn Crafnant Reservoir. Our decent was an ambitious drop off the edge down steep heathery slopes.
Day 2 took us up Moel Siabod via the South East Ridge. This meant we could cover steep ground really well and as they were an 'up for it' group it meant that we could take the sporting line for the entire ridge. As we approached the top I learnt that a group can download an app on their phones which then links the phones via bluetooth that means that all phones play the same music chosen by one of the group. The group learnt (after I got over the wow that is so cool factor) that I don't appreciate groups listening to music in the mountains.
The 3 day expedition started at Capel Curig headed west to Little Tryfan then over the Miner Track and down to Llyn Cwmffynnon for the night. This meant there was a big hill to climb with low cloud and a strong south wind to welcome us when we got to the top. It was my first time over the Miner's track and the low cloud and the lack of a track on the ground meant that their navigation and in particular relocation training from the previous few days was put to the test. After a water stop on the way down we found our camping spot and I managed to find somewhere a little way away from the group with awesome views but with a bit of a slope on it.
After a wet and windy night and morning, day 2 of the expedition took us over Snowdon. and despite having been up Snowdon in excess of 20 times this was the first time I've seen the trains running while on the mountain (I'm normally that way either in Winter or on a Welsh 3000's challenge at about 6am). We camped the night in Llanberis and did a treasure hunt / wide game / navigation type activity in the areas around Llanberis on the last day.
It was great to have a group for 5 days and the Mountain Skills syllabus fitted beautifully into their training package. Looking forward to meeting them next year for their practice expedition.
This is the second year of running a Mountain Challenge for Liverpool Medical Student Society (LMSS). The LMSS is huge. I have no idea how many thousands of members they have but they seem to almost be a student union of their own with their own sub clubs for sports, dance and other hobbies and interests. I guess they are at uni for 5 years rather than 3 of most other courses so that must swell their numbers. Anyway the LMSS is huge and has it's own charity fund raising wing.
Ninety-four (did I mention it is a big society) members of the LMSS arrived in Horton-in-Ribblesdale in 2 coaches just before 7am. Thanks to the ruthless efficiency of the two LMSS organisers Maddie and Alex all the participants knew pretty much how the day was going to run and we had all consent forms collected, and collated, so after we'd issued a few bits of kit (our definition of a waterproof jacket tends to differ from other people's definition) we set off from the top car park in the village and waited outside the toilet block.
94 flushes later they were off.
The groups moved fast and the lead group were soon on Pen-y-Ghent. At about 9am I got a call from someone who had missed the coach as he overslept. He was asking if he could catch them up if he got a taxi from Liverpool. We looked at train times but they didn't work out so in the end he got a taxi to Ribblehead and joined in from there. I think he will take the cost of that taxi to the grave with him.
Just after getting the taxi call one of the instructors radioed in with a request for assistance with a drop out. One of the participants who was wearing a pretty heavy duty knee support was struggling. She had a historical knee injury (football in year 7) and it was flaring up. She had thought she would be OK. In fact she was so confident that it would be OK she had been out drinking until 3am that morning, had 20 minutes sleep and then got up at 4am to catch the coach. I went up to meet the tail enders at Tarn Bar and walked back down to Horton with the knee injured, hung over student medic. Rob (our instructor at the back) prescribed 8 hours sleep and a kebab and thought she may be able to do the last peak. Unfortunately the 3km back to Horton pretty much finished her off so it was game over.
With the nights drawing in we had set a relatively early cut off time to get to the last road crossing at the Old Hill Inn before Ingleborough and had arranged for one of the coaches to swing by at about 4pm to pick up the expected drop outs. However, by the time the last group had passed we only had a total of 3 retirees due to injury so I was able to bring them back to Horton in my car. By the time I got back to Horton the first 2 groups were in.
In all out of the 95 who took part we only had 3 retire, the fastest group came in in just shy of 9 hours and the tail enders got it all wrapped up in 12.5 so a nice fast day for everyone.
We're waiting on news for the total amounts raised but I think it is going to be high. (On 11th October they reported that they had raised £17,261.31)
We had a strong team of Mountaineering Instructors and Mountain Leaders out and were ably assised by a couple of volunteer trainee Mountain Leaders who made a big difference to the running of the day.
Thanks very much to Maddie and Alex and all the participants as well as to our fantastic team of instructors for making it a great day out for everyone.
In the summer half term we ran our first week long (6 Day) course in Basic Expedition leadership (AKA BEL). We have run this course previously over a series of weekends but this was the first time we ran it as an intensive 6 days. The 5 participants had a range of experience from 'I went on a walk once' to 'I do lots of DofE work for my school' and they came from a variety of work settings working with young people in Schools, community based youth offenders and prisons. We were based at Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre, the field centre put us up, provided us with a classroom, a bar and fed us well for the week.
It is a long course and to fit it all into 6 days was not an easy task for this tutor or the participants but we all held it together remarkably well. The structure of the course is 3 days based at the field centre, 2 on an expedition and then the last day back at the field centre. The days at the field centre were generally spent in the class room in the morning and outside in the afternoon.
The course is excellent and takes the participants through everything they need to know to take people walking and camping in the 'lowland' countryside. Some of the areas covered include:
- Governing bodies and legislation
- Risk assessments
- Route planning
- Leadership styles
- Food and fitness
- Camping and hiking equipment and care
- How to teach / instruct
- The country code
- Self evaluation
We had beautiful weather throughout the week even though the forecast for the last day of the expedition was appalling. The very last day was by far my favourite when we covered very technical navigation looking for Mines, shake holes and ponds on the hills to the north of the Field Centre.
Feedback from the course
- 'Andy was a very good instructor, he took the time to explain things and communicated brilliantly with the group'
- 'Excellent course, really enjoyed'
- 'Thank you for an enjoyable 6 days'
- 'Good mix of classroom and outside, final day of navigation was brill'
- 'Works brilliant as a six day course. Tiring but great fun'
- 'Enjoyable with a good group and helpful and knowledgeable tutor'
- 'The best part of the course was improving and practicing skills in a non-threatening environment'
We run these courses every autumn and summer half term (October and June) for the next courses and for a bit more info on the course please take a look at our Basic Expedition Leadership page
A great short clip of a Mountain Hare taken by a friend on a recent trip to the Cairngorms. The Mountain Hare, sometimes also called the Snow Hare, has a white or grey coat in winter and is brown with a blueish tinge at other times of year.
Mountain Hares, are native to Britain unlike the more common Brown Hare. Today they are found in many areas of Scotland where they are indigenous and in the Isle of Man and the Peak district where they were reintroduced. An attempt to reintroduce them to Snowdonia was unsuccessful. In the Peak District in the winter months when the hare’s coat is white, it can often be seen on the Kinder Scout plateau, standing out proud against the dark peaty ground.
There are concerns about the Mountain Hare population in Scotland which is thought to be decreasing. EC law prohibits some methods of capture or killing of the hare except under licence but this is thought to be violated in many cases with the hare being killed not only for sport but also because it is believed to be the carrier of a tick-borne virus which threatens the grouse chicks bred for shooting.
More information about Mountain Hares: http://www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk/mountain.php
Scottish Winter Walking Trips and Skills Courses: http://www.lupineadventure.co.uk/winter-skills.html
Scottish Walking Holidays: http://www.lupineadventure.co.uk/walking-holidays.html
Stepping off the bus in Chamonix on a sunny June morning I did the first thing any sensible mountaineer would do. I went and got myself a good cup of coffee. My trip to Chamonix and the French Alps started a few months earlier when my colleague Andy asked me if I would supervise a DofE Gold group on their assessed expedition to the Alps. After a milliseconds deliberation I gave the obvious answer of yes!
I arrived in Chamonix in June in order to carry out the pre-expedition risk assessment. My plan was over four days to walk the route that the group had planned, check their campsites, find water sources, identify hazards and familiarise myself with the area. Their planned basecamp was in les Praz de Chamonix. From here I set out walking through a mix of forests and meadows heading gradually and then steeply uphill to the Col de Balme. Situated on the French/Swiss border at altitude of 2191 m the Col de Balme offers amazing views of Mont Blanc. Waking up in the early morning light to a stunning view of the highest mountain in the Alps was simply awesome…
Over the following days I continued checking out and risk assessing the planned expedition route. My days were a mix of forests, steep ascents on well-made mountain paths, coffees in small bars, and sleeping beneath the stars. My accommodation was a British army Gore-Tex bivvy bag that I had bought for £20 at least 10 years ago. On the fourth day of my trip as I entered the Col de Brevent I saw the cutest creature…a marmot! With a happy heart I continued to the summit of le Brevent, at 2525 m the highest point on the expedition. After a lunch of vegetarian lasagne served in the café that the French had cunningly built I walked the last few hours back down into Chamonix. A long coach journey brought me back to England I wrote up my expedition risk assessment, gave feedback to the DofE group on their planned route and completed the DofE paperwork.
Fast forward to August I found myself at Gatwick airport travelling with a great Gold group; Frankie, Hamish, Tom and James. After a day acclimatising and food shopping in Chamonix the group set out on their four day expedition. Despite some unseasonably cold and inclement weather the group absolutely smashed their expedition. They did exactly what a successful Gold group needs to do. They got their heads down, walked through forests and over mountains and had what was a life enhancing experience. Back in Chamonix after four days we all enjoyed ice creams whilst sitting in the Alpine sunshine.
If you wish to buy maps of The Alps we would recommend going to Stanfords
In 2014 Mountain Training (The national governing body of mountaineering instructor qualifications in the UK) launched a couple of personal proficiency courses called Hill Skills and Mountain Skills.
Lupine applied to be a provider of these courses and succeeded in being approved. They are great courses to both attend and to run. In August I ran a course in Ambleside for 3 guys. The format of the course is very basically...
- Meet in a cafe and talk about weather forecasting and some navigation theory.
- Go for a walk to do some practical navigation training and cover some other areas of the syllabus.
- Come off the hill at about 5 pm and 'freshen up' then meet in a cafe or pub (or go straight to the cafe / pub and carry on).
- In the cafe get out the guidebooks and maps and work out where we are going to go the next day.
- Go for a walk. The walk will hopefully take in a peak and a bit of time on steep ground and some time off the footpaths. We'll also cover other areas of the syllabus not covered on day 1.
Day 2 is great, it is what makes it a fantastic job to work on. Each time I have done this course we have gone somewhere new to me. While I have usually climbed the hill that we choose we'll always get there via a route that I haven't done before as it is up to the participants to decide where to go and the route taken. I think that too often I return to the same places as I know that it is beautiful and I will enjoy the walk rather than seeking out new adventures.
On this particular course we came down off Harrison Stickle in Langdale on a path alongside Dungeon Ghyll marked by a black dotted line on the 1:25000 map rather than a green dotted 'public footpath'. What a path. It is tiny and fairly exposed with the canyon of the upper reaches of the Ghyll on the left.
If you would like to book on a hill skills course or a mountain skills course our latest courses are listed on our hill and mountain skills page.
We also have a site dedicated to the Hill and Mountain Skills scheme with a bit more information
Glencoe, famous for its big mountains and infamous for the massacre of 1692 was the venue for Lupine’s 2015 vegetarian and vegan walking holiday. We arrived on the afternoon of Saturday 9 May and found our cottage in the pretty village of Ballachulish. We welcomed back some regular and much loved guests; Adrian, Frank, Sheila, Tony and Wendy. We also met Chris, a mountain leader based in the Cairngorms who was working for Lupine on a walking holiday for his first time. Chris is vegan, an amazing cook and leader and is perhaps the only vegan in the town of Kingussie?
On Sunday morning we set out to scramble and walk up School House Ridge with the aim of claiming two fine Munros, Sgorr Dhearg (1024 m) and Sgorr Dhonuill (1004 m). Strengthening winds and low visibility caused our intrepid guides (Chris and Dave) to change the plan and we rerouted to the summit ridge of Sgorr a’Choise (663 m).
On subsequent days we headed up Glencoe and climbed up past the late lying snow to summit Stob Coire Raineach (925 m), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (967 m), the Pap of Glencoe (742 m) and Meall Lighiche (772 m) before returning for a second (triumphal) traverse of the Ballachulish Horseshoe. After walking up the heavily forested and amazingly beautiful Gleann a’ Chaolais we climbed past the aptly named Dragon’s Tooth before summiting Sgorr Dhonuill (1004 m), Sgorr Dhearg (1024 m) and finally Sgorr Bhan (947 m).
On an evening we ate great food, with Chris proving himself to being an amazing vegan cook. We took a trip down to the famous Clachaig Inn. Luckily we had nobody with the name Campbell in the group as the Clachaig bans anyone with that family name from entering. Google the Glencoe massacre and you will find out why. It seems that theScots have long memories! We also drank a celebratory glass of wine and beer or two to celebrate the news that Frank and Sheila were getting married later in 2015.
After a great week we had to pack up and drive south. Chris drove east towards the Cairngorms National Park. We will hopefully be seeing and working with Chris again as the venue for our 2016 vegetarian and vegan walking holiday is the Cairngorms National Park.