Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Monday, 29 August 2011

August Bank Holiday: Centre Life & Working With Groups

Blaithwaite has enjoyed the busiest  August Bank Holiday I've known. All the buildings are occupied & over the course of the weekend / next few days we'll see about a dozen - fifteen families camping out on the field.

About three years ago we built a bouldering / climbing wall in the outer Barn, many of our visitors might not know its there as its mainly the school groups that use it - I've posted a couple of photos below.

I spent yesterday morning working on the wall with one of the residential groups & then took another group gorge walking in Stoneycroft Gill during the afternoon. The walk in was slow & busy as many others were using the gorge. The weather was unseasonally cool. These two factors gave me the opportunity & stimulus to reflect on some great days out in this area last winter (some pictures below). As summer draws to a close my mind is already wandering to autumn & winter days out in the fells; emerging from caves in the dark & hopefully a little more time on the water this year...........................................

Approaching Eel Crags in the Snow

Descent off Causey Pike

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Great Gable; Green Gable & Base Brown: from Seathwaite

With: Rhodri "Rodders" Pritchard & Ferg
Where: Borrowdale, Lake District
Weather: High pressure still persisted yesterday giving a dry, still day (apart from Windy Gap). Cloud above the summits

Great Gable was another of those missing pieces in the Lakes jigsaw for me until yesterday. I wasn't disappointed - what a great mountain!

It was Rodders last day & we set off with Ferg from Seathwaite on a still mild day, not the sunshine of the evening before on Helvellyn but nevertheless quite pleasant conditions. There was still plenty of water in Sour Milk Gill as we ascended alongside of it. We headed into Gillercomb & then doubled back on ourselves to take in the summit of Base Brown (this was also a first for me).

After lunch we re-traced our steps & headed up on to the summit of Green Gable before giving up height & dropping down into "Windy Gap" then beginning the steep ascent of Great Gable. Some short sections of hands and feet scrambling with a good "aspect" looking back towards  Sprinkling Tarn before crossing the shattered rock of the summit plateau to reach the memorial plaque. We got good views all round - great summit! Our return was via the Mountain Rescue post; Sty Head Tarn & ultimately Stockley Bridge.
Ferg on Base Brown

Memorial Plaque

Crossing the Shattered Rock to the Summit

Wast Water

Monday, 22 August 2011

English 3,000'ers: An Evening on Helvellyn

With: Rhodri Pritchard ("Rodders")
Where: Helvellyn, Lake District
Weather: A ridge of high pressure gave fine, dry and completely windless conditions
Me on Helvellyn Summit
 We set off from Swirls car park on a fine late August evening at about 17:30 and took the direct route to the summit broadly following the line of Helvellyn Gill and just around the back of Browncove Craggs. The route has been extensively worked on by the National Park authorities, its a bit of a stone staircase.

Rodders has been with us for his gap year & is about to leave to join the Christian Mountain Centre in Wales. Before moving on & beginning his Mountain Leader Training, of which much is likely to be in Snowdonia, he was keen to get a couple more Lakes log book days in.

It took us just over an hour and a half to get to the summit where we were rewarded with some excellent views, photos below & on facebook. To get back down we just re-traced our footsteps, a great way to spend a few hours on an evening like this!

Roddres with Swirral Edge in Background

Helvellyn Summit "Plateau"

Saturday, 20 August 2011

More Group Caving: Upper & Lower Long Churn Caves (Yorkshire Dales)

With: Kevin & CYFA Group
Weather: Dry for last 36 hours but water levels still moderate
Where: Upper & Lower Long Churn Caves; Selside, Ingleborough; Yorkshire Dales

Doctor Bannisters Hand Basin, Upper Long Churn Cave
Another good day with a group of 12 campers from a CYFA camp staying in the Dales.
We did a full traverse of the Upper & Lower Long Churn system (just missed out the "slot" and "cheese press". Our journey started with an assisted hand line entry via Dr Bannister's Hand Basin (some took an early swim here!!) followed by a wander through Upper Long Churn to the middle entrance where we chose to abseil down the waterfall. On into Lower Long Churn where most fell victim to either or both of Double Shuffle or Plank Pool's - exit was via the Diccan Pot crawl. Those who weren't already soaked made amends by crawling round in the beck at the exit - all good!!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Caving: Sell Gill Holes (Yorkshire Dales)

With: Alan Rainford & Kev Marsh
Where: Sell Gill Holes; Pen-y-Ghent; Yorkshire Dales
Weather: Wet!!

After the group trip in the afternoon, we met up with Alan in Ingleton & spent the evening in Sell Gill Holes. As I said below its been very wet. We did the three pitches to the waterfall at the bottom - it was spectacular!

Some photos below:

Kev on first (surface) pitch - Sell Gill

Alan & Kevin approaching second pitch

Alan rigging 2nd pitch - left hand wall

Kevin rigging 2nd pitch - right hand wall

Caving With CYFA Pathfinder Ventures - Bull Pot of the Witches (Yorkshire Dales)

 With: Kev Marsh & CYFA group
Where: Bull Pot of the Witches, Yorkshire Dales
Weather: It has been a very wet 24 hours, see below

As well as holding camps at Blaithwaite House CYFA also run Christian themed holidays throughout the country. I've been fortunate, for the last five years or so, to help the camps staying in the Yorkshire Dales with their caving activities. Yesterday I led a group of six into Bull Pot of the Witches. We've had so much rain in the last 24 hours that there wasn't much option other than to use Bull Pot, with its extensive fossil development - its one of the few venues that doesn't flood in these conditions. We followed the "exposed" traverse to the chimney - the group loved the up close view of the waterfall as it poured into the surface shaft; then we abseiled in down the chimney to the base of the falls & got soaked from the spray; a run around the galleries & climb out provided an adventurous afternoon for the group!!

Both Photos: Bull Pot of the Witches with plenty of water on today!

Kevin at the bottom of the surface shaft: Bull Pot of the Witches

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Looking at Kit (4) - Montane Gear

Its been a very busy week at the Centre again & I've not been out since Monday.

Now that the new group are in & well set - thought I'd have an evening looking at kit again. 

The Centre has been buying Montane gear for staff for years and on any day around here I'd say you would be certain to see members of staff wearing at least one item of Montane clothing. Overall, the feeling is that the equipment is first class.  This post takes a closer look at two items I've been using myself for just short of a full year now.
Relative Size / Packability

I've been using this jacket since last December, its seen: 
- fell running in the coldest winter for decades
- evening fell walks in bitterly cold North Easterly winds in March / early April
- torrential downpours on humid "summer" days
- extended days in persistent fine drizzle


Water "Proofness" - despite Montane's relatively conservative description I've never got wet in this jacket across the range of conditions described above

Windproof: I think the jacket comes from  "windproof" ancestors, absolutely no complaints in this department

Breathability: I've never found a jacket that keeps me totally  dry on the inside when I'm running up Skiddaw or even when working hard just walking with a pack up a steep incline (maybe I just sweat a lot!?) & this one is no exception. It seems to work well for me under moderate conditions but if the work rate is high enough the condensation begins to appear.

Other thoughts: I bought the jacket as a light weight waterproof principally for running & it is certainly light (on my scales it comes in at between 210-220g in the stuff sac - others report the Large version at about 185-190g). Maybe my scales are a bit dodgey but I can't get excited at this discrepancy - it is light. The "packability" (see photo) has led to me taking the jacket on every mountain day that I do, its proved invaluable both to me & as a spare, on my last day out one of the leaders forgot their waterproof so I was able to pull this very functional "spare" out of my bag!

My conclusions: great value; water proofness has never let me down; windproof; light; packable. I do get a bit sweaty in it when working hard but overall a good go anywhere 3 season piece of kit.

I bought the trousers at the same time as the jacket & have used them under the same conditions as above with the added important extra that I never took them off throughout the  expedition phase of my Mountain Leader Assessment (except for the very few hours when sleep was possible!)
Finding / conclusions:

Jacket & Trousers
I can cut out all the words on these trousers - for all round balance:

Water proofness; windproof; breathability; durability; weight; pack size; fit - the best over trousers I've owned, I love 'em.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A Day In the Northern Fells with CYFA Pathfinder Ventures

With: CYFA Pathfinder Ventures

Weather: Initially low cloud & rain; clearing to give a fine sunny afternoon with fresh south westerly wind

Frozen Fell Gill

 CYFA Pathfinder Ventures run a number of camps at the Centre, they work on a Christian outdoor theme & are a great time in the Blaithwaite calendar. Kay & I act as hosts for the camps, today they asked me lend a hand leading a mountain day.

We went out in our local fells (the northern fells) & did a circuit of: Longlands Fell; Lowthwaite Fell; Little Sca Fell; Great Sca Fell & Meal Fell. It took about 5 hours to complete the five summits with everyone finishing in good shape. There are a few photos below:
Little Sca Fell

Little Sca Fell & the view North towards Scotland
Looking north towards Brae Fell - this is a great run that I've enjoyed many times

Saturday, 6 August 2011

English 3000'ers: Sca Fell

With: on my own

Weather: fine, dry, a bit humid, very light winds & cloudy, although cloud base was above the summits (see below for more on weather)

Still enjoying a few days off at the moment so took the opportunity to fill in one of the "missing pieces" in the Lake District: I climbed Scafell Pike a few years ago and have been up Skiddaw & Helvellyn many times so Sca Fell was the only English 3000'er remaining.

I thought about going via Lord's Rake but reckoned  it'd be climbing with the hoardes (first weekend in August) so I picked a fairly conservative route:

I did wander about a bit exploring various options but essentially the route was: Brackenclose; Hollow Gill; Green How Path; Summit; Descent West towards Burnmoor Tarn; with deviation off to take in Maiden Castle Cairn; back to Brackenclose.

I was surprised (maybe everyone else was in Lord's Rake or on Scafell Pike?) because:

- didn't see anybody on the way up
- only about 8 people on the summit (of which three, quite independently, asked which mountain they were on!!)
- only saw two couples on the way down

Also, I expected to find "motorway" paths throughout the area - this was not the case.

A few pictures below & more on Facebook:

Sca Fell Summit

Not many folk here

They're all on Scafell Pike!!
Weather: last night the BBC forecasters were frantically hedging their bets with a prediction that anywhere in the North of England was set for potentially very heavy rain today. Meanwhile mwis (http://www.mwis.org.uk/) and the met office mountain forecast (www.metoffice.gov.uk) consistently forecast that the far west would be dry, with high cloud - they were spot on!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Original Mountain Marathon 2011

I have a confirmed place available in this years OMM "B Class" that I will not be able to use.

If anybody would like the place please contact me through this blog.

This year's OMM details can be found here - it will be held on the weekend 29/30 October in the Loch Tay area.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Mardale Ill Bell & Harter Fell

With: On my own

Weather: all kinds - humid (but less than lately); occasional showers / drizzle; low vis; light winds

We've just enjoyed a great month at the Centre: busy, challenging but very rewarding. Kay is still away at New Wine but I am pleased with the opportunity to take a couple of days off. The plan was to head for the fells early this morning, however, the weather which had been consistently forecast had other ideas - it poured down at Blaithwaite right through to lunch time. The metoffice indicated better things for the afternoon so I hung on & decided to go for the North Eastern fells.

Driving through Bampton its clear that this is a pleasant corner of Cumbria, the road alongside Haweswater has an increasing feeling of remoteness as the "road head" (Mardale Head Car Park) is approached, I think the area has a Scottish feel to it.

Rarely for me, I set off with no clear agenda on the trail up towards Small Water - a gem of a Lakeland Tarn, the views from above Small Water, back towards Haweswater were impressive even on a drab day like today.
Small Water & Haweswater
The Nan Bield Pass (what a great name) led me up to a "crossroads" where a decision was needed - I went for a detour to Mardale Ill Bell followed by completing the round i.e. returning to the shelter at the head of the pass & ascending on to Harter Fell; picking off its summit; before descending along the line of the fence & picking up Gatesgarth Pass to return to the car at Mardale Head. I only saw two fell runners all afternoon - a good dose of solitude!

The photos below are:

- Mardale Ill Bell summit
- Blea Water (another impressive Tarn)
- Harter Fell summit

No ill effect on the knees after the cortisone injections & the new kit configuration (see previous post) worked well.

I'm hoping to get out again on Saturday - please stay tuned!!