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

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Looking Back

So, there is to be another post in 2012 and its likely to be the longest!

The year sadly is ending on one or two familiar themes: unfortunately Kay finds herself back in the hospice  having been quite unwell over Christmas. Thanks again to everybody out there for your thoughts, prayers & support. Secondly, I know we always complain about the weather, but the seemingly endless rain is causing real hardship up & down the country. Its certainly reached the point where complaining about a cancelled day in the fells or underground could be seen by some as missing the point a little.

As such I think a traditional "looking back at the good bits" post is in order, in all likelihood it will be shortly followed by a looking forward to 2013 post!


January was one of only two months of the year that I hit my unwritten objective of 8 posts per month!

The month saw a bit of gill scrambling with visits to: Cat Gill (for the first time) & Sour Milk Gill, Borrowdale:


There was a bit of snow in February, the highlight probably being a Seathwaite Round taking in: Seathwaite Fell; Allen Crags & Glaramara. The first photo is looking back towards Derwent Water from Seathwaite Fell. The second is a view of Lonscale Fell from Blencathra on the day I lost my phone!

Earlier in the month Kay & I visited the Wasdale Head Inn for a couple of nights with my parents. It was an excellent visit and the cold clear weather produced conditions for some of the better photos of the year:


The weather was surreal!!


April was a really enjoyable month on the activity & leisure front: a visit to Pembrokshire with our daughters; a very enjoyable day helping my good friend Rob Bianchi by taking a group of seven guys with a combined total age well in excess of 400 (two were over 80) up Great Calva; and finally my second most favourite day of the year out in the fells when I was able to get out on my own and just wander around in the Esk Pike / Bowfell area. No prizes for matching the photos below with the relevant April event!


We bought a new house this month!

Also summer returned, albeit very briefly, which allowed a couple of evenings of Gill Scrambling (Stannah Gill & Ruddy Gill). However, highlights must go to an afternoon on Derwent Water with John Pear & George's first abseil!


George & his cousin Evelyn went boating!

And of course - Jubilee fever came to Blaithwaite!


There was lots going on in July not all great, however, for me the highlight was my favourite two days in the fells of the year - Scafell Pike with an over-nighter at Round How. I know I'm breaking cover early but I am really hoping for much more of this in 2013.


We moved off the Centre at Blaithwaite & into our new house. In many ways the end of a chapter that was demanding; challenging in all sorts of ways but deeply rewarding.

The blog got its present new look!

Ventures into the fells took in Nethermost Pike via its East Ridge & a day in the High Street area, not to mention Gaping Gill via the winch:


Really enjoyed Co Antrim with Kay:


Another good month on the outdoor front: a return to regular caving; George's first Wainwright and a day scrambling with Glyn Mitchell:


The snow returned early and we enjoyed a scramble up to the snow line via Nitting Haws followed by High Spy using an off-piste route


Spectacular day on Blencathra; good group day in Bull Pot; Aquamole & a very enjoyable evening with Ferg in Marble Steps:

Once again - thanks for reading.
This really is the last post for 2012, God willing I'll be back early January with a few thoughts for 2013.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

It's Coming On Christmas

It's Coming On Christmas, River - Joni Mitchel, (Click on link to listen)

I like this Christmas song.  Those who know us will not be surprised to hear that Kay has been playing all her Christmas stuff since well before the end of November, as for me Christmas thinking literally only got under way about 48 hours ago & I've still not decided whether this will be this year's Christmas blog post or whether there might be another one.

We got out caving again on Tuesday - Aquamole revisited - Ferg rigged the second pitch & called me down the rope a little early which resulted in me hanging around under a shower of water for several minutes, it was freezing! We've had quite a run of underground visits lately which have been really good but I have to say that after three weeks away I'm longing to get out in the mountains again for something like this (if anyone can identify the summit please leave a comment, if you are right - well done!): 

Unfortunately the weather forecast isn't especially inspiring between now & Christmas  lots of wind, rain and low cloud so I might be having to look again between Christmas & New Year.

So, if I don't get out again in 2012 this will be the Christmas post but if I do, watch this space ......

Today I've spent a little time reflecting on some of this year's pre-Christmas events, happenings & encounters, good friends Alan Rainford & Jon Price have each written some Christmas thoughts which above all else evoke challenging & "real" thinking about the events of Christmas today & 2000 years ago.

Kay has been particularly inspired by the telling of the Christmas story through five nativity icons on the rejesus website, it really is very good and worth a read.

As much as anything, though, we have spent time catching up with folk on the run in to Christmas this year and the warmth of friendship & fellowship has spoke volumes to us through: an afternoon with Rob & Margaret Bianchi of Outdoor Development Ministries ; a visit from Nick & Sue Pengelly from Wrexham Community Church  and  Christmas Meals with St Elisabeth's, Harraby & In2venture

Tomorrow, the shortest day of the year, will probably be the last working day of 2012 and Saturday will start to see the arrival of family from across the length & breadth of the country as we gather once again to celebrate this special time. So as we look towards the light both symbolically and literally I'd like to thank you all for reading this year - as I said earlier there just maybe another post - but just in case I pray that you will know Peace & Joy this Christmas.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

New Photographer

We went out yesterday - still on a recent cave dominated theme (I will be out in the fells as much as time allows around Christmas time). Unfortunately my camera wasn't working properly. Its fixed now.

Clare Mackey took some photos on her new "Christmas Present in Advance" and there are a selection of them below. Its a short technical series working at a pitch head with my good friend Dave Magnall:

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Marble Steps

With: Ferg

Weather: still, dry, sub zero, clear night

Where: Ireby Fell, Yorkshire Dales

It was a fine cold late afternoon and evening in the Yorkshire Dales yesterday, its not very often that just Ferg and I get out for an evening cave so we decided  to do something interesting.

Looking west From the Top of Masongill lane

It was about half four by the time we had finished packing ropes and began the trudge up the lane & on to the fell. By the time we approached the copse of trees that surround Marble Steps pot our caving headlamps were switched on.

The rigging guide refers to the extra traverse line that is necessary to descend the steps from the surface in snow or ice conditions, it was certainly icy - like a skating rink - as Ferg began to rig the first section. Our chosen route was the so called "sidewinder" in which the exposed shaft is traversed around above ground in a box like pattern, its an excellent traverse over an intimidatingly big hole.

Above: Caver at Work, Ferg starting to rig the traverse

Above: Starting the Descent of the Steps, its difficult to see just how slippery it was

Once the traverse is complete a short climb up leads into a short section of fossil passage where a Y-hang allows descent through a vertical squeeze. I took up the rigging here and on dropping down this small tight slot it crossed my mind that it would be worse coming back out. I've done this part of the cave once before and don't remember it being so tight. The other thing I don't recall was just how much loose rock appeared to be readily disturbed and fell down the main gully pitch, real care would be needed here if any other folk were in the gully.

Some "tightish" meandering passage leads to a high traverse and the approach to the main sidewinder pitch. We used a 65m rope here (and used just about all of it to get to the bottom) it starts with an uneven Y-hang that drops to a single bolt re-belay which is all but free hanging followed by a fine descent to a rocky slab. Here a natural provides a further re-belay point before another Y-hang, the final abseil requires two deviations to keep the rope away from the angled rock and lands in a rocky chamber with plenty evidence of  flooding in the form of lumps of trees. I believe this cave can flood quite spectacularly under the right conditions. For tonight an exploration of this area was to be journey's end. On previous occasions I have carried on via Stink Pot and done the next big pitch "the ninety"; also we once did an exchange trip from here exiting via Gully route - both of which I'd strongly recommend.

We used the exit to test for the first time the Petzl Pantin (a foot jammer which is attached to the inside of the ankle). Its a technique that will need a bit of getting used to (at least for me) but looks like something I'd like to investigate further.

Ferg grabbed a few decent photos of my ascent of the first part of "sidewinder" around the deviations:

We emerged to a fine cold evening on the fell. 

A mixture of too much talking and not enough concentration led to us walking straight past the stile that leads back on to Masongill Lane, so the need to relocate and tramp around in the dark for longer than planned was unwelcome, however, it was a good evening underground in one of my favourite Yorkshire caves.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


With: Alan & Ferg

Weather: Frequent sleet showers; bitterly cold wind

Where: Aquamole Pot, West Kingsdale, Yorkshire Dales

Not a long write up today folks. Just a few pictures from a first visit to Aquamole Pot in West Kingsdale. We didn't get to the bottom on this occassion so will have to return -  no hardship here as this vertical encounter was pretty good!

Wintry Panorama In West Kingsdale

The Mole Emerges After De-Rigging