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

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Skiddaw & Snow

With: Glyn Mitchell
Weather: forecast was for squally hail showers with bright intervals; reality was a prolonged spell of hail / snow and gale force winds. There was the odd bright spell
Where: Skiddaw, North Lakes

Long Side Edge with Derwent Water Below

I enjoyed dinner with good friends Alan & Mim Rainford on Friday evening. That was after a day in the fells with Glyn & before a visit to Caldbeck for an "Evening with Chris Bonington" at the Village Hall. Driving towards Caldbeck that night the Northern Fells, looking south, were magnificent: snow capped Skiddaw with all its lightly dusted subsidiaries shining in bright sunshine against a clear blue sky. What a contrast to a few hours earlier!

It was great to catch up with Alan & Mim! 

Ferg, Graham, Greg, Alan & myself then took our place in, a packed to capacity, Caldbeck Village Hall as Sir Chris told his life story as a fund raiser in aid of Fell View school. There was a strong community feel to it - it was good!

Earlier in the day Glyn & I set off over Ullock Pike to complete this Northern Fells classic ascent of Skiddaw. Skiddaw is a mountain that gets a little bad press, I can understand why folk are un-impressed with the long slog out of Keswick from the south. However, approached via Ullock Pike; Long Side Edge; & Carl Side with the final ascent from Carl Side Tarn to the summit - which is a summit fitting of any of the lake District's 3,000' mountains - it really is a very good day out.

Glyn on Ullock Pike Summit

The weather was promising, initially. However, just before reaching Ullock Pike summit we were hit by the day's first hail filled squall & a full outer shell was quickly put into place by both of us. This is an interesting route since after a good pull up to Ullock Pike the ridge flattens out for a considerable distance over Long Side Edge and around to Carl Side Tarn before another increase in gradient up on to the summit ridge. It was as we began to ascend the final rocky stretch that the wind quickened quite suddenly & a considerably blacker vista developed to the West. Looking back a couple that we passed on the incline made the decision to turn round and head down. Over the last 50m or so of the ascent we noticed that what little fauna there was was encapsulated in ice and the air had taken on a distinctly chill feel. Stepping on to the summit ridge the hail started again: accelerated now by the increased wind it had a sting in it! Within minutes the hail had turned to snow which was beginning to stick and lie; the wind was now strong enough to be blowing us sideways across the rocky summit - there was suddenly a very wild feel to the day, winter had briefly returned with a vengeance.

We hunkered down for just a few minutes behind the summit shelter - it wasn't the place or time to eat - an adjustment of clothing and a quick photo saw us on our way.

As we began to descend off the northern end of the summit ridge, still experiencing the full fury of the snow storm we bumped into a lady called Helen. She was dis-orientated. Having ascended earlier by the same route as ourselves she had become confused when leaving the ridge and was trying to re-trace her steps & descend via the route she had come up by. Since her plan was to end at the Orthwaite Road she opted to join us for the descent. The weather did not relent for some time, it would be interesting to know what constitutes a shower versus a spell of persistent precipitation in meteorological jargon.The snow was lying well down Birkett Edge and it was Dash Falls before we were able to see very much again.

After leaving, the impressive, Dash Falls its a bit of a trudge out this way. We did speculate about a descent of Randel Crag & Buzzard Knott to regain Southerndale, I'll come back and have a look at this in better weather.

Winter over?


Approx 8 miles & 2,950' ascent

Monday, 22 April 2013

Black & White

April has been a great month in the outdoors, a late winter that hung in there, followed by some welcome sunshine and even a little warmth. I converted a few of April's images to Black & White, just to see what they look like in a different format.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

SRT Trip

Only a few remaining patches of snow on the distant Ingleborough left a reminder of how things were just a few days ago. Spring finally seems to have arrived in the Yorkshire Dales.

We'd picked a fine day for our first SRT trip for quite a while, the chosen venue being Bull Pot of Kingsdale. There was a real warmth in the sun as we packed ropes & prepared kit for this vertical outing.

There were a good few cavers out & about in Kingsdale, cashing in on the fine conditions, so we parked up at Yordas Wood and took a slightly longer but less steep route up towards the limestone outcrop which marks the location of Bull Pot. Upon arrival we were mildly disappointed to be, apparently, sharing the cave as there were a set of ropes already in-situ. However, it was only later we discovered that they had been left in place by a University group the previous day & we did indeed have the place to ourselves - assumptions!!

It was good to put rigging skills back into practice & the series of abseils were really enjoyable. Below are a couple of photos of Alan Rainford abseiling on the third pitch on a very slick new rope!

Like many of the caves in the West Kingsdale area the vertical development of Bull Pot is impressive & its always good to pause for a few moments just to try to "take in " the environment that is being interacted with.

To be honest, it didn't really feel as though it has been a few weeks since a last SRT trip & the prussik out of the cave went smoothly.

The photo below is of Paul Brown approaching the foot of the first pitch as we were ascending back out of the cave, the one below it is the view back up the first pitch, ours is the rope on the right.

Back on the surface it really had turned into a very nice day!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Blaithwaite Walking Week

For the last seven years good friends Rob & Margaret Bianchi have led a walking week at Blaithwaite House. Compared to most of the activity based events which run from the Centre this is a very different occasion with a more mature clientele, many of whom return year on year - I've grown to both like & respect them. Its a pleasure to spend time in their company out and about in the Lake District fells.

Mungrisdale Common & Carrock Fell

The visual aspect of the fells has changed considerably in the last few days, a long spell of high pressure which sucked in cold north easterly winds and saw the area hard frozen and clad in snow has given way swiftly to warm winds from the south and the accompanied thaw. The thaw has indeed been rapid and Carrock Fell was devoid of snow today. Air temperatures were a balmy 13degC but didn't feel like it in the persistent and strong southerly that blew.

This years' group of a dozen or so walkers, accompanied by the youthful presence of Ferg (!) enjoyed an essentially lowland walk of 5-6 miles in the area of Caldbeck; Carrock Fell & High Pike. The pace was relaxed and the conversation good, a hare impressed us with with an extended sprint across the fields in the Hudscales area. The trek concluded in Caldbeck - a gem of the Lake District north - and more specifically in the Watermill Cafe at Priests Mill which must serve the thickest caramel slice in Cumbria?

The nature of this post now changes, as the plan had been for me to take a sub-group of Rob's visitors out into the higher fells on Thursday (today). However, injuries to ageing limbs (I'm not talking about mine at the moment) led to the higher venture being cancelled - as such I've taken the opportunity to get caught up on stuff in the home office & will make a visit to the gym later.

Thankfully, Ferg had been quite "camera happy" on Tuesday and has agreed to me using a couple of his photos to complete this article. Hoping to be catching up with Rob's group again next year!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Penton Gorge: Another Video Experiment!

Here's another fledgling attempt with the GoPro Hero 3. All filmed using the chest harness attachment.

The event was an In2venture Community Gorge Walk

Venue: Penton Gorge; River Lidd; Scottish Borders

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Busy This Week

Its been a busy week with much time having been spent working with groups in and around the Lake District. I've already written about some of what has happened on these pages and also through Twitter & Facebook - so thought tonight I'd post a photo-diary of the week.


Great weather for scrambling in Sour Milk Gill, Borrowdale


What a day for a paddle on Ullswater with Jane Cook


Back in Borrowdale working with a group - young people, different viewpoint - it was a good day


Planning for next month


Tilberthwaite, South Lakes


St Elisabeth's in the morning & then a sociable afternoon's caving with Kevin & his Dad!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Floating on Ullswater

Spring arrived, full bore, in Cumbria today! The car's thermometer reached the dizzy heights of double figures & we'd chosen to go for a paddle!!

I met up with  long time friend - Jane Cook - for the day and thinking back have realised that its the best part of 20 years that we've now known one another. Jane is now the Rev Jane - a fully fledged Methodist Minister & it was great to spend a day catching up.

We were pleased to be able to grab some of the road-side parking on Ullswater, roughly opposite Sandwick Bay. Hazy sun was breaking through; the fells were still bright with snow and the lake was flat calm. Whatever gentle breeze there was was in our faces as we set off in the direction of Glenridding. Jane was paddling a (quite shiny) Mad River Legend 15 whilst I went for my old Pyranha Prospector - this was the first open canoe I ever bought! It cost me £750 in 1996 & after a lifetime of abuse: paddling on Grade 3 white water; years' worth of multi-day camping trips & much neglect its still going strong - seventeen years, what an investment!

The only significant disturbance to the mirror-like surface of the water was caused by the passing Ullswater steamer ferrying Easter visitors around the lake. In fact, for the first hour or so we saw very few other craft on the water. This was made up for, however, by a much busier Glenridding area where it was good to see what looked like an open canoe overnight expedition from a local Outdoor Centre going by and a variety of hired vessels out enjoying the conditions. 

The journey back from Glenridding was assisted by the light breeze and there was a discernible warmth in the sun by mid-afternoon.

Our six mile journey ended back where we started after a leisurely three and a half hour paddle - it was good to be out today.

There are a few more photos on Flickr

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A Night In The Northern Fells

With: On My Own

Weather: Very cold; lying snow; constant fresh NE Wind; broken high level cloud

Where: Lake District Northern Fells

Lingy Hut - Home for the Night

A night out in the fells has been on the radar for a few days, the diary determined that it would need to be either overnight Easter Sunday- Monday or overnight Easter Monday - Tuesday. After getting back from Church on Easter morning I faffed around for ages and then at about 3 o'clock decided this was the night to go for. In a way, I was quite pleased that last minute supplies were difficult to come by - all the shops were closed because it was Easter Sunday. 

After a major change of plan (I was thinking of going to Warnscale Head) I set off for Mosedale with a loose plan of staying over in Lingy Hut, it was nearly 5 o'clock before I arrived at the head of the valley & started walking. Along the Cumbria Way and up through the old Carrock Mine site was interesting, will need to make a discrete visit back here again one evening (with SRT kit!). After a short distance along the beck there is a pleasant alternative path which cuts the corner off the Cumbria Way ascending across Arm o' Grain directly to Lingy Hut. I called in the hut to check whether anyone else was around & looking like staying over, satisfied that I was likely to get the place to myself I set off north through the snow for High Pike. The summit of High Pike speaks for itself in the photos below, in this winter of superlatives the views were breathtaking.

High Pike

The Northern Fells or the Scottish Highlands?

Re-tracing my steps it was back to the hut for something to eat and at least some respite from the numbingly cold wind.

Unfortunately there were no clear skies to be enjoyed and the wind picked up in the early evening curtailing any further plans, so it was early to bed as the temperatures plummeted (minus 5 to minus 6 degC has been mentioned but I have no way of verifying this). It was certainly a cold and draughty night in the hut.

In line with the continuing loose plan I got up at half four and left the hut at five a.m. heading for Carrock Fell summit and a planned rendevous with sunrise. The visibility was no more than average (due to darkness and high level cloud obscuring the moon) so I set off by the light of head torch on a bearing with a calculated time for the leg in my head. The snow had a crisp crunch to it with every footfall, the next hour or so was quite possibly the highlight of the trip - complete solitude in a dark frozen wilderness.The allotted time passed; check the map; new bearing; new distance calculated & on again in the darkness. This leg was aiming almost due east for Mitton Hill, slowly a faint red glow began to appear in the sky ahead. No need for the compass now the rising sun marked the way on. Previous memories of Carrock Fell summit led me to think that there might be a scramble over some boulders to realise the summit cairn, either these memories were inaccurate or the snow was simply that deep and hard frozen that the boulders were buried. The view at the summit is captured below:

I hung around at the cairn for quite a while trying to take in the vastness of the landscape around me & reflecting on the journey through lent and the year to date. It was cold but I could have stayed there for ages.

After a while I re-traced my steps heading west into a brightening day with  breaking cloud and massive views beginning to develop before my eyes.

At the flat ground between the first ring contour and Mitton Hill I broke off the summit plateau to the south west back towards Brandy Gill & the Carrock Mine sett. The snow in this area was especially deep and progress was slow as I repeatedly sunk past knee deep.

A steep descent saw me back at the mine where I ratched about for a short time before re-joining the Cumbrian Way heading back towards the car on the Mosedale valley road.

It was only eight a.m. when I reached the car, the temperature was minus one deg C on the car's thermometer.

This was a really enjoyable micro-trip lasting not much more than twelve hours but containing two summits; an overnight stay in a mountain hut and yet more superb winter conditions.


Approx: 7.5 miles with 1700' of ascent

There are a few more photos on flickr