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, 8 July 2013

Gill Scrambling

Sour Milk Gill, Borrowdale - In Spate Last Week

The last few weeks have been the busiest in recent memory from the point of view of delivering instructed/guided outdoor activity. Five visits to the summit of Longlands Fell in a day & a half followed closely by six gill scrambles in seven days were two personal records - contributing greatly to fitness!!

Gill Scrambling as opposed to gorge walking is a favourite. 

In terms of definition, for me, gorge walking is an inherently wet activity often undertaken in a wetsuit & buoyancy aid (eg. Stoneycroft Gill, there have been many sessions in there of late also!). Whereas I tend to regard Gill Scrambling in the terms set out by Brian Evans in the Cicerone Guide "Scrambles in the Lake District; Volume 2: Northern Lakes) i.e.

- that the hardest route is taken up the gill staying closest to the water [this closeness can, however, lead to a soaking from spray; wet feet & in the worst case falling in & taking a swim]

- that a route is taken that sticks to the rock as much as possible

Overall, to me, Gill Scrambling is an adaptation of  mountain based activities such as climbing; scrambling & walking in which I would dress as for a day on the fell wearing boots; maybe overtrousers & carrying a rucksack.

Cover of Scrambles in the Lake District - North  Scrambles in the Lake District - North; Volume 2; Brian Evans

Working with groups this last few weeks most of the scrambles were done in Sour Milk Gill, Borrowdale (again referred to in the above guide (Route 52, page 146).

Sour Milk Gill in Borrowdale is in an excellent location, easy parking (at least on a good day!); just a short walk-in & the most impressive of Lakeland settings.

Walking down the lane from where the car is parked its just through into Seathwaite Farm; a right turn under the arch and a further bimble over the bridge to the foot of the gill.

Once the gill has been gained there is rarely a lack of route option apart from in the highest of water levels (see the photo at the top of this post, taken last Thursday when level did restrict route!). The scramble, as the guidebook suggests, could be graded as anything from 1-3 depending on how hard you choose to make it. If you don't like the look of something you can usually just step out of the gill. In my view, by far the biggest hazards are related to simple slips, trips & falls on slippy rock (which of course can have serious consequences). For the inexperienced I would also recommend avoiding this type of activity in higher water levels where such a slip, trip or fall could very easily lead to the potentially serious added complications associated with fast flowing water. I would always wear a helmet in this gill & when working with groups would always take a rope (which might not be used), however, there are one or two sections even on the easier routes where some group members do very often appreciate the extra confidence of being tied on and belayed.

The route continues right up to the high intake wall with the last, say, two-thirds offering the best of the scrambling. When working with groups the easier routes, which still offer some truly breathtaking aspects - close to the water & spray - are found to the right hand side of the gill (as looked at in ascent). Whilst the more technical & difficult scrambling can be found to the left - take your pick depending on what you are looking for & who you are with!

If you can manage to stay dry enough this route makes an excellent prelude to a day on Base Brown & the "Gables". Its one to be enjoyed!

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