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

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Grassmoor & Thereabouts

With: on my own
Weather: a kind of Indian summer; warm; humid; no wind; at times appalling visibility but when high enough spectacularly clear!

Its been a few days of firsts & a first ascent of Grassmoor has long been on the cards.

However, a set of tensions made this far from a straightforward day, in the balance were: the opportunity for an early start; promises of fine weather; the opportunity to pick off some new summits versus a series of appointments in the afternoon & evening; visibility which was much worse than anticipated!

Cloud Inversion From Grassmoor Summit

An early arrival at Rannerdale Bridge saw a muted scene across Crummock Water, it was mild with little to no breeze, the tops sat stuck in low cloud that the weather forecasts indicated was likely to burn off as the day progressed.

Its a steep and unrelenting ascent alongside Cinderdale Beck for the most part. Considering this is a well documented & easily accessible route it does in places have the look of a path less traveled. The climb was warm and much of the higher reaches were swathed in thick low cloud. However, crossing the summit plateau of Grassmoor the first hint of a clearing picture emerged amidst an array of fascinating optical effects, some of which there are attempts to capture on camera below. Ultimately though the potential of a cloud inversion became apparent and an extended stay at the summit in order to witness this ensued. Brockenspectre(s)?

In many ways to have stayed even longer at the summit might have been a good plan, however, the decision taken to move on led to a descent in the general direction of Wandope & Whiteless Edge, unfortunately this led to a return to low cloud which to be frank just got worse & worse. The unremarkable Wandope "bagged" for the first time it was onwards along Whiteless Edge. After ten minutes or so of hand in front of the face visibility I lost the will to live & made the decision to leave "The Edge" and opt for a more direct descent into the valley & out of the cloud - whilst being a great advocate of getting off the beaten track on this occasion it was a mistake which led to much sliding on scree and damp grass and not a little impromptu scrambling. So much so a further relocation was needed and a gentler line of descent found. The valley walk out was pleasant.

It might be a little controversial but I came to the conclusion today that for me ponderous circuits aimed at "bagging" minor Wainwrights (eg. Wandope, Whiteless Pike) detract from the quality that is available in the Lake District - a much better use of "fell time" is to interact with the many challenging route options (scrambles; lesser frequented approaches) to the local summits. Maybe a better use of today would have been to ascend Grassmoor via Lorton Gulley; spend more time photographing the incredible scenes at the summit & descending via the route I went up by?

This is by & large the route followed but with the deviations described above in the Whiteless Edge area not attempted to be drawn.

Total distance: approx 6 miles
Ascent: 3,000'

Monday, 23 September 2013

Aira Beck & Aira Force

After a lifetime visiting the Lake District & eight years living in Northern Cumbria - a first ever visit to Aira Force this weekend! What a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours: great trees; glimpses across Ullswater; impressive falls & we very much enjoyed the tea & cake at the end! Just a few photos below, quite pleased with one or two of them:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Grune Point - Skinburness

Visits to the Solway Coast are infrequent, its not North West Scotland but it certainly satisfied the "call of the wild" for today. That said Grune Point, Skinburness was a welcome new venue. Its situated "upstream" of Silloth the "Point" sticks out into the Wampool Estuary with the Solway to the North & marshland to the South. Big, changing sky was the order of the day & if you look closely at the photos below a peculiar rainbow.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

An Afternoon In The Underworld

It was a fine, dry early autumn afternoon in West Kingsdale yesterday for an afternoon trip underground with the "In2venture Community". The chosen venue evolved to become Yordas Pot. So after breakfast at Inglesport & a minor transport logistics issue it was a very pleasant drive up the dale which by this time was populated with a smattering of cavers: a small group heading for Bull Pot of Kingsdale (our original venue) and a family group heading for Heron Pot ( a cave I quite enjoy a visit to).

Alan & I were joined by five members of the Washington Wild Camping Society. After changing & sorting kit it was just a short walk to take a look at the old show cave and our planned exit point.

The contrast upon "entering the underworld" was, as always, vast compared to the bright sunny scene we left behind. There was a small flow of water still running across the floor of the cave, the remnants of heavy rain earlier in the week & the constant loud, low rumble from Chapterhouse Falls: hidden from view but their presence increasing with every step taken towards them. On the day they made an impressive sight with just enough water coming through to make the prospect of their later descent by abseil a clearly challenging & exciting prospect for the guys who had never visited before.

The darkness; temperature; noise & clear challenges of the cave environment prompted me to consider, on this occasion that whilst there is much that can be seen on the surface there is often an awful lot more going on underneath.........

So it was up to Middle Entrance & a hand line climb down to the head of the short pitch. Everybody had a go at abseiling themselves & a bit of ladder and lifeline practise followed. Feet got wet in the pool and the crawl along the stream way to the head of Chapterhouse Fall was longer than I remembered. The pitch-head was atmospheric, although there was not too much water the noise & spray provided a dramatic scene. Alan abseiled first followed by each of "Team Washington" being lowered by myself - there was considerable zeal in one or two of the descents!! A quick re-rig for pull-through saw me descending last, it was an enjoyable journey into the plunge pool at the bottom, where Will's birthday had earlier been celebrated with soggy cheese cake & candles that wouldn't light in the spray!

Soaking wet we exited via the expansive Yordas cave back into that calm serene surface setting which had earlier masked all that was going on beneath,

Hopefully a few more photos to follow

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Open Canoe Expedition: Loch Morar - Full Video

Just finished editing the remaining GoPro Hero3 video footage from Loch Morar.

Click on this link to view or visit my YouTube channel (link to RHS of this post)

Statistics - A Very Short Note

This is really just a very short note to recognise that today the blog's counter went through 30,000 visits! It genuinely staggers me that so many folk take the time read; look at the pictures & listen to the occasional rant!

A big thank you to everybody who does visit these pages - you make it worth writing them!!

Just out of random interest (don't know if anybody will be in the least bothered about this) but I've always tried to guage the size of places that I've lived in based on their population so below is a list of the statistics of the populations of the places Mal has lived in (!!):

Widnes       58,300                    Runcorn 61,000

Darlington 106,000

Blaithwaite (Cumbria)    <10 year round; Wigton 5,520; Carlisle 107,500

Just for the record, the population of Grendon is 1,495 with the nearby Atherstone at 8,000
But I've never lived in either of these two!!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Open Canoe Exped: Loch Morar; Un-Edited GoPro Hero3 Footage

Its been a long evening and there is little prospect of immediate sleep!

On the plus side its presented an opportunity to have a first look at some GoPro Hero3 footage from May's open canoe expedition to Loch Morar / Loch Nevis. 

What is posted below is raw from the camera, think you'll agree its got real potential (best viewed in HD). Hope the final edit does it justice - watch this space!

On The Water


Looking Out From First Camp


Outdoor Trade Show 2013

The outdoor Trade Show is currently taking place at Stoneleigh, near Coventry in the Midlands, a visit yesterday was a first for me.

Checking on travel options it didn't look as though rail was especially convenient so it was an early start for the three and a half - four hour drive from north Cumbria. The weather, close to home, was a joy - early autumn sunshine and thin veils of mist settled in the fields surrounding the M6. Unfortunately this did not last and by the time an hour and a half had passed torrential rain showers became the order of the day. As an aside & by way of a bit of a rant I was horrified at the remarkably uniform and extremely high fuel prices that I observed on the motorway - every unleaded option I saw was 148.9p per litre, today's ASDA Carlisle price being just 134.7p per litre - that's a 10.5% difference. You can even buy in rural Wigton at 138.9!

Anyway, on arrival at Stoneleigh the most immediately eye catching feature was the vast array of tents - never seen so many in one place at an exhibition or trade fair. It really was quite impressive. The only negative on the morning being that it was a soggy wet camp field to walk around.

After registration a quick initial walk around the two halls of the show was followed by a few meetings, it was particularly good to catch up with the Terra Nova folk and Sarah from Cicerone Guides.

There were some impressive products on display - the Paramo stand looked to be well visited in this respect and I quite enjoyed a browse of the Petzl & Silva stands. By way of something I'd not seen before Sugru's (www.sugru.com) self setting rubber for repairing self-inflating mattresses; minor damage to boots; paddles etc. will be something that finds its way into my canoeing, caving and mountaineering emergency kit.

So, overall, a long day with quite difficult travel but good to catch up with a few folk and one or very two useful meetings.

The sun did come out on the tent field for a while in the afternoon which allowed the picture above to show the tents off in a slightly better light - would have been nice if it had lasted on the journey back north on the M6.

All told though - I'm looking forward to Saturday's caving trip. Enough said!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Wet Again At Nenthead

The last visit to Nenthead mines, incredibly in May, nearly resulted in a written off car in flood waters on the Alston Road! Today wasn't quite that extreme but its poured down all day. 

Aims for the day were quite straightforward, Paul Rich is preparing for a Cave-Mine conversion assessment so we went in Rampgill to look at features; hazards; points of interest etc. Overall the trip was uncomplicated but we were not aware of the shored-up collapse (see below) just inside the mine entrance.

So below are just a few photos of what we saw.

Paul Viewing Shored-Up Collapse Just Inside Entrance

Ore Hopper

Ceiling Full of Stals

Looking Up At Decaying Woodwork