Category Archives: Climbing

STAY LOCAL PLEA. CONISTON MRT.

This is a copy of a Facebook page for Coniston Mountain Rescue today.

It is worth reading in full and disseminating widely in the outdoor community. 

 

Hello All,

Hopefully, you’re all managing to stay safe and healthy through the Covid-19 pandemic.

We know that many of you will be desperate to get back on the fells and trails, and to get your Lake District “fix”. The relaxation of the Coronavirus lockdown may have been music to your ears when the Prime Minister stated that it is now Ok to drive any distance to take your exercise. This came as a total surprise to us as a Mountain Rescue Team (MRT), Cumbria Police, Cumbria Tourist Board, The Lake District National Park and also The National Trust. Simply, the Lake District is NOT ready for a large influx of visitors. The hospitality sector remains closed, some car parks may be re-opening, along with some toilet facilities, but this is an enforced opening due to this announcement to cater for those that do decide to come, rather than an invitation.
Why are we, Coniston Mountain Rescue Team, so concerned about the relaxation of the travel to exercise rules? Maybe if we talk you through what happens it may explain why we’re worried.

Firstly, we are all volunteers – most of us have day jobs from which we take time off to deal with incidents during work hours, or time out of the rest of our lives “out of hours”, and secondly most of us have families who we need to protect.

How a rescue might play out during the Covid-19 pandemic:-
1. Paul and Sarah came up from Preston, and have summited the Old Man of Coniston, had their lunch and set off down towards Goats Water.
2. Paul slips and hears a crack from his left ankle, Sarah tries to help, but Paul can’t put weight on his ankle which is at a funny angle anyway. Paul is 15 stone and 6ft 2 tall. Sarah is fit but no way could she help Paul back down.
3. Sarah dials 999, remembers to ask for Police and then Mountain Rescue, the operator takes the details and asks a lot of questions to assess the Covid-19 risk posed by both Paul & Sarah to the MRT, and subsequently to Ambulance and medical staff that will need to treat Paul.
4. In the meantime, four groups of people come by, they all say they’d love to help but haven’t got any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and must socially distance themselves by at least 2 metres.
5. The Police alert Coniston MRT to the incident via SARCALL, and the Duty Team Leader (TL) calls Sarah, having sent her a link by text for her to click on to confirm their exact position, and asks more questions, to work out the resources needed.
6. The TL then calls other members of the Leader Group to discuss the requirements and decides a 10 member group is required on the hill and alerts the Team to that requirement.
7. The Team numbers are depleted anyway, we have a number of people who contribute massively to the Team generally but are over 70 years old, i.e. higher risk group, we have people who may be shielding a family member, or at risk themselves due to underlying medical conditions that normally wouldn’t be an issue. So a team of 10 assemble at the MRT base, plus someone to run the base – this person is important as it helps with coordination of other services letting the hill party get on with the job.
8. All members are briefed regarding the incident, and check all are happy with the unknown invisible risk posed by the incident; the risk of walking up the fell is taken as read and a baseline anyway. All PPE is checked.
9. Team members climb aboard two of the Team’s three vehicles. Why only two when social distancing could be better in 3 vehicles? The need to decontaminate the vehicles on return probably outweighs the advantage of social distancing, and it leaves another vehicle able to respond to any other incidents.
10. Normally the Team would mobilise within 10-15 minutes of this type of call, due to all the pre-checks, personnel checks etc., the time elapsed thus far is 45 minutes.
11. The vehicles arrive at the road head, one last check on PPE and kit for the incident, including radios, and the Team sets off for the casualty site. Walking time to site is around 45-60 minutes.
12. The Team can’t call on the Air Ambulance for support as they’re off-line for this type of incident due to staff being redeployed elsewhere in the NHS or due to other priorities and risk factors so cannot support. Similar with Coastguard Helicopters…
13. On site, one casualty carer and one assistant will approach the casualty with as much PPE on as possible, and may well apply PPE to the patient before carrying out a full primary survey, in this case that’s simple, Paul’s ankle is (probably) broken, and there are no other underlying medical factors like a head injury, multiple other injuries or catastrophic bleeding.
14. The casualty carer and helper would normally give Paul some Entonox (pain killing gas) while they straighten his ankle to ensure a pulse at the foot and also maybe a pain killing injection. The injection takes 15 mins or so to work, but Entonox is not given because of the potential risk of contamination. However, the foot needs straightening ASAP to restore the pulse in Paul’s foot. Paul screams as the casualty carer re-aligns the foot (it’s called reducing the injury) to restore circulation and allow for splinting.
15. Paul’s ankle is splinted and although he’s still in pain, it’s less than it was and the painkilling injection is starting to take effect. Time elapsed since Paul fell is now 2 hours 15 mins.
16. The Team moves in and helps Paul on to the stretcher, the stretcher is made of stainless steel and heavy, it is about 2.5 metres long and maybe 0.6 metres wide, usually it takes 8 people to carry a loaded stretcher, they cannot socially distance.
17. The Team carries Paul down to the Walna Scar road, where they’ve asked a North West Ambulance Service land ambulance to meet them to reduce potential contamination at base. The carry down has taken 2 hours, so now it’s 4 hrs 15 since Paul fell. Paul is transferred to the Ambulance and taken to Furness General Hospital. Sarah can’t drive, but can’t go in the Ambulance either. How can the Team get Sarah re-united with Paul and then how do they both get home to Preston when Paul is fixed? What happens to their car? In normal circumstances we can fix these issues, not so easy in the Covid-19 pandemic.
18. The Team returns to base and starts to decontaminate the stretcher, the vehicles, the non-disposable medical equipment, the splint and themselves. Jackets and other clothing are all bagged ready to go in their washing machines when they get home, which takes a further 1 hour 15 minutes. Total time elapsed 5hrs 30 minutes. Total man-hours 10 folk on the hill plus 1 running base = 60.5 man-hours.
19. Paul is admitted to Furness General Hospital after a wait of 1 hour at A&E. He is taken to cubicles and X Rayed to understand his ankle injury better. He is also routinely tested for Covid-19. Paul’s ankle needs an operation to pin it as the break is a bad one.
20. Paul’s Covid-19 test comes back positive. Oh dear! Paul is asymptomatic, he has the virus but is either naturally immune or has not yet developed symptoms. The message is passed back to Coniston MRT, who then have to check the records of those on the incident. Every one of them, the ten people on the incident and the base controller, must now self isolate and so must their families, so now we have maybe 35 people all having to self-isolate. Plus possibly the Ambulance crew and their families.
21. Three days later Eric from Essex decides he wants to come to Coniston to do the 7 Wainwrights in the Coniston Fells. He sets off, and completes Dow Crag, the Old Man, Brim Fell along to Swirl How and Great Carrs and across to Grey Friar, then on up to Wetherlam. Eric puts his foot down on a rock, the rock moves and Eric is in a heap on the floor, his foot is at a funny angle…he gets his phone out and dials for Mountain Rescue… but there are only three people available from the Coniston Team now, so the decision needs to be taken by the Coniston MRT duty leader which Team to call to support, Neighbouring Teams are Langdale-Ambleside and Duddon & Furness MRT’s. The issue is, they’re in the same situation as Coniston with people self-isolating due to potential contamination, or their members are keyworkers in the NHS and can’t deploy on MRT incidents.
So – we’re asking you to think twice, even three times before you embark upon travelling to the Lake District for your exercise. The risk, however small, is real, and I write this as an MRT member for over 30 years with probably around 1000 incidents under my belt, I know, accidents happen.

CLIMBING THE WALLS.

A lot of people are ‘climbing the walls’  with all these Covid19 isolation rules. I feel particular sympathy for those families living in cramped accommodation with maybe no open space to relax in. Having a garden is a great advantage, I’m blessed with mine.

Following my successful backpacking trip at Easter, I thought it was time for a bit of climbing particularly as the weather has been so good the rock will be in excellent condition. I’m lucky in having Craig Y Longridge just up the road and normally go bouldering there most days when I’m fit. It is a unique venue with over 300ft of overhanging rock in the main up to about 15 – 20 ft high.  There are over a hundred problems and many more variations to play on until your strength gives out. As everywhere else, due to the coronavirus, climbing is banned for the foreseeable future.  Social distancing is difficult and any accident there would place even more burden on our emergency services.

Craig Y Longridge on a rather poor day but you get the idea of how steep it is.

Better weather – struggling climber. Oct 2018.

Not to be deterred I’ve some walls at home. The walls of my stone-built house offer edges which replicate the holds found on natural gritstone. Most of the walls now have plants and shrubs close or growing up them. However, the sidewall adjacent to my drive is free to explore after a little trimming of the honeysuckle on the corner.

So out comes the bouldering mat and I catch the morning sun. There are several variations up this bit of wall and one can make it as easy or hard as necessary. To be honest I’ve done so much gardening these last weeks that my dodgy shoulder is playing up so I have to go careful. Still, it is good fun and gives me some exercise every morning. Note the right foot on the window ledge is cheating.

The bouldering mat below me should ensure that I don’t twist an ankle or worse and end up in casualty, I’m not actually getting far off the ground as you can see. I do get some funny looks from passers-by.

 

After a few weeks I should have worked out lots of ways up this bit of wall and may have to start on the other side of the house but that would require some extensive ‘gardening’ to remove the shrubs.

So yet more simple diversions to help pass the days and keep fit at the same time bringing some normality into my life.

*****

PS. The news today is that Joe Brown the famous working-class Manchester climber has died, aged 89. He was a climbing legend and many of you will have heard of him.

Joe was a true pioneer of rock climbing particularly active in the 1950s and 1960s when he pushed standards. His ascents were as varied in style as they were in location and ranged from the gritstone outcrops of the Peak District, the mountains of Britain to 8000m peaks in the Himalaya. He achieved TV fame with live outside broadcasts and earned the nickname ‘the human fly‘.  The personality and talent he possessed only come along every few generations or so.

Stay Home for Easter, say Mountain Rescue England and Wales

Fellow blogger John Bainbridge has just published this post which I think is worth wider reading although I am sure that my followers already realise the situation we are in and are acting accordingly.

Walking the Old Ways

Mountain Rescuers reinforce the Stay At Home message ahead of the Easter weekend

Like everyone else, Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW) is following the national health protection advice and applying it to its situation as a voluntary service.

“MREW’s priority is resilience,” said Mike France, SEO (Senior Executive Officer) of MREW. “We need to make sure that as many of our trained volunteers as possible are available for essential call outs and to support the paid emergency services as needed.”

MR teams across the country have been disappointed to see walkers ignoring the national advice, travelling into National Parks and other areas and, it is assumed, expecting MR volunteers to risk their own lives (and those of their families and colleagues) to come to a walker’s aid if called.

“The hills and upland areas will still be there to be enjoyed once the restrictions are lifted,” said Mike. “We’ve…

View original post 60 more words

VIRTUAL CLIMBING.

Last week I was tracing virtual walks on OS maps, the guides arrived and are promising. Today, still with the knee strapped, I’m following routes up rock faces, again in my mind. A few jolts to my memory of friends and climbs shared.

Going back 30 – 40 years I was climbing as often as possible – maybe 4 or 5 times each week. You are bound to become good and in my own world, I did.  My regular climbing partners back then became my best friends, where are they now?

I’m not writing here of those who have faded into retirement, all great friends whom I still see.

But these three are missed the most, routes and companions come to mind in vivid detail.

Tony, the gentle giant from the Yorkshire coal mines, Off we went to California on an adventure of our lives only to find our English ropes too short for Tuolumne granite. Replenished we tackled some great climbs in Yosemite. RIP

Pete, the haunted personality, with a reach far further than mine. A Cornish holiday stands out and that ‘one more route’ on Gimmer Crag which had him in deep trouble back at home. RIP

Doreen, the elegant mover and faithful belayer and now deeply into suffering Alzheimer’s.  I’ ve just managed a 100 hundred piece jigsaw with her today and that was far harder than her last route, Jean Jeanie.

I must fish out some old slides of these climbers and scan them. So many memories and tales to be told.

For a start a grainy shot, from my study wall, of the Ist ascent of Pinocchio at Craig y Longridge, Sept 1989, Doreen belaying.

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 12. LANGDALE TO ROSTHWAITE.

Zigzagging to Borrowdale.

I walked the Cumbria Way with one of my sons in 1988. It follows a mainly low-level route for 70 miles through the Lake District from Ulverston to Carlisle. We had enjoyed a traditional, comfortable night in the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and then the next day walked over the Stake Pass down into Borrowdale and on to Keswick. The route passes from what was Westmorland into Cumberland and that is what we had in store for today, albeit only as far as Rosthwaite. The clocks have gone back and day light is getting short. Add to that we have created for ourselves an awkward drive for two cars – one at either end of Borrowdale and Langdale. Sir Hugh loves to be up and away before light but I’m a night owl and like my mornings to start slowly, preferably after a cup of coffee at 9am. So it was a shock for my system to be getting out of bed at 5am and on the road 30minutes later.

Once again beautiful early light shone on the Langdale Pikes as we started the route up the valley.

The last time we were both here was the sad occasion of scattering our friend Tony’s ashes. A little ‘ceremony’ involving flasks of tea and muesli bars with family and friends in the valley bottom below Gimmer Crag had some of his ashes duly scattered. This was followed by myself and Sir Hugh taking Tony’s son, Robert, with the remaining ashes in his rucksack, up a climb on Gimmer, Tony’s favourite Lakeland crag. I chose what I thought was an easy route for the occasion, a three-star VD, Oliverson’s Variation and Lyon’s Crawl. A long rising traverse in a superb position. We placed Robert in the middle and set off on what turned out to be an exciting exposed and in parts tricky climb right across the West Face. To help progress Sir Hugh says he had to pretend he wasn’t frightened as we coaxed an ashen-faced Robert across and up. Nevertheless, we accomplished our mission, and Tony is up on the top of Gimmer looking down upon us today.

Pike O’Stickle with Gimmer Crag further right.

Our route continues along the valley floor for about two miles and then starts a zigzagging ascent alongside the beck on a well-reconstructed stone path, Stake Pass.

Great Langdale with Bowfell up left, Rossett Gill centre and our route Stake Pass in mist right.

Heading to Stake Pass.

Looking back down Langdale was a geology lesson – U-shaped glacial valley with moraine debris.

A Wainwright. 1974.

We reached what we thought was the top just as clouds piled in from the west. There followed a strange endless hummocky plateau before we finally crested the pass and looked down into Langstrath. Down we went on a series of superb zigzags taking us right into the valley bottom. I have no recollection from the Cumbria Way of this unique path.

Alongside the path, as we descended was the lively Stake Beck cascading down rock slabs.

Sitting on rocks, enjoying lunch, we tried to make out features across the valley, there were crags everywhere but we only identified Cam Crag Ridge correctly. The track down the valley was rough and we made slow progress, enjoying the scenery and reminiscing. I had forgotten how much of a slog up the hillside on the right it was to reach Seargent Crag Slabs and lower in the valley BleakHow Buttress seemed to be disappearing under vegetation.

Bleak How.

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A Wainwright. 1973

Another enjoyable day on our Wainwright Way, not so many AW connections today but he would have appreciated those zigzags.

 

*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 11. MILL BRIDGE, GRASMERE TO ODG, LANGDALE

Into the heart of Lakeland.

Today was like a walk down memory lane as the Great Langdale Valley is one of my favourites. From early days camping at the head of the valley, long hot summer days circling the fell tops, hours on the crags and leisurely pints in the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub – it all came flooding back. I’m sure that Sir Hugh and my reminisces would have been utterly boring to most of you.

What has changed over the years is the amount of traffic and people. Every car park and grass verge was full of vehicles and the villages packed with tourists. AW was complaining about the crowds back in his day and advised going out of season, the season now apparently extends throughout the year.

We started the sparkling day with a gentle stroll down lanes alongside the River Rothay passing whitewashed Lakeland cottages.

In Grasmere, we joined the throngs of people on a Wordsworth pilgrimage. Sir Hugh headed straight to Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread shop which has been trading since 1854, the shop was previously a small school where incidentally the Wordsworths had taught in the early 19th century

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Alongside is the parish church and in the graveyard are buried William Wordsworth and his family under the shade of a yew tree, one of eight planted by William,

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A Wainwright. 1974.

A lane out of the village leads to Allan Bank. This was the home of Wordsworth from 1808 to 1811 and later Canon Rawnsley, cofounder of the NT in 1895.

A Wainwright. 1974.

Our thoughts were now on the fells and the steep climb above us to reach the summit of Silver How. AW devotes a chapter to ‘a delightful’ fell in his Central Fells, Book Three of the Pictorial Guides. [my 1969 copy cost 15/-]

A Wainwright. 1958.

Silver How from Elterwater earlier in the day.

The path is well-trodden and goes through bracken and then a band of twisted juniper trees.

There are ample opportunities to rest and admire the views down into Grasmere, with Helm Crag and the Grisedale fells of yesterday in the background. A scramble into and out of a miniature rocky gill leads to the summit cone, there are more walkers approaching from several directions.

The blue sky from this morning has dulled and the sun disappeared but the views south over Grasmere, Rydal Water and Windermere and then round to the Lakeland Fells are outstanding.

It’s too cold to linger on the summit so we set off, rather too hastily, on our descent. This whole upland area is a confusion of humps and bumps with paths in all directions, we were not taking the long high-level route but the valley alternative suggested in the Wainwright Way guide. Nick Burton’s instructions, normally very clear and accurate, are a little vague and in the mist would be useless. Before long we had lost the path supposed to be besides Megs Gill and were on a compass bearing down a steep rocky hillside to pick up the path going into Langdale. The views up the valley with the Langdale Pikes were appreciated more once we were back on the way.

“All humps and bumps”

Our steep way down in red.

Great Langdale Valley.

 

What followed was a lovely stroll up the centre of the Great Langdale Valley away from the busy road with time to take in all the views and what’s more, the sun had reappeared.

As I said our attention was taken by the climbing venues above, tales of past climbs from years ago were related and no doubt repeated. Raven Crag Walthwaite, Scout Crags, White Ghyll, Pavey Arc, East Raven Crags, Raven Crag, Middle Fell Buttress, Gimmer and Bowlell all were revisited.

A Wainwright. 1974.

Scout Crags, there are climbers on the upper crag.

Dramatic White Ghyll.

East Raven Crags with Harrison Stickle behind.

Raven Crag.

To cap it off we popped into the Climbers Bar at The Old Dungeon Ghyll for a drink. Not much has changed in this room with its warming open range and wood-panelled walls. We were envious of two climbers just setting off for a couple of routes on Raven Crag directly above the pub.

The drive home through Ambleside and Windermere will be glossed over – there is no ‘out of season’ anymore.

*****