Pillar from Wasdale via the High Level Route

12 09 2013

This route is truly fantastic, and it is a real shame I don’t get to walk it more often! Pillar from Wasdale via the High Level Route takes in up to 5 amazing summits – Pillar, Scoat Fell, Steeple, Red Pike & Yewbarrow, all of which you can be sure to see few people on!

Wastwater Reflections

As we drove into the Wasdale Valley the lake was like a perfect mirror, the best I had ever seen! We had to stop for a picture! We were keen to get an early start as the forecast was for deteriorating weather to hit at some point in the afternoon. At 9.20 we started to make our way up the Mosedale Valley and it was evident my client (John) was a very fit man! I soon warmed up and was soon stripping off my needless layer.

We took the small shortcut straight to Looking Stead instead of heading to Black Sail Pass, and from this point joined the High Level Route. Some of the rock was quite greasy but we negotiated this well. The weather at this point was incredible (compared to what was forecast!) The cloud had lifted enough for us to see into Ennerdale and also across to the Buttermere Fells.

Robinson's Cairn

We made our way along the HLR to Robinson’s Cairn where Pillar Rock came into view out of the mist. We scrambled up over loose boulders and greasy slabs to behind Pillar Rock before heading up the final scramble onto the summit of Pillar itself. We stopped on the summit for a bite to eat and while we did the cloud almost lifted all together and we enjoyed fine views to Ennerdale Water and the West Coast. Pillar Rock

From Pillar we descended to Wind Gap where we saw the final 6 people of the entire 9 people we would see the whole day! From Wind Gap we caught a few glimpses of Steeple and Scoat Fell. We made good progress over Scoat Fell and then we went and bagged Steeple. After tracking back over Scoat Fell we climbed onto Red Pike.

Steeple from near Scoat Fell

When on the summit of Red Pike it felt like the weather was starting to change, the mist was no longer breaking to provide views….The bad weather was knocking at the door! A Misty Red Pike

We descended to Dore Head where we had another break before opting to climb Yewbarrow as well. We made excellent progress up the fun scramble on Stirrup Crag and then picked our way through the mist onto the summit. Now getting hit by strong winds and rain we made a hasty escape towards the southern nose of Yewbarrow – the nasty bit! We made a cuatious descent down the loose terrain, but soon enough we were back down to the roadside and all that was left was an easy bimble back to the Wasdale Head.

The Mosedale Valley

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Mera Peak 2013 – The account of a Himalayan Climber

2 05 2013

After about 18 months of planning, dreaming and saving our trip to Nepal was finally here. For those of you who don’t know why we were heading to Nepal, or what we were doing check out this Blog I wrote about 4 weeks before our departure.

Day 0 – Home to Manchester

After much deliberation myself and Naomi decided to try and ease the stress of travelling by heading to Manchester the day before we were due to fly. We had considered all the options, train and fly, drive and fly, drive, stay and fly, but we chose train, stay fly.

Naomi’s mum dropped us off at Penrith station where in our final moments before setting off we bumped into Lin Atrill and young Mr Evan Holt. Minutes later we were on the train, waving to Naomi’s mum through the window. Our Adventure had begun, even if the first leg was just to Manchester.

Had we packed everything? We’re we fit enough? What must I have forgotten?

There was nothing we could do to change any of this now, whatever will be, will be.

Leaving Penrith

Day 1 & 2 – Manchester Airport to Kathmdandu – Sea Level  to 1400m

Now I will be the first to admit, I am a bit of a stress head when it comes to travelling, so being able to wake at my leisure in the exceptionally plain Travelodge we had spent the night in suited me down to the ground. We arrived at the Airport about 11am where we met our fellow team members Tom and Fiona, checked in and lounged around, as you do in an Airport, till we flew at 14.50. On this trip we were flying with Qatar Airways and my word, what a good decision that was. Loads of great movies, tonnes of great food and excellent service – the trip had started well. We had a layover in Doha for a few hours before boarding our second plane which would take us into Kathmandu.

We arrived in Kathmandu at 11am and as we stepped off of the plane the heat hit us all. For me it felt familiar, it felt good to be back, I could feel the excitement that had been bubbling away inside of me for the last year and a half bursting out.

Our Trek organiser, and my good friend, Basant of Basanta Adventure Treks met us at the airport and transported us to Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu. We spent the afternoon napping, sorting monies and being briefed on our trek which was due to commence the following day. Rather amusingly, although not for her, about 5 minutes in to the brief Naomi suddenly announced she wasn’t feeling great, within seconds she as running into the corridor where she decided to vomit all over the floor. The combination of being tired from travelling and the heat of the day had got to her – what a great start! After a quick meal at the infamous Fire & Ice restaurant we all hit the hay early as we had a 4am rise.

Day 3 – Kathmandu to Lukla – 1400m to 2800m

The alarms went off and we almost robotically got out of our rather standard single beds (This was to be the theme of the entire trip for myself and Naomi, we didn’t spend one night in the same bed for our entire honeymoon as we were either in singles or sleeping bags – romantic ey!)  Sonam our head guide met us downstairs in the lobby and we started loading our bags onto the minibus that was to transport us back to the airport. Early in the morning is the only time of day that Thamel is not a hive of activity. Usually there are motorbikes and cars beeping their way through the narrow streets, street sellers offering you treks or drugs, shop owners telling you they will give you a ‘good price’ or stray dogs running around and barking. For some I am sure Thamel is a great place to be, loads to soak up and experience, but for me it is too much, I prefer being up in the mountains, and fortunately that was where we were heading now.

The drive to the airport was also nice and relaxed. If you think people are bad drivers in the UK, you need to see what goes on in Nepal. I am sure people just make it up as they go along, overtaking into oncoming traffic, squeezing their motorbike between buses or even taking their goat and entire family along for a ride on their bike. Despite this you don’t see any crashes, so in their defence, it works.

We hung around outside the domestic terminal for about an hour and at about 5.30am it was opened. We walked into the room and dumped our bags in front of the Tara Air stand waiting to be seen. They started taking our duffle bags and placing them on the scales. The scales read ludicrous numbers, and they even changed the weight of the bag by as much as a kilo if the same bag was picked up and then put back on again. We were anticipating to have a 15kg luggage allowance and a 5kg hand luggage allowance for this flight up to Lukla but somehow we had been mis-informed, or someone had decided to change the rules for a  laugh and it suddenly became 10kg and 5kg – gulp. They do the weight allowance as a group so this meant one of the bags had to stay and take a later flight, the chosen bag was mine. Sonam assured me it would follow on, I believed him, but it is just a little disconcerting having to walk away from your bag just sitting on the floor of a terminal where there are people running around everywhere and bags just being tbhrown left right and centre.

Well at least I can hire it all if it does go missing. Stop worrying, it will get there….

6am came and our number was up, we walked through the final security grope and got onto the bus which was to take us to our plane. After a short journey around the border of the airport we were dumped at our Twin-Otter Aircraft. First off the bus me and Naomi boarded the plane, and knowing which side is best for views we plonked ourselves on the left hand side of the plane. The usual warms ups happened and we were away, next stop Lukla – The world’s most dangerous airport. For those of you who may not know about Lukla. It was built by Hillary (the first man to summit Everest) on the side of the mountain. The runway is at an angle of 15 degrees and has a 50m difference from one end to the other. It is known as the world’s most dangerous /  terrifying / scary / awesome airport in the world not just for it’s location or the changeable nature of the local weather, but because the pilot has one shot to get it right, and it is for this reason why only master pilots with hundreds of thousands of flying hours are allowed to fly into Lukla.

The flight was smooth but slightly cloudy. We could see the white band of the Himalaya appear at times and this got the bubbles of excitement in my belly going again. Suddenly the hills below us came into sight, and they felt close enough to be able to just reach out and touch. Sitting just behind the pilots we had an excellent view out the front of the aircraft and through the mist I saw a glimpse of a hillside ahead, we were almost there. This was new for me and Naomi. We had flown out of Lukla after our previous trek 2 years ago, but we had never flown in. Leaving the airport is relatively easy, all you need is speed. Landing on the airstrip would have a different feel to it. The angle the plane approaches seems ludicrous, almost like they are trying to smash the nose into the tarmac. Unfortunately, I was so intent on filming out of the window I kind of forgot to enjoy the experience of landing and before I knew it we were spinning around at the top of the runway coming to a halt.

We jumped off of the aircraft and we’re quickly ushered away as more people clambered on. Due to the changeable weather they operate Lukla at a super fast pace for just a few hours a day, so before you know it the plane you just landed in is off. Whilst heading into the terminal I couldn’t help myself throwing my arms in the air and saying to Tom and Fiona ‘Welcome to Lukla’. I probably looked like a bit of a tw@t but I was overwhelmed. We we’re back in the Himalaya, back where I loved to be, about to start the trek – or so we thought.

Although our entire team of 7 Porter’s, 3 Assistant cooks, Cook (Prakash), Assistant Guide (Kagi) and Guide (Sonam) were all at Lukla, our Cargo of food, tents and cooking utensils was not. Bad weather had prevented the cargo from making the flight for the previous 3 days and by about 10am all flights had stopped coming into Lukla. This also meant my duffle bag was still in Kathmandu, somewhere.

Sonam came and had a chat to us and the plan was to change already. We had originally planned on doing about 4 hours of trekking to Puiyan after landing in Lukla but now we were to spend the night at Lukla and hope the cargo arrived the following day. After a little deliberation over what to do about the route, either sticking as it should be and losing a day or heading over a steep mountain pass and gaining a lot of height very quickly  Sonam told us we would continue with the original plan, but as a consequence we would lose our summit contingency day, so before we had even started we had one single shot at the summit. This also meant we needed lady luck on our side, and at this moment in time she was nowhere to be seen.

We spent the afternoon drinking Black Tea as well as going for a little walk to aid acclimatisation. The effect of flying straight to 2800m is a depressing one. You suddenly feel very unfit as you end up panting at even the smallest flight of steps.

Lukla Airport

Day 4 – Lukla to Puiyan – 2840m to 2730m.

After a lazy get up we found ourselves basking in the morning heat on the terrace having breakfast. There was a sweet sound in the air, the sound of planes and helicopters flying in and out of the airport. Not before long I saw my duffle come around the corner on the back of a porter, I felt the weight of worry lift off of my shoulders almost immediately, we were finally back on track.

We set off trekking after lunch at about 1pm, but we set off downhill. This felt very odd, especially as we had come to climb a 6000m+ mountain, and were going downhill! The nature of the route for the first few days was that we would actually traverse around large spurs of land (walking away from Mera Peak) at about the same altitude. I must also explain, when I say at about the same altitude, it is by no means flat. We would be constantly gaining and dropping dozens if not hundreds of metres at a time.

Days 5 & 6  – Puiyan to Nigsma – 2730m to 2880m

These two days were fairly similar. We continued to traverse the wooded hillside and started to get into the groove of trekking again. We had two enjoyable nights of camping, on both of which it rained for a short while, and during which we had some impressive thunder and lightning storms. On Day 6 we got our first look at Mera way off in the distance, finally we felt like we were moving towards the mountain we came to climb.

Tents

Days 7 & 8 – Nigsma to Kothe – 2880m to 3570m

 We were now firmly set into our daily routine. Be woken at 6.30am with a cup of black tea, breakfast at 7am, start walking at about 7.45am.

We would generally walk till between 10.30 to 11ish when we would stop at the side of the trail and be cooked some tasty lunch. After lunch we would then walk for another couple of hours to our overnight stop. The highlight of these two days was definitely walking on the new trail to Chatra Khola on day 7. The old trail descended right into the valley bottom and then climbed up the other side, but the new trail skirted around a crag, next to which a super steep and slightly wobbly path had been built. Put it like this, I was glad when we had completed it!

On the morning of day 8 we got another glimpse of Mera through the trees and it seemed so much closer, we were getting there! The afternoon of day 8 also followed the usual weather trend.  We would usually wake to clear/ clearing weather and start trekking in glorious sunshine. By about 2-3pm the cloud would roll in and it would either start raining or snowing.

What was happening up on the peak? 3 days of snow surely can’t be good?

Sometimes the evenings cleared, and that evening in Kothe we were spoilt with a fantastic view of Mera. It was so good to now be standing next to it, even if it was still towering almost 3000m above our heads!

Mera from Kothe

Day 9 – Kothe to Tagnak – 3570m to 4220m

We woke to another beautiful morning but it was a cold one. We set off in our layers across the boulder field that reminded me a lot of the summit plateau of Scafell Pike. The sun broke over the ridge to our right and as soon as we crossed into it we all stripped off our layers back to our t-shirts. As we made our way up the valley we really felt like we were in the Himalaya. At the head of the valley an amazing mountain called Chaar Pate Himal appeared and Kusum Kangaru was standing to it’s left. We arrived at the village of Tagnak which is set in the most amazing place. To one side we had Mera towering over us, to the other we had an amazing glacier running up to another huge peak. We could also see the route ahead to the Mera La, it was a lovely place to be, and a great place to have our fist rest day.

That night I went out for a wee and once again it was snowing, and quite heavily too. About 5 minutes of getting back into bed there was a huge bang – Avalanche? Me and Naomi sat in silence assuming it was an avalanche, and a close one at that. Turns out it was just a thunderstorm but it was right over our heads.

Day 10 – Rest day in Tagnak

As predicted we woke to snow everywhere and it was still snowing.

An entire night of snow plus 4 previous days of snow, Mera has got to have loads on.

The first thoughts started entering my brain that Mera may be off. We had already seen a few teams who didn’t summit due to the weather, and as each day passed it was seeming even more unlikely, and don’t forget, we had already lost our contingency day, we had just one shot at it – if we could get there.

In the afternoon we went on an acclimatisation walk with a dutch team we had befriended. Naomi felt a bit spaced after a couple of hundred metres of vertical height gain so turned back.

Once again the evening brought more snow….

Day 11 – Tagnak to Khare – 4220m to 5000m

The morning sun was back and we left Tagnag walking through deep snow. We were all in high spirits and even had a snowball fight! The mist rolled in earlier than usual and we were immersed in the mist after just an hour or so.

Towards Khare the going got tougher, we were starting to feel at altitude now, we were already higher than Mont Blanc. The final hill into the village felt testing, taking 10-15 steps and then stopping to gather our breath.

As you can guess the afternoon brought more snow, heavy snow. We met a group from Jagged Globe who had just descended from Base Camp. They had opted not to go to High Camp due to deep snow and were now seriously thinking about their options as they felt Mera was avalanche prone and it needed 3 days of good weather that they felt wasn’t going to happen.

Shit……almost Mera Peak doesn’t sound great.

In my own head, I had written off the summit.

Trekking to Tagnak

Day 12  – Rest day in Khare

The aim of this rest day, apart from resting of course, was to once again to an acclimatisation walk. We started up this gentle ridge to the left of the village. I had had a rubbish night’s sleep and felt awful, once again taking just a few steps and needing to stop. Naomi got about 100m vertically above the village before feeling spaced again, it was best for her to stop and just enjoy the views while we carried on up.

She wasn’t acclimatising well at all.

I continued to plod up the ridge, still feeling awful. Every now and then I would stop thinking I was going to be sick, it would pass, and I would plod on for a few more steps. At the top of the ridge there was a flag pole and I just focussed on reaching that. As I reached the base of the flag pole I dry gagged. Now hanging over my poles I managed to spew up all over the place, about 7 times. I almost instantly felt better. I started to make my descent down to Naomi chilling on her boulder while Tom and Fiona pressed on for a little whole longer. Me and Naomi just sat and soaked up the great view of Mera for a while, contemplating whether we were even going to get a chance of getting onto the mountain, let alone summiting.

The afternoon brought snow as well as a chance to learn some new skills. Sonam set up a fixed line on a snow slope to the side and taught us how to Jumar (ascend) the line, like we would have to do if we got near the summit of Mera. After a bit of abseiling practice we headed back to the lodge and warmed up with some tea. After dinner Sonam told us we would see what we would do the following day depending on what happened over night. Basically, if it snowed we were going down, if it didn’t, we were going up…

Descending to Khare

Day 13 – Khare to High Camp – 5000m to 5800m

We woke to a beautiful morning, we were going up, but we still didn’t know how far we would get.

We left camp following other groups who were heading to either Base Camp or High Camp. We took it slowly, but unfortunately Naomi started to feel a bit dodgy again. She pressed on a little, then a little more, but we both knew she had to go down. She hadn’t been able to acclimatise properly all trip, how would she be able to go higher?  ‘See you in 24 hours’ I said as I left up the hill, occasionally looking back to make sure she was OK. When you plan on summiting a mountain you can’t help but visualise yourself standing on the top, and I had pictured myself up there with Naomi, this was now no longer going to happen. I was gutted for her, but in the long run it was for the best.

After 3 hours of walking we had made it to the Mera La (La= pass). We crossed this flatter bit of walk weaving past crevasses before stopping for a bite to eat. The afternoon was spent climbing a snow slope in the mist. It was intensely hot when in the mist and it just made the walking even tougher. My plastic boots felt so heavy on my feet, and at times I was managing no more than 7 or 8 steps before having to stop for a breather. After another 3 hours we reached High Camp, a series of ledges behind a big boulder and above a large drop.

I was knackered, my head was thumping from dehydration and I had hardly eaten anything for a couple of days (you lose your appetite at altitude). I had just completed the hardest walk of my life so far and all I could do was collapse into the tent and lay there.

How am I going to summit?  I’m mullered.

I asked the cook for some water as I was fresh out and it seemed like hours before it came. The headache grew worse. The Cook passed through some Rara Noodles, my favourite dish, I took a few spoonfuls before having to put it down and lay down again. I took some paracetamol but soon after I choked it back up. A familiar feeling was rushing up through my body, I was going to be sick. I fumbled at the tent door and managed to get into the porch just in time. I threw up again and at the same time induced a nose bleed. A looked at the sick and blood on the floor of the porch, my head still pounding, just 6 hours till we were due to get up to make our summit bid, would I be up to it?

Day 14 – High Camp to the summit of Mera Peak, descent to Khare. 5800m to 6476m to 5000m.

2.20am,  I was woken by an arm coming through the tent door with a cup of Black Tea. I took it from the cook and placed it on the floor. The inside of the tent was frosted up, my water bottle almost frozen, but most importantly, and amazingly, I felt up for it.

I packed up my gear efficiently, put on my layers, harness, boots and crampons and headed out into the darkness to force down as much of our breakfast (rice pudding) as possible. By 3.30am we were good to go.

First Light

The start of the summit bid started on a gentle slope, but the walking felt just as tough as it had done on the previous day. We were now roped up to protect us from crevasses, so everytime someone in the group needed a break, we simply shouted ‘Rest!’ and all took a breather. We made slow progress as the sun came up over the mountains behind us. The view was phenomenal, Lhotse, Nuptse, Everest, Ama Dablam, Makalu and Baruntse just to name a few. It was simply amazing.

We struggled on at a slow pace, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Stop, and repeat. As we reached the top of a slope we saw the summit of Mera for the first time, it seemed so close and it seemed like we were all given a new lease of energy.

A few metres on from this sighting I fell knee deep into a crevasse, catching myself and pulling my body out. Thinking it was just a small hole the rest of the group followed on. We we’re wrong and Fiona managed to fall even deeper into the crevasse and we fortunately managed to react quickly and pull her out without too much commotion.

Finally we made it just below the summit of Mera. The Sherpa’s fixed a line up the final steep wall which we were to Jumar up. I was called forwards, clipped on my Jumar and started making my way up the line. It was knackering but I just kept pulling my way up the rope. Before I knew it I was on the summit dome. I swapped my Jumar onto the line that leads to the summit and started making my way over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I filmed my last few steps (video here), and after turning the camera off I just stood and soaked up the incredible view. I had made it and shortly after I was followed by Fiona and Tom. We were standing on the summit of Mera Peak, in perfect weather, the first group to summit the mountain in over 2 weeks! We had one shot at the summit and lady luck had arrived just in time. This moment meant a lot to me, the last 2 days had been the most testing of my life so far, I was proud of myself, and the team for getting ourselves this far. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After just 10-15 minutes on the summit we abseiled off and got our kit together for our descent. By this point my legs had felt they had given everything they could. My plastic boots felt heavier than ever. Kagi set a fast pace, and as we were roped together; we had to go with it. I found myself slipping and tripping all over the place in the deep snow, but somehow we managed to get back to High Camp in just over an hour. We stopped for a bite to eat at High Camp before gathering the energy for another descent. The plan was to get all the way back to Khare at 5000m.

On the summit

We descended quickly, feeling so happy at what we had achieved and soon enough we were back at Khare. Naomi greeted me with a smile, it was great to see her. She must have been glad to see me as it was actually 29 hours since we had parted ways, not the 24 I had said – Ooops!

Days 15, 16 & 17 – Khare to Lukla – 5000m to 2800m.

I woke up and I felt wrecked, especially my calves. Whenever I walked around I was tripping from side to side like a drunkard.

We left the village and I took one last look at the summit of Mera which once again seemed to be towering over us. It seemed unfair to have to walk back to Lukla after reaching the top, and this feeling was consolidated as a helicopter flew overhead – why couldn’t it come pick us up? Hadn’t we earned it?

On day 15 we trekked back to Kothe at 3500m. Our route on day 16 and 17 was to go over the Zatwra La Pass (4600m) so we actually had to make our way uphill again. On day 16 we made most of this height and stayed in a village below the pass at around 4000m.

The team

Day 17 was exhilarating and worrying both at the same time, Naomi’s favourite day,  as we made our way over the pass. We climbed out of the village and then followed a narrow snowy path around an edge up to the pass. The drop from the other side of the pass was very steep and so Kagi started to get the rope out. I had by chance packed my axe and crampons into my daypack so got these out for a bit of extra protection.

I headed down the slope feeling quite safe and pulled the rope down as far as possible, and then the rest of the team would use it as a handrail. Once off of the steeper slope we took an easier line down the slope. The worrying thing about this slope was the amount of avalanche debris all over the place. If it was the UK you would just go back to the car, but here we had no option. Besides, the Sherpa’s didn’t seem to bothered so maybe I was overreacting.

Views from the Pass

We heard shouts and a rumbling, we looked up and coming down towards us was a Porters basket full of goods. It was rolling down towards me and Naomi, and then it wasn’t, and then it was, and then the contents exploded out and started going in all sorts of directions. I grabbed Naomi’s rucksack strap and firmly planted my feet and axe in the snow. A large cooking pan came flying towards us. Naomi lent out of the way and it shot past her rucksack. I wasn’t sure how it would have gone down with her parents telling them she was killed not by falling in a crevasse or by Altitude Sickness, but by a cooking pan….

We soon left the snowline behind and after lunch descended back through the forests to the very familiar Lukla. The trek was complete, and there was just one thing to do, celebrate. The porter’s firstly came and said goodbye and then we had a lovely meal with the Assistant Cooks and Assistant Guide.

The Team and Support Team

The rest of the expedition

The following morning we managed to fly out of Lukla (despite bad weather having stopped flights for the 2 previous days) back to Kathmandu. We spent most of our time before flying back to the UK buying souvenirs or eating in restaurants, trying to feed some of the cravings we had had on the trek, namely for pizza! On one of the days we did get the chance to visit a school about 20km south of Kathmandu that myself and Naomi had taught at 2 years previously. This was a fab little trip down memory lane for both of us.

I would like to thank EDZ Performance Layering, Aquapac, Rob Richardson of The North Face and Lake District Outdoor for supporting this expedition. I would also like to thank our families for supporting us in the build up to this trip, you occupied many of our thoughts when the times got tough.

I hope you enjoyed reading this account as much as I enjoyed writing it, if only it came this easy when I was at University! For a full album of pictures please visit this link.

Matt Le Voi

A Himalayan Climber.

Me and Naomi





Scafell via Lord’s Rake & The West Wall Traverse

1 04 2013

An exhilerating day as myself and Richard Warren climbed Scafell via Lord’s Rake & The West Wall Traverse. After reaching the top of the climb we descended to Fox’s tarn for some lunch and then took the East Buttress Terrace back up to Mickledore. We enjoyed a lovely warm descent down Lingmell Nose in the afternoon sun.





Lakeland Mountain Guides Launch Walk

28 10 2012

A week of dry weather has just blessed us here in the Lakes, but you can guess what happened today….it rained! Despite this poor forecast we still had an incredible turn out of just under 30 people!

Today was a special day as we had Mr Evan the Great guiding us up Latrigg. After welcoming everyone and introducing them to the Lakeland Mountain Guides Team we set off towards Latrigg.

It was fantastic to see everyone walking together, and an even better feeling when it sunk in that they were all there for our Business. Evan did a fantastic job of guiding us up there, and even pointed out a lot of the surrounding fells, which impressed a lot of people! We reached the bench at the top and we were being blown around by the wind and it was of course still raining. We quickly produced some bottles of bubbly and some yummy cakes made by Lousia Le Voi (the ma-in-law) and shared it all around. After another quick speech at the top we grabbed a summit shot and made our way back towards Keswick.

As we reached Keswick we headed into the Dog and Gun for a celebratory pint!

I would like to thank everyone, whether you were there today or not, once again for their support whilst we have been setting up this new venture, it means the world to us! I hope to see you all soon!





Grisedale Pike, GPS and Go Activities

19 09 2012

A week or so ago I was asked by GoActivities to be a part of a new video they were shooting. The aim of the video was to demonstrate the benefits of having a designated GPS unit over a smart phone, and to let people know there are places to go, such as Lakeland Mountain Guides, where they can be trained to get the most out of their unit.

They guys behind Go Activities are Mike Griffin and Ollie Kilvert, who I actually met back in June 2010 on my ML training. The beauty of Facebook is that although you don’t see someone for 2 and a half years, you can stay in touch and see what they have been up to. When we met in Keswick this morning it was like it was just last week when we were last on the hills together.

The guys were hoping for a bit of poor weather, but typically today the cloud was above the summits, so we chose to go somewhere with good views all round, so we headed for Grisedale Pike. We chatted as we climbed and then stopped and got the odd shots for the video half way up. Just as we carried on we got hit by a a quick rain storm which soaked us through! Just below the summit the cloud dropped again, during which we got some more great shots.

After getting to the summit we walked over the top to Coledale Hause, where we did our final bits of filming. Lexi had done well all day, and while we were doing these final shots she decided to have a little snooze in the grass!

We made our way out of the valley in the setting sun, and straight into the pub at the bottom, magic!

The Final Video can be found at the following Link, It’s amazing! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skBj1_VSBJc





Lexi’s first Mountain – A day up Catbells

13 09 2012

Lexi, our puppy Black Labrador is now six months old, and yet to have any real mountain action. Labrador’s can have issues with their joints, especially if you were to work them too hard too young, so I have been holding off getting her out on the fells, but today was her day to bag her first mountain.

When we went to pick Lexi up from the breeder back in June they asked me what our purpose was for wanting a dog. I very proudly told the breeder I was a Mountain Guide and the puppy we were going to take off of his hands would have a life of exercise on the fells. Before we even needed to say we would smother it with tonnes of love every day he knew the puppy was going to a good home.

Lexi is a pure working bred labrador and after just a few days of having her we knew she would be the right dog for us. Just like most Labs, and probably most dogs, she is a walking hoover, loves to chew anything that isn’t hers, and craves that all important hug on the sofa in the evening.

This morning we set off from the Swinside end of Catbells and joined the track that climbs the spine of Catbells. My good friends Emma and Andy were climbing with us, and along with them they had their super bouncy Cocker Spaniel Raffles. As we set foot on the fell we both unleashed the dogs. The dogs ran up, then down, then up, then down, then up….you get the picture. Before having even got 10m off of the ground lexi was laying down with her tongue hanging out, if only she knew what she was in for!

We carried on up through short drizzly showers. Lexi and Raffles continued to go through bouts of chasing each other around and around, receiving the usual ‘Awwwws’ from fellow walkers. We reached the final rocky bit which Lexi thought out for herself, which I was very impressed with. Shortly after we were on the summit, Lexi had made it to the top of fell number one.

After descending off of Catbells we went into Keswick and headed straight for my fave pet shop Podgy Paws. After getting Lex some well earned lunch we had a drink in the Dog & Gun followed by a swim (for the dogs!) in Derwent Water.

As I type this Lex is spread out dead to the world on her bed, we have one tired pup on our hands. I wonder if in the years to come, after having climbed Scafell Pike, or any fell hundreds of times she will look back at this first experience and remember where it all started….I know I will.





Matt’s day Guiding the Paralympic Torch Up Scafell Pike

3 09 2012

I will be honest, before the Olympics I was not too excited, and I think a lot of people may agree that 7 years of hype was starting to be a bit much! My attitude changed when I saw the Olympic Torch was taken through Cockermouth. It was a fabulous sight seeing the rows of people, and Olympic fever had obviously started to grip the country, and me!

The Olympics started and within just a few days I was regretting not getting any tickets, I was missing out. Naomi, my wife had managed to secure a place with work to go see the Paralympics, so it seemed I would have to resort to just watching as much as possible on TV.

At the beginning of August I got an email from Richard Warren, Chair of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team, asking me if I would be one of 2 guides to lead the Paralympic Torch up Scafell Pike. I jumped at the opportunity and couldn’t wait, it was a second chance to be involved in something I thought I had well and truley missed out on! The emails came and went between Richard, myself and LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) and soon enough the day was upon us.

Wednesday 22nd August 2012

The aim was for all four Torches (as there was one going up the highest peaks of each country in the UK) to leave the base of the mountains at sunrise. I turned up at the Car Park at 5.45am to find just a single police car, but soon after everyone else arrived. WMRT representatives Richard, Mike and Ian arrived, as well as the other guide Penny (also WMRT). Soon aftter the 4 Scouts to light the flame and their leader appeared, followed by ITV, BBC News, The Chronicle and of course LOCOG. We were all here, and it was time for us to head on up.

It was unfortunately not the best of days for us, but hey, what are you gonna do! We set off up the Brown Tongue Path with the media leapfrogging us to get the footage of us climbing the mountain. The ascent went smoothly and it seemed everyone was up to the task. At about 500m we reached the mist, and half way through Hollow Stones it started to rain so we all donned our waterproofs. Our ascent continued and just below the summit plateau we held the team up to let Mike and Richard lead the Media to the summit to film us arriving.

After a few minutes standing in the wind and the rain we set off again. Just below the summit of Scafell Pike I let Karl lead the scouts to the top (as requested by the media teams). We reached the blustery summit but it turned out only one camera was rolling, so we actually had to leave the summit and reascend for all the media teams to film it!

After reaching the top for the second time the WMRT guys had set up a small tarp so the flame could be created and lit in some relative shelter. The scouts did well to finally get the flame going in the tough conditions, so LOCOG took their opportunity to get the Paralympic Torch going. As this happened my whole body tingled, hoping this wasn’t the onset of Hypothermia, I put this down to being part of such a special and historic occasion.

Talking of Hypothermia, there were a couple of issues emerging. Upon our arrival at the summit there was a Man and his daughter already freezing on the summit. Despite being told to head down straight away by WMRT he stuck about to see the torch. Within just a few more minutes a bivi shelter was up and Penny was in it trying to warm the young girl up. We threw more and more layers in the hope she could be warmed before it got more serious. Unfortunately it also seemed some of the LOCOG team had not been fully prepared and their flimsy Paralympic jackets were not holding off any water or wind, let alone their shorts. The media were quickly ushered to to their final bits of filming of Karl and the torch before they transferred the flame into 4 seperate lanterns.

The potential for multiple hypothermia casualties was becoming an ever-increasing possibility so I rounded up everyone but the WMRT team tending to the Dad and Daughter and led them quickly off of the summit. My job as made harder on the way down as the group seemed to split into 2, so I found myself running to check the guys at the front were still ok, then waiting for the guys at the back (this wasn’t a major issue as the track back to Wasdale is quite clear)

Not far from the bottom it seemed the lanterns were struggling so the teams stopped to bolster the flames. By about 12.30pm we were all back in the Car Park and my job was done, I had led the Torch to the top, and back down again. A job I was honoured to do, and one I will never forget.

 

Have a read of Mike Ollis’s take on the day here: http://ollismark.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/lighting-the-paralympic-torch-on-scafell-pike/