Sunday, 29 March 2009

Introduction to Moorland Navigation course

6 people joined us in Foolow village hall for the Mountain House introduction to navigation course.  The aim of the course is to leave people equipped and confident to cross open moorland using a map and compass.  After 2 hours spent indoors, the group set off towards Bretton clough, practising pacing on different types of terrain.  In Bretton Clough all the classroom learning came into it's own setting the compass, walking on a  bearing and timing, before Mike attempted to get everyone lost!  The highlight of the day is the group using both micro and macro navigation techniques to ascend from Stoke Ford to Eyam Moor stone circle.  Everyone's navigation was 'spot on'.  A great day out was had by all.

The Ordinance Survey Outdoors Show

Mike, had been given free VIP tickets for the show from the BMC, so we took the train to the NEC, to see what was going on.  The show was buzzing, and we were pleased to meet up with our friends from MLTE, the BMC and the Peak District Walking Festival who all had stands.  Jane managed to pick up some leaflets from the Ordinance Survey stand and we had a few useful chats including View Ranger, about their plans for Spanish mapping.

10 days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Our last visit to Spain before the summer, when we will be leading two holidays, including a week of high mountain walking.

Having not devoted enough time to pruning trees during our last visit to the Sierra Nevada, Mike & Jane spent the first few days of their trip working on our land, before too much new spring growth.  We arrived late on Thursday evening, driving through snow showers, and not a little concern about the weather.  However it got progressively better, and full attention was paid to getting the jobs out of the way before we met Andy from Granada airport on Sunday evening.

The snow level was only just above our house at 1300m, and there was more snow than we have ever seen on the surrounding Sierra de Lujar and more distant Malaga mountains.  Martin Riley IML came to 'supervise' the chores and hatch plans for climbing and scrambling later in the week.  Andy Say (CEO of Mountain Leader Training) joined us after a weekend in Scotland, and thus the team was complete for the weeks events. 

Monday saw us rock climbing at Niguelas, with routes between 4 and 6a climbed.  It was expedition tactics to get one member of the team (Jane, being the lightest!) up the 6a!  We also explored the gorge below, for possible canyoning routes.

Early tuesday morning saw us heading off to Capileira (1400m) for breakfast, before snowshoeing up to the Poqueira refuge at 2500m where we spent the night.  The following morning time was spent practicing winter skills, digging bucket seats, ice axe and snow belays, before continuing down to Las Thomas and following the acequia back to the road, just above our car.  Despite the deep snow, there was no wind, and the sun shone, giving us some brilliant mountain scenery.

Thursday, a more restful rock climbing option with 7 routes ascended in the Castilejo gorge near Orgiva.  Mike and Andy spent time eyeing up possible new routes for the next visit!

Friday we met Martin, who shepherded us up a 'hidden gem' in the Huetor natural park.  We had done some rock climbing, here, but the delights of scrambling amongst spring flowers, warm rock and magnificent views of the snow covered Sierra Nevada really took some beating!  At one point we stood, just below the summit watching a helicopter circle alongside - whether it was our imagination, or the Spanish authorities wondering what was going on we were not too sure, but they soon left us in peace to reach the high point and survey the panorama.  We will be going back again!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

3rd March Another sign of Spring

Today whilst sitting going through the emails I heard the first Curlew of the year flying over Foolow. According to The RSPB:
“The curlew is the largest European wading bird, instantly recognisable on winter estuaries or summer moors with its long down-curved bill, brown upperparts and long legs. There have been worrying breeding declines in many areas largely due to loss of habitat through agricultural intensification. It is included on the Amber List as a bird with important breeding and wintering populations in the UK.

Where to see them
Around the whole UK coastline with the largest concentrations of found at Morecambe Bay, the Solway Firth, the Wash, and the Dee, Severn, Humber and Thames estuaries. Greatest breeding numbers are found in N Wales, the Pennines, the southern uplands and E Highlands of Scotland and the Northern Isles.

When to see them
All year round. Look in breeding habitat from April to July. Coastal numbers build up from July and reach a peak in January and February.”

2nd March, Spring is here!

We are now officially in the first week of Spring.

The last two weeks has seen an end to the snow in the Peak District and some distinctly warmer weather after weeks of being around or below freezing. On 20th February, whilst returning from a walk Mike observed a large flock of Lapwings near the summit of Snake Pass. Catkins (on Hazel and Alder) are now on the trees and daffodils are growing fast on the sheltered south facing slopes (under Bretton Edge).

This morning we heard the first Skylarks of the yearsinging whilst hovering above Foolow. They migrate south to warmer countries for the winter returning in the Spring. They are ground nesting birds. The males usually arrive back to this country ahead of the females and select the nesting site, trying to drive other males away. Our first lambs have also arrived.

Spring. Don’t hold your breath though, tomorrows forecast is for high winds and rain in The Peak.

A grand day out on Kinder

Saturday 28th February with mist, cloud and a bit of rain saw another Mountain House Intermediate Navigation Course up on Kinder Scout. Deanna, Mark, Craig, Richard. John, and x met up with Mike and Jane from Mountain House at Barber Booth for a 9.30am start.

We walked to Upper Booth and ascended Crowden Brook to the “Edge Path.” Here we put on waterproofs as it started to rain. We then commenced several legs of micro navigation relying on compass and pacing in the limited visibility. Our micro navigation took us to two aircraft wrecks and on to Crowden Head 631m. It had stopped raining by the time we reached the 2nd aircraft wreck so we had a brief lunch stop.

From Crowden Head we switched to “Macro” navigation techniques, locating gullies that would take us to the River Kinder and on towards Kinder Gates. We practised timing our walking between Kinder Gates and Kinder Downfall confirming that we were walking at 4Km per hour. The mist was now clearing and we had good views from this point onwards.

For the next leg we were looking for another aircraft wreck. The nearest easily definable point en route was Red Brook. We used our timing skills to confirm that we were there and proved it by taking a back bearing on The Mermaids Pool. We paced from Red Brook and found our objective, the wreck of Handley Page Hampden Mk.I AE381 which claimed the lives of 4 airman in 1942.

From the wreck we used more general macro navigation to get us to Kinder Low trig point and Noe Stool. Our objective from Noe Stool was another aircraft wreck. Following the edge path to a certain stream we then descended to a point where there was a widening in the contours and picked up the 550m contour, “contouring” around to the wreck. Spot on!

It was only another 100m to the next wreck which we found by compass bearing and pacing.

We descended the Cloughs steeply to the bottom of the Jacob's Ladder path and followed the road track back to our cars. Just over 7 hours from start to finish.

One of the best features of a hard day in the hills is the camaraderie which is usually further cemented by going for a couple of beers afterwards. This day was no exception and we made our way to The Rambler’s Inn at Edale for a final debrief. A grand day out!