Monday 8 April 2019

Well before Del Boy's Chandelier Escapade!

Monkey Wall, Burbage North

It was only when I was standing beneath the route on Friday evening, just by, that it all came back to me in a flood of dread and a smile.
For a number of years, in the 80's, I used to visit the Grit of The Peak with a dear friend of many, Geordie Skelton. He was a respected long-standing member of Ochils MC and great company and on this occasion we were alone. Geordie's log-book and detailed knowledge of climbs here, as with many UK and Alpine venues, was encyclopedic; which was especially useful on dubious and very dubious days of off-putting weather as then.
The weather has been playing us around tempting us without much luck. But after two days, we relented and a quick trip to Burbage North was suggested in advance of more incoming rain.
Rock shoes wiped and wiped again, fingers smeared down damp clothing and routes were spiritedly soloed whilst in site of each other; latterly on separate buttresses.
On finishing my route, I topped out to hear booming from the increasing gloom and intensifying drizzle, "Andy! Rope!"
I had one on my back as we thought we might even get a roped climb done, so I called out to Geordie and noting where his call came from, uncoiled and anchored the rope, attached a krab and gently sent it down the crag......
"Wrong route!" or something more expressive echoed among the edges.
I'd only lowered the rope on an adjacent set of climbs and whilst Geordie could see the krab destined for his harness, it was sorely out of reach.
The drizzle was making the sloping gritstone ever more greasy and the seriousness in Geordie's calls was heart stopping.
How he managed to remain on the rock and how I managed to retain my head on my shoulders beggars belief.
With our tails between our legs we slopped back to my car, changed and went to Gridleford cafe for their infamous 'sandwiches' - huge stottie rolls filled with as many items as you could wish.
How is could have done with Geordie lowering a rope to me on this trip is another story!
(It is highly possible that instead of Monkey Wall, Geordie and I were on '....and Son' & 'Little Plum' respectively)

Saturday 10 March 2018

How I wish I had listened better.....

Whenever I have the opportunity to climb on the cliffs of Beinn Udlaidh, I always think of Geordie Skelton, my late friend and in fact my early mentor when I first arrived in Scotland. Geordie was in the Scottish climbing scene (although I doubt there was such a thing as a 'scene' in the 70's and 80's - you were simply unknown or well kent: Geordie being in the latter category) and one of his very enjoyable venues was the ice crags West of Bridge Of Orchy which he was instrumental in developing.
So, this week, whilst hauling myself up the relentlessly steep forest track to the corrie, I tried to remember some of Geordie's stories of the unfolding history to this winter ring of ice (well, 'ice' has usually not been quite accurate for most recent winters). 

Tam Low, Ian Duckworth, Pete Bilsborough, Frank Jack and many of his contemporaries regularly piled into the corrie from a base in Crianlarich as they were members of the Ochils MC and had members rights over free accommodation in their village-based hut. The key to whether ice was forming on the cliffs was a wee waterfall on the northern flanks of Cruach Ardrain which could be viewed from the hut's door. Water flowing - probably not worth the effort: icefall - they were off!

The problem for me, now, is that many of Geordie's stories were told, re-told and re-re-told amongst the warmth, beer (well, rum and coke for oor Geordie) and banter of The Rod and Reel and The Benmore and, thankfully, no one had to drive (not could they after theses sessions), so the ring of "last orders" was inevitably heard before retreating to the cottage for yet more badinage and the rest.... 

You get the drift: alcohol + alcohol + tiredness = not much chance of remembering and with this equation as a lame excuse for failing to recall much of the detail, and my growing exhaustion on the track, fuelled by not even remembering who 'Junior' was on his step-cutting  jaunt out of Central Gully nor the 'Doctor' or what his dilemma was, I stumbled to the kitting-up stone somewhat out of kilt with myself.

I'm not kidding about the detail of the climbers and their routes, because each route name derived from a story amongst the first ascentionists: and the only one I have the vaguest memory of is that 'Captain Hook' was so named because one of the pitches was climbed with only one axe......but even then, those who listened without drowning in their beer, might still correct me.

Connor heads up the 1st pitch of 65*cruddy ice
As for my climb on this day. Well, a very poor effort from me following a fabulous lead from Connor on the first pitch, combined with our late start and that there were three on the rope, meant that with the incoming mists, swirling spindrift and very cold legs from the standing around, a tail-between-our-legs retreat via an abseil was the better choice to end our day. 

I'm sure Geordie would have laughed at our ineptitude but would have regaled us with a story or two of mis-hap, mis-fortune and first ascents, having bought us the first pints. I must search out Geordie's diaries from one of his closest friends and re-light my memory, without any excuse of being tippled out of my box!

Leaving the abseil set-up for the corrie floor

Monday 20 November 2017

Finding Our Way Successfully

Well, that's 10 courses completed both day and night with over 60 participants now at least a wee bit more confident in navigating. Instead of relying on others to lead their journey, they can now take an invaluable role in planning and following a route, making adjustments as the day progresses and take a lead if necessary. Great achievements for everyone!

Using every feature to aid their navigation
My least successful day was when we were standing by a reservoir and I saw a large shadow move over my group. Without bothering to check it out, we moved off only to speak with a Game Keeper some few minutes later who asked us, "Did you see that Osprey taking off ?"

Most successful was my day with young learners from Alva Academy who were supported from the excellent staff in the school's Austism Department. Each youngster achieved a Bronze Youth Award from National Navigation Award Scheme and had a damn fine time running around the Gartmoron Woods!

Interestingly, I had two participants who had problems with recently bought compasses 'reversing their polarity' - instead of the red end of their compass needles pointing North, they wavered around either side of South! I think the problem was carrying their compasses beside their mobile phones.

The issue has been noted ever since compasses have been around but since the boom in hillwalkers carrying a myriad of digital devices, the problem has become very noticeable.

The image to the right shows a digital watch positioned with a readout @ 270*, the rid rimmed compass shows the needle @ Mag. North (so the user is facing W, too) whilst the compass on the back of the user's hand is showing the needle pointing virtually South. To mis-use the navigator's mnemonic, 'Red Fred is not in her bed!@....and if you want to know more about what Red Fred is is doing out of her bed, then come along to one of my courses. 

Navigation Courses with Outdoor Adventure Scotland

Sunday 3 September 2017

Wether The Weather Be Good....

The familiar Southern push of the colder weather is clearly shown in this graphic from Wetterkarte. It's so familiar because it's been pushing South nearly every week for the past three months!

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Degrees in Outdoor Learning? Give me a break!

I have had an application for recognition in my 30 years work in various roles as a teacher and instructor throughout outdoor and adventurous pursuits & learning rejected by a collection of academics. 

Apparently, my experience and the description of my work along with the evaluation of the impact of my work didn't reach the rigour demanded for formal accreditation. Yet, of the panel, not one has ever spent any length of time practising as a teacher of outdoor learning, not one of the panel, has, as far as I can ascertain, any qualification in any outdoor sport whilst this same panel has accredited a teacher who has attended ONE introduction to outdoor learning but wrote a 500 word piece of guff about how she has started to incorporate her new skills in her teaching.

Academic bollocks. 

These weren't built with degrees!
Image may contain: outdoor

Image may contain: mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: night and outdoor

Image may contain: mountain and outdoor

Sunday 23 April 2017

Flogged Horse is Indigestible!

For years, British secondary education has been based on a diet of discreet curriculum areas, assessment and attainment. We now have a large dollop of self-evaluation and inspection to add to the decomposing flesh of the educational horse. Yet, not much has changed in terms of  'real education'. 

In my view the horse has been flogged way past it's death and what's worse is that Outdoor Learning doesn't even get a mention in the Report on Standards from HMIe - Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016 and yet it is implicit on every teacher (and that includes all school managers who are GTCS Registered as Teachers not as Managers) to demonstrate in their planning, the use of outdoor learning. I quote: "I skilfully deploy a wide variety of innovative resources and teaching approaches, including digital technologies and, where appropriate, actively seek outdoor learning opportunities."

So, there is no hiding and to put it bluntly, ANY school which fails to demonstrate and practice effective use of outdoor learning is - and by this I don't mean PE outdoors, DofE, JMT and a few excursions to POI's even though they are vital in any curriculum - practising EDUCATIONAL CENSORSHIP

When will we let our young people flourish on a diet rich in real life learning both indoors and outdoors?

Friday 14 April 2017

Corporate Vandalism

According to Greenpeace, "each year, 600 billion plastic bottles are manufactured globally - and a whopping 100 billion of these are produced by drinks giant Coca-Cola."

What can we realistically do against such megalithic corporate vandalism. 

Perhaps World-wide activists like Greenpeace should now be seen as mainstream? 

Here's their latest take on the matter.
Greenpeace blog

Coca-Cola try to give us the image they are trying but is it enough?
(This image is taken from Google Images and remains the property of Coca-Cola. It is not being used here for any profit making.)