Day four in the Coppermine’s house (YHA) and the group were tasked with putting the steep ground management techniques into practise. Again, we reinforced the weather forecasting with time spent discussing this on the morning. By this stage more subtle ways of identifying changes in weather were being discussed, such as cloud types and the weather they are associated with.
We set off from the hostel, helmets at the ready and headed straight up through the quarry. Our first obstacle was scree and we had to pick the best lines up depending on groups that we might be taking out and the associated risks. We then carried on up to Levers Water in more spectacular weather. We stopped at times to identify risks, talking points such as trees and plants that could be used as points of interest which add another dimension to guiding.
Once up around Levers Water we began selecting lines up the mountain. We took fairly direct routes where hands were down on occasion to move safely. At this point it became apparent that fitness was an important element as we witnessed first-hand the impact on someone’s ability and especially their thought processes. One of the group struggled with the height and exposed sections on our way up to Raven Tor so the training was immediately much more realistic for us helping. This was a long climb up and I have to stress that a good level of fitness is needed. I was not at my best running up to this training week as I was still recovering from a badly sprained ankle from a fell run a few weeks before. I had also woken up that morning full of cold and was suffering. Due to me lacking fitness I was determined to be ready for the expedition training on the final 2 days so I was carrying extra weight in my pack to prepare myself for it. The day would have been easier without and the kit I had packed was not needed and was purely for the additional weight but I am glad I did as I genuinely felt like it prepared me for the following days.
After having lunch on Brim Fell in the sun we descended to Low Water. We then had to take a quick and very direct route down hand railing the old pipeline. The aim was to get some of yesterday’s rope work into practise on the way down. It was not long before the ropes were out and people started to feel the pressure. When you know the safety of you and your group are depending a one knot that you have tied it makes you question yourself and your ability considerably. Different members of the group were tasked with jobs partially depending on their ability and confidence shown throughout the day. The aim of the training was to stretch the group rather than push people too far so some people took more of a back seat having shown they were competent and other because this was actually too much. The exercise began with identifying suitable anchors before discussing ideas and choices for the rope work. Spotting the line down then organising the group before discussing what is happening whilst working on the rope is a great way to focus your mind and put the group you are leading at ease. This is exactly what happened with the group making several small descents to suitable ledges and safe areas. We were able to use a couple of different methods to belay group members down and leaders follow with an abseil allowing the rope to be brought down after. After speaking with some of the people on assessment it became apparent that the rope work is one of the areas that cause the greatest amount of stress and worry and it was very easy to understand why after exercises like these.
When we arrived back at the Coppermine’s instead of a nice sit down and a relax we had to race in and get changed for a lovely dip in the river. Since the weather had been unseasonably (and very unlike the Lakes), water levels were very low meaning that the river crossing techniques were fairly straightforward. Other than the cold temperature it was a great experience working closely with the group to work our way safely across the river. Despite ice cubes around my toes it was another facet I was not expecting and despite the aim being not to get into a position where you take a group across a river it makes sense to be prepared for all circumstances.
As usual our day was not finished. After dinner we spent the evening taking on a theory challenge – planning routes for a short expedition by working with synoptic charts handed out. This involved assessing the terrain and working out which options would be best according to wind direction and speed. Of course, you had to work out what was happening with the wind using the pressures shown on the weather map which was difficult for some of the group who had never seen or had to use synoptic charts before. Each aspect of the course posed challenges for different members of the group without exception.