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ML assessment week in Dales and Lakes
by mrssanta » Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:36 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Crinkle Crags, Esk Pike, Great End, Red Screes, Rosset Pike, Scafell Pike
Hewitts included on this walk: Crinkle Crags (Long Top), Esk Pike, Great End, Red Screes, Rossett Pike, Scafell Pike
Date walked: 24/08/20151 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
There are several elements to the award. Navigation and group management are the main thing, but also environmental awareness, campcraft, emergency ropework and the dreaded Night Navigation exercise. We had a written paper to submit beforehand and a short presentation to give to the group on a relevant subject of our choice. In addition to this you need to have logged at least 40 "quality mountain days" and at least 8 overnight camps and to have attended a training course over six days.
First of all a big "Thank you" to Anne and Paul the assessors for spending five whole days with us and managing the difficult balance of teacher, assessor and walking companion. It must be a tricky thing to achieve and they were great.
We did our training course over a very wet and windy week at Plas y Brenin in Snowdonia in March. We had the opportunity to book our assessment course at Bewerley Park Outdoor Ed centre run by North Yorks education department so we decided to go for it. The course is very good value and they only run it once a year and it was obvious that a lot of care and planning had gone into it. Local to us as well.
We arrived at Bewerley on Monday morning at 9am all nervous to meet our fellow candidates. There were seven of us in all and we were split into a group of three and a group of four. We were in the same groups all week and met up in the evenings so Rudolph and I were able to share our tent and camping equipment. We had a great group of folks and worked together well.
So, what did we do? Having heard all sorts of horror stories about ML assessments I was a bit apprehensive, but although the assessment was certainly hard and rigorous there was no "death by trial" or anything like that.
After initial introductions and cups of tea, we piled into the minibus for a short ride to Grassington Moor where we went for some navigation on 1:25 000 maps. When I was a kid growing up in Skipton nobody was allowed on Grassington Moor and there are no rights of way over it. There is a lot of history with old lead mines shafts spoil heaps and an enormous chimney, and at the top of the moor over the most gorgeous expanse of purple heather was the previously inaccessible summit of Meugher a rounded hill of no great distinction but with fantastic views from the top.
So off we set in our two groups. To start with we were led into it gently as in turn each of us was shown a point on the map to find, then we had to brief the group and lead them to that point. After we all had a turn at this we were not to share with the group but once we reached the point we each had to show the assessor where we thought we were, using our GPS (Grass Pointing Stick).
Once we reached the heather moor the midges came out in force, it was a hazy, still day and we just could not stop; eating our lunch while walking around in circles was necessary, and even on the top of Meugher, where we could make out the silhouette of Roseberry Topping in the distance, there was little respite - and also wasps around the trig point!
Back to the centre, after showers, tea and a really good nosh, we gave our presentations. This was pretty terrifying as we did not yet know the people we were talking to very well. We had presentations on First Aid kits, local myths and stories, and legal liabilities. My talk was on Leave No Trace for Girls, and Rudolph gave a Bluffers Guide to Wild Flowers.
On Tuesday we travelled to the Lakes and parked up at the Kirkstone Pass car park. We then went up Red Screes taking it in turns to manage the group through steep and rocky terrain (not using the path) and then on the way down demonstrating our abilities to safeguard a difficult descent with a rock anchor and body belay using a rope.
Just time for a quick brew at the car park waiting for the other group to return, where I managed to leave my lovely piezo gas igniter - should have tied string round it and attached it to the stove bag, never mind.
From there we travelled to the National Trust campsite at Great Langdale pitching the tents before repairing to the Dungeon Ghyll pub for a bar meal and an exercise and discussion about route planning. And so to bed, but not to sleep very much for there was torrential rain pretty much all night and in the morning there was a good inch and a half of water in the porch of our tent. We were glad that we had brought two tents and could start our three day expedition fairly dry.
We set off at the fairly ungodly hour (by my standards) of 8.45am, still in our two groups, up the Band towards the Three Tarns col. This time we were navigating using the 1:50 000 maps which I have to say was a bit of a shock to me as I have not really used them much in the past in real life, preferring the 1:25 000 for the extra detail.
As before we took it in turns to navigate and lead for a leg, and at the end of each leg to show the assessor where we thought we were. My first leg was from the Three Tarns over Crinkle Crags to Long Top. The other group went in the opposite direction over Bow Fell. It was extremely windy on the top and difficult to keep upright at times. From Long Top we took a very long traverse all the way round to the head of Eskdale (was going to say Glen Esk there, but that's somewhere else!) to avoid crossing the river which was very much in spate after all the rain.
Even so as we crossed each tributary there was plenty of practice in picking good spots and hopping from rock to rock.
Eventually we reached camp at about 6.30pm where the other group had already pitched tents and Rudolph pretty much had the food ready for my tea as well having borrowed a pan. We camped by Sampson's Stones at the bottom of cam spout crag in Eskdale where there was plenty of shelter.
After eating tea and getting the sleeping bags set up for later, we set off on our night navigation exercise. This followed the same pattern as before. One person was given a feature to navigate to and the rest of us had to follow and say where we were. We had head torches and 1:25 000 maps. We looked for features such as small ponds, crags, bends in a stream and such like. We had two turns each. This was really tricky and we got wet feet looking for a water feature which turned out to be a bog, and nearly walking into a lily lake. At one point we were standing around looking for where we might find a path, and after ten minutes or so realised we were standing on it! There might have been some moonlight except that it was cloudy with showers of rain so no help there! At 1am we finally rolled into our sleeping bags.
We were allowed a lie in on Thursday morning, not setting off till 9.30am! We were aiming for Angle Tarn for our next camp, and the other group went by Scafell to start with. We set off up the side of the lovely waterfall of How Beck to the Mickledore col, with the same turns to lead and navigate as before. We went into clag at about 750-ish metres and today I think the navigation was more tricky, the ante was a bit upped, as you might say, we were looking for little ring contours, sticky out bits and so on.
We stopped on the top of Scafell Pike for lunch in one of the many shelters, and picked up as much of the disgusting rubbish in there as we could carry. From there we went along the ridge to Great End and then to Esk Hause where we could see it was not far to camp, as the weather and visibility were improving all the time. But before we could rest it was up and over Esk Pike so I was able to tick off another Wainwright to add to my not very many.
From Esk Pike down to Ore Gap and then a short, steep descent to the tarn where we camped for the night.
Setting up camp here was tricky as there was still a strong wind; sometimes it was still and calm, but then a sudden gust would come from any direction and one tent was flattened and had to be re-pitched with the assistance of stones to hold the pegs in. At one point our little tent was bent flat at one end and one of the poles got a bit bent. We decided to move it down hill a bit where we found a marginally more sheltered spot - at least it would only get blown from one direction anyway.
At this camp we all had an individual chat to tell us how we were doing. One team member was asked to do some additional night nav as a one to one, and another was advised he would be going for a longer walk the next day one to one to do a bit more navigation. Apart from that the rest of us seemed to have shown the assessors what they needed to see and would enjoy a straightforward walk out to the bus the next morning.
We took the direct route out via Rossett Gill, Rudolph and I taking a quick sprint up Rossett Pike on the way past, well why would you not?? I didn't realise at the time it would be another Wainwright to add to my small pile.
On the way home in the bus we stopped at Ambleside pier for fish and chips (included in the price of the course) which was a stroke of genius. Arriving back at the centre, we returned borrowed equipment, had several cups of tea and a general and individual debrief before reluctantly saying goodbye to our new friends and driving home for an early night.
We are really pleased to say we both passed!! Out of the seven of us, two were deferred for different things but with a bit of luck should be able to complete the assessment soon. It was a really well run course, a rigorous assessment and I learnt lots.
by basscadet » Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:23 pm
by ChrisW » Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:49 pm
Great that you got such beautiful pics whilst undergoing your rigorous assessment too, I think the flower you photographed may be a 'Grass of Parnassus' that is just past it's best though I'm no expert myself
Congratulations on achieving the required rating for the course, I'm sure you will be an exceptional guide
by mrssanta » Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:16 pm
No I don't think it was a grass of parnassus, I know that one, it was too small.