In the summer half term we ran our first week long (6 Day) course in Basic Expedition leadership (AKA BEL). We have run this course previously over a series of weekends but this was the first time we ran it as an intensive 6 days. The 5 participants had a range of experience from 'I went on a walk once' to 'I do lots of DofE work for my school' and they came from a variety of work settings working with young people in Schools, community based youth offenders and prisons. We were based at Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre, the field centre put us up, provided us with a classroom, a bar and fed us well for the week.
It is a long course and to fit it all into 6 days was not an easy task for this tutor or the participants but we all held it together remarkably well. The structure of the course is 3 days based at the field centre, 2 on an expedition and then the last day back at the field centre. The days at the field centre were generally spent in the class room in the morning and outside in the afternoon.
The course is excellent and takes the participants through everything they need to know to take people walking and camping in the 'lowland' countryside. Some of the areas covered include:
- Governing bodies and legislation
- Risk assessments
- Route planning
- Leadership styles
- Food and fitness
- Camping and hiking equipment and care
- How to teach / instruct
- The country code
- Self evaluation
We had beautiful weather throughout the week even though the forecast for the last day of the expedition was appalling. The very last day was by far my favourite when we covered very technical navigation looking for Mines, shake holes and ponds on the hills to the north of the Field Centre.
Feedback from the course
- 'Andy was a very good instructor, he took the time to explain things and communicated brilliantly with the group'
- 'Excellent course, really enjoyed'
- 'Thank you for an enjoyable 6 days'
- 'Good mix of classroom and outside, final day of navigation was brill'
- 'Works brilliant as a six day course. Tiring but great fun'
- 'Enjoyable with a good group and helpful and knowledgeable tutor'
- 'The best part of the course was improving and practicing skills in a non-threatening environment'
We run these courses every autumn and summer half term (October and June) for the next courses and for a bit more info on the course please take a look at our Basic Expedition Leadership page
A great short clip of a Mountain Hare taken by a friend on a recent trip to the Cairngorms. The Mountain Hare, sometimes also called the Snow Hare, has a white or grey coat in winter and is brown with a blueish tinge at other times of year.
Mountain Hares, are native to Britain unlike the more common Brown Hare. Today they are found in many areas of Scotland where they are indigenous and in the Isle of Man and the Peak district where they were reintroduced. An attempt to reintroduce them to Snowdonia was unsuccessful. In the Peak District in the winter months when the hare’s coat is white, it can often be seen on the Kinder Scout plateau, standing out proud against the dark peaty ground.
There are concerns about the Mountain Hare population in Scotland which is thought to be decreasing. EC law prohibits some methods of capture or killing of the hare except under licence but this is thought to be violated in many cases with the hare being killed not only for sport but also because it is believed to be the carrier of a tick-borne virus which threatens the grouse chicks bred for shooting.
More information about Mountain Hares: http://www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk/mountain.php
Scottish Winter Walking Trips and Skills Courses: http://www.lupineadventure.co.uk/winter-skills.html
Scottish Walking Holidays: http://www.lupineadventure.co.uk/walking-holidays.html
Stepping off the bus in Chamonix on a sunny June morning I did the first thing any sensible mountaineer would do. I went and got myself a good cup of coffee. My trip to Chamonix and the French Alps started a few months earlier when my colleague Andy asked me if I would supervise a DofE Gold group on their assessed expedition to the Alps. After a milliseconds deliberation I gave the obvious answer of yes!
I arrived in Chamonix in June in order to carry out the pre-expedition risk assessment. My plan was over four days to walk the route that the group had planned, check their campsites, find water sources, identify hazards and familiarise myself with the area. Their planned basecamp was in les Praz de Chamonix. From here I set out walking through a mix of forests and meadows heading gradually and then steeply uphill to the Col de Balme. Situated on the French/Swiss border at altitude of 2191 m the Col de Balme offers amazing views of Mont Blanc. Waking up in the early morning light to a stunning view of the highest mountain in the Alps was simply awesome…
Over the following days I continued checking out and risk assessing the planned expedition route. My days were a mix of forests, steep ascents on well-made mountain paths, coffees in small bars, and sleeping beneath the stars. My accommodation was a British army Gore-Tex bivvy bag that I had bought for £20 at least 10 years ago. On the fourth day of my trip as I entered the Col de Brevent I saw the cutest creature…a marmot! With a happy heart I continued to the summit of le Brevent, at 2525 m the highest point on the expedition. After a lunch of vegetarian lasagne served in the café that the French had cunningly built I walked the last few hours back down into Chamonix. A long coach journey brought me back to England I wrote up my expedition risk assessment, gave feedback to the DofE group on their planned route and completed the DofE paperwork.
Fast forward to August I found myself at Gatwick airport travelling with a great Gold group; Frankie, Hamish, Tom and James. After a day acclimatising and food shopping in Chamonix the group set out on their four day expedition. Despite some unseasonably cold and inclement weather the group absolutely smashed their expedition. They did exactly what a successful Gold group needs to do. They got their heads down, walked through forests and over mountains and had what was a life enhancing experience. Back in Chamonix after four days we all enjoyed ice creams whilst sitting in the Alpine sunshine.
In 2014 Mountain Training (The national governing body of mountaineering instructor qualifications in the UK) launched a couple of personal proficiency courses called Hill Skills and Mountain Skills.
Lupine applied to be a provider of these courses and succeeded in being approved. They are great courses to both attend and to run. In August I ran a course in Ambleside for 3 guys. The format of the course is very basically...
- Meet in a cafe and talk about weather forecasting and some navigation theory.
- Go for a walk to do some practical navigation training and cover some other areas of the syllabus.
- Come off the hill at about 5 pm and 'freshen up' then meet in a cafe or pub (or go straight to the cafe / pub and carry on).
- In the cafe get out the guidebooks and maps and work out where we are going to go the next day.
- Go for a walk. The walk will hopefully take in a peak and a bit of time on steep ground and some time off the footpaths. We'll also cover other areas of the syllabus not covered on day 1.
Day 2 is great, it is what makes it a fantastic job to work on. Each time I have done this course we have gone somewhere new to me. While I have usually climbed the hill that we choose we'll always get there via a route that I haven't done before as it is up to the participants to decide where to go and the route taken. I think that too often I return to the same places as I know that it is beautiful and I will enjoy the walk rather than seeking out new adventures.
On this particular course we came down off Harrison Stickle in Langdale on a path alongside Dungeon Ghyll marked by a black dotted line on the 1:25000 map rather than a green dotted 'public footpath'. What a path. It is tiny and fairly exposed with the canyon of the upper reaches of the Ghyll on the left.
If you would like to book on a hill skills course or a mountain skills course our latest courses are listed on our hill and mountain skills page.
We also have a site dedicated to the Hill and Mountain Skills scheme with a bit more information
Glencoe, famous for its big mountains and infamous for the massacre of 1692 was the venue for Lupine’s 2015 vegetarian and vegan walking holiday. We arrived on the afternoon of Saturday 9 May and found our cottage in the pretty village of Ballachulish. We welcomed back some regular and much loved guests; Adrian, Frank, Sheila, Tony and Wendy. We also met Chris, a mountain leader based in the Cairngorms who was working for Lupine on a walking holiday for his first time. Chris is vegan, an amazing cook and leader and is perhaps the only vegan in the town of Kingussie?
On Sunday morning we set out to scramble and walk up School House Ridge with the aim of claiming two fine Munros, Sgorr Dhearg (1024 m) and Sgorr Dhonuill (1004 m). Strengthening winds and low visibility caused our intrepid guides (Chris and Dave) to change the plan and we rerouted to the summit ridge of Sgorr a’Choise (663 m).
On subsequent days we headed up Glencoe and climbed up past the late lying snow to summit Stob Coire Raineach (925 m), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (967 m), the Pap of Glencoe (742 m) and Meall Lighiche (772 m) before returning for a second (triumphal) traverse of the Ballachulish Horseshoe. After walking up the heavily forested and amazingly beautiful Gleann a’ Chaolais we climbed past the aptly named Dragon’s Tooth before summiting Sgorr Dhonuill (1004 m), Sgorr Dhearg (1024 m) and finally Sgorr Bhan (947 m).
On an evening we ate great food, with Chris proving himself to being an amazing vegan cook. We took a trip down to the famous Clachaig Inn. Luckily we had nobody with the name Campbell in the group as the Clachaig bans anyone with that family name from entering. Google the Glencoe massacre and you will find out why. It seems that theScots have long memories! We also drank a celebratory glass of wine and beer or two to celebrate the news that Frank and Sheila were getting married later in 2015.
After a great week we had to pack up and drive south. Chris drove east towards the Cairngorms National Park. We will hopefully be seeing and working with Chris again as the venue for our 2016 vegetarian and vegan walking holiday is the Cairngorms National Park.
The last weekend in August saw Lupine supervising and assessing groups of Gold Duke of Edinburgh participants from a school in London. They started in the valley of Borrowdale, which serves as a great starting point for many of the other beautiful valley’s the Lakes has to offer… This proved a bit of a problem however regarding their route choices; my Gold practice group had tried to fit in everything, jumping to Wasdale to Langdale to Buttermere and all the mountains in between, and unfortunately most days had to be altered as their routes proved too long. A good learning point for those with assessments coming up however.
The start of expedition was frequent heavy rain showers and strong winds, making it feel almost like winter! They arrived at Wasdale Head campsite just before they changed the sign to FULL, as this site doesn’t take bookings. The group had done very well and were good at navigating in the low cloud conditions we experienced on top of Green Gable. An easier second day was had to avoid their original plan of Scafell Pike, which was a shame, but not a good idea with the threat of thunder and lightning…it’s always important to have an escape route planned!
A long third day saw the group setting up an impromptu Wild camp, which they were well prepared for and enjoyed a lovely starry evening in the mountains, improving their view on wild camping somewhat!
It finished off with glorious sunshine for their last day, which was a nice ending to an otherwise typical Lake district weather experience, and a chance for me to enjoy a last ice cream before the end of Summer! Overall a great few days with these young people getting them prepared for their assessments coming up.
Never have I been so glad of my midge net…note to self; next time carry spare midge nets to make forever grateful friends of those who have forgotten!
Apart from the midges however, it was a fantastic setting for these ambitious Air Cadets to challenge themselves on their Silver and Gold expeditions, which Lupine trained, supervised and assessed for 4 days in the last week of August.
The groups of young people were well prepared and their navigation was generally very good. The main problems they came across however were down to the nature of the Highland terrain and the fact that it is all open access. It is great that we are free to roam anywhere in the mountains and valleys of Scotland, however it does require a good knowledge of the terrain so as to plan appropriate routes, given there are very few footpaths marked on maps and indeed in reality on the ground. This is something we therefore put a lot of focus on to help improve their route choices and planning for future expeditions. Some of the main points they learnt were to do with Safe River Crossings, and to have alternatives when it is not safe to do so, as many small streams marked on maps can become raging torrents within a few hours of heavy rainfall, which is not uncommon in the Highlands! Coming across 7ft tall deer fences were another issue when the groups originally planned their routes, as there are infrequently gates/stiles where you want them to be. Last but not least, yomping through knee high heather up steep mountains with a heavy expedition pack takes it’s toll, and unless you’re a super fit SAS type you’re not going to keep 4km/hr up! Having said that, although they set themselves a tough challenge, taking in 24km a day generally, including some mighty munros, and not to mention wild camping every night, they managed and succeeded very well and I was genuinely impressed with their achievements.