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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Green Man
21st - 26th September 2014
Great Tower Scout Activity Centre
Lake District

ML or bust!

The time had come for my assessment for the Mountain Leader (Summer) Award. To get to this point I've been studying and training for the past 18 months and the past couple of months have been very stressful. I knew that I was expected to cope with all that was going to be thrown at me, despite the weather and navigation in the Lake District being so testing and despite being reasonably new to rock climbing with ropes.
Just to make things slightly harder I also had to make sure I could get everything needed for the week, including three days' food, onto the bike. I also had to make sure that my 20 year-old Harley was up to the job of getting the team there and back.  That done, all I had to accomplish was an easy seven hour ride to Great Tower, undergo five days of testing in the mountains and take a ride back home again.

The first day started in the evening and we had introductions, some admin, an equipment check and a short exam about mountain safety. We had to hand in a previously drawn up plan/route card for a weekend expedition in the mountains. This was followed by questions about first aid and mountain safety. Apparently I must be paying for previous sins as I have come down with an awful cold. I'm bunged up and producing mucus at an alarming rate, my throat is sore and worst of all my temperature is climbing.

The second day had us out hiking around the Langdale Pikes and onto Silver How with the second of the two assessors. We were looking at navigation, leadership and the mountain environment. I also gave a presentation to the group about common birds of the Lake district. I took a turn for the worse in the afternoon as my temp went right up and I was on my last legs by the time we finished. I got back to base and dosed up on cold remedies. In the afternoon we went through our answers for a general paper that we had completed before our arrival.

Day 3.  I was starting to recover and found myself out on Tarn Crag above New Dungeon Ghyll showing off my skills at security on steep slopes. This entailed assisting people through difficult ground and up small scrambles, belaying people up and down the crag and abseiling down. On return to our base in Windermere Chalet, we had an exam on mountain weather and prepared for the coming expedition.

The fourth day was the start of the 2 night expedition and we were dropped off at Old Dungeon Ghyll by 12pm. A really hot sunny start and we almost immediately  headed vertically through Raven Crag up on to the ridge above. By then we'd just about got used to our 15kg rucksacks. We continued up and around Pike Of Stickle and onto the high moors before homing in on Angle Tarn for our camp site for the night.

Ian, myself, Laurie and John - ready for the off!

The Pike of Stickle looking down on the Oxendale Valley.

Martcrag Moor

Angle Tarn

After setting up camp and having dinner we underwent a test of night navigation up on Esk Hause and Allen Crags which are both on the way up to Scafell Pike. We finished searching for small features in the pitch dark at 12.30am.
Then the weather started to hit and it continued hitting us for the whole of the next day. This was typical of Lakeland weather and so the next morning we just ploughed on regardless up through Ore Gap, along gills and streams, up along the scree slopes of Bowfell Links and to the large col at Three Tarns. I knew then that John our assessor was pointing us down through the Crinkle Crags. I always thought he would, he seems to like it there. Quite frankly so do I. It's a magical place at the best of times but in the mist it can really mislead you so you have to be careful. What we didn't expect was to be caught at the infamous 'Bad step' in a howling rainstorm and having to use the rope in a real situation for a change. It was the best option to get down the 10 foot drop and continue down a gulley.
Visibility got down to less than 20m but we all managed to find everything we were asked to find along the way, including the sheepfold built around a huge natural rock that we camped by that night. There were very few opportunities to get the phone out to take a few pictures and when there were it was tipping it down with rain. So sorry, no pictures of that section of the expedition. Strangely that was the best night's sleep I had during the whole trip to Cumbria.
The next morning we headed steeply down into the Langdale Valley from where we had left 2 days before. The rain stopped, the clouds parted, the sun came out just in time for us to demonstrate different forms of river crossings in the river Oxendale by getting our boots filled with water.
Pick up was 11 and we were back on base at Great Tower by 12. Food and hot showers!

After a small debriefing we were all told of our results and allowed to leave or stay for a further night. I opted to stay and leave the next morning after a good night's sleep.

Then it was just a pleasant ride home, in the dry, on a beautiful piece of purring machinery and this time the team did it in a record 6 hours and ten minutes to be welcomed at the finishing line by the support team with hot tea and a warm cuddle.
Mission accomplished.

Take the time to read the countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.