Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Mountain School




I write this having just returned from a week of mountain rescue training in the Dolomites.  Two groups each with twelve members drawn from six rescue teams will have spent a week enhancing their rope skills to the most up-to-date techniques. 


I travelled out early with two other team members and we met up with our guides, Kirk and Christjan to recce good sites to use for our training.  I’ve worked with Kirk before so know him quite well but Christjan was new to us.  Both were excellent and had a lot to teach us. We were then joined by the rest of group one and were based in the mountain hut you can see in the photo.  It was ideally located with short walks in to big crags so we had as much time as possible refreshing existing skills and learning new techniques.  Group two followed for training in the second week.




We were particularly keen to learn new techniques for using guiding lines.  Rescuing people from vertical crags is relatively easy.  It is much more difficult from smaller crags and across broken ground and this is when good use of guiding lines is safer for both rescuers and casualties.  The priority has to be to minimize the danger to rescuers.






It is five years since I last did a similar training course and knowledge is constantly developing about things like stresses in ropes systems.  Kirk is at the forefront of such research so is an ideal trainer to develop our skills to the highest standards.



As it happened, the day after arriving back, we were called out to a rescue where we could put into practice our newly honed skills to rescue a couple of people from some very steep, nasty, uneven ground.  Of the nine who carried out the rescue, three had been on the course and were able to guide the others through using the most up-to-date techniques.



All in all, it was an excellent course.  We learned lots and I really enjoyed being in the mountains enjoying the company of a group of like-minded people.

 Daisy here.  Roy’s been away but Che came to stay so that was quite good.


Daisy here.  Roy’s been away but Che came to stay so that was quite good.




Friday, 29 August 2014

Preparing for advanced training.



By the time you read this post I will be coming to the end of a trip to the Dolomites for some mountain rescue training.  Cheap flights mean that we can now travel easily to more extreme environments to extend our skills and in previous years we have trained in Zermatt, Chamonix and Canada.  There’s no guarantee of good weather but we can guarantee big mountains.


So it has been a busy time for me and a couple of other team members as we have organised a sizeable trip.  Spread over two weeks, twenty four rescue team members from five different teams will spend a week working on advanced skills so there has been a lot of organising to be done. 



Before we left, I also ran some extra rope skills sessions to prepare for the advanced work we were expecting to do in the Dolomites.



While we are there, our training will be overseen by Kirk Mauthner (a Canadian and one of the best mountain rescue trainers in the world) and an Italian guide he recommended.  The great advantage of training like this in terms of both altitude and intensity is that, when we return to the Lake District, our crags are small in comparison.  The primary aim of the training is that our teams can perform rescues more safely for themselves but of course that also means safer for those being rescued.


So my next post should have lots of good photographs of big mountains and of rescuers practising their techniques.


Hi, Daisy here.






I’ve been helping Roy train all year.  I check at the top of the crag and then I go and check at the bottom of the crag.

Friday, 22 August 2014

A Day on Derwent Island.



Reliable as ever, the Yorkshire volunteers have just been for one of their two annual visits.  It’s always good to see familiar faces and also to meet a few new ones.


This time we went across to do some work on Derwent Island.  The plan was to cut back some rhododendrons to bring them under control.  The unplanned work was to try to get into the secret room that our buildings manager and I had found when we were surveying the cellars of the house to make sure that they would be adequately ventilated when a new gas heating system is installed.  It had been walled off so long ago that I knew nothing about it and I think I know the island and house pretty well.




The wall is quite substantial in construction but has not been keyed into the side walls of the passage.  It isn’t load-bearing in any way so its only use seems to be to block off the room behind it.  Whilst the Yorkshire group worked clearing the rhododendrons, I took some time to remove some cobbles from the wall so that I could pop my camera in for some pictures.




As you can see, there’s nothing obvious in the photos to suggest why it was blocked off with such a wall so we are still speculating about it.  I’ll let you know if there are further developments.



As usual, the Yorkshire volunteers group did a terrific job so many thanks to them.  These are people who are very experienced and highly motivated.  They can see what needs doing and just get on with it.  It’s also good fun to work with them.

Daisy here,



I’ve been on my first full weekend training.  It was great but very tiring and I came back with Labrador tail again.  It was really sore but the vet made it better.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A house with secrets.


Having had a good holiday, I was ready to go when I returned to work.  The big event of the last week was the annual Derwentwater Regatta weekend so there was plenty to do helping to set that up.  This year we had a busy Saturday with lots of people joining in what was on offer.  Unfortunately the weather forecast for the Sunday was not good and that probably deterred some people.  Nevertheless, those who decided to brave the weather found that it wasn’t as bad as predicted and they had a good time.


This year I just couldn’t find the time to take photographs during the regatta but I’ll post some from the Friday when we were setting up.  There’s also one of the sunset reflected on the lake as I walked home at about 9 pm.  Could there be a better way to end a working day?


As it was a regatta, a lot of things on offer were water activities as you would expect but there were others for landlubbers.  For the first time, we offered Frisbee golf and this proved to be very popular with small children right through to some rather competitive adults!


Earlier in the week I made a trip over to the house on Derwent Island with one of our buildings managers.  The house will soon have a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) system installed.  LPG is heavier than air so we need to be sure that, should there be any leakage, there is good ventilation and it cannot accumulate under the house. I knew of the existence of a passage under the cellar floor that had been blocked off sometime in the past.  So we lifted some of the floor slabs and dropped down to explore the passage.  What I didn’t know is that we would find a room that has been blocked off.




















So, I will soon be going back with my team of volunteers who come annually from Yorkshire and we will set about clearing debris and hopefully will be able to enter this room we didn’t know existed.  It’s all rather intriguing because we have no idea what, if anything, we will find inside it.  I’ll let you know on the blog as soon as there is anything to report so keep following.

Daisy here,












I’ve been to Derwent Island. It’s always great going to Derwent Island.  I’ve got two friends there.  They’re Labradors as well.  They’re younger than me but I can outrun them easily.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Holiday time.



I’m not long back from my summer holiday.  Jan and I went to Brittany to cycle and camp. It was my first visit to the area and I am now a big fan.  The roads were quiet but the few wagon and car drivers we encountered drove courteously and safely around cyclists.  There is a superb network of cycle tracks along canal tow-paths and disused railway lines and they are all in good condition.  We found some great camp sites that were well maintained and cheap. The landscape was stunning and there was lots of interest to see.  The people were friendly and welcoming and the weather was kind to us.

                    





The area is dotted with historic villages and towns and mediaeval architecture.  The high spot was a visit to Mont Saint-Michel, a small island just off the coast of Normandy.  This is a World Heritage site with about 3 million visitors each year so we made sure that we arrived early to see some of it before it became very crowded. There is so much to see here from its impressive appearance as you approach across the causeway to the smallest details to be found on many of the buildings.  We took an English language tour of the Abbey but otherwise just spent hours exploring and discovering for ourselves.  It really is worth a visit.























         


We also thoroughly enjoyed the culture of a good lunch with a glass of wine followed by some relaxation in the afternoon.  Jan even took the opportunity to enjoy a second breakfast – not a mid-morning snack or elevenses but a second breakfast!  What more could you want? It was a really good, relaxing holiday.

Second breakfast!

As a closing note, I’ll mention that one of our young foresters has moved to pastures new. He has been signed up by Carlisle United so will now be working at ground level rather than swinging in trees!  We hear he is enjoying his new job and wish him well.



Daisy here.  Jan’s Mum and Dad came to look after me.  They’re nice people.  They took me walking in the mornings and in the evenings. It was great. And I went to Catbells with them.