Tuesday, 17 April 2018

#SMJ - Risk and Responsibility

It's been a busy Spring season; somewhat disjointed with the varieties of weather including some big dollops of snow.  Through March we had NAV4: Navigation & Mountain Running Skills courses running on three weekends, plus two events The DaffyDo and Lakes Mountain 42. The differences in weather conditions could not have been more pronounced with glorious sunny weather on March 25th followed by 'epic blizzard conditions' ( well not quite, but hey-ho it sounds awesome ) just six days later.  For the first time in 20+ years, I invoked an bad weather or shortened course at one of our major events. 

I also cancelled some 'Winter Skills' days, due to too much snow!  There was no way you'd be learning how to use and ice axe and crampons - a snow plough, snow shovel and maybe and avalanche probe, Yes, but simply driving to The Lakes required an #SMJ - Sound Motoring Judgement.

Our next big event is the Pennine 39 or 24 - I wonder what the weather will do this year after last year's sun and the previous year's chilly wind.  It's a glorious route taking in the most scenic section of the Pennine Way, including the River Tees, High Force, Cauldron's Snout and High Cup Nick, all in the first 20 miles or so.  The second half of the Pennine 39 route climbs steadily onto the Crossfell massif, the highest hills in England outside of the Lakes.  Crossfell is just 60 feet below the magical 3000' line.  Imagine if it was over 3000 feet - Lakes 4x 3000 would become Cumbrian 5 x 3000 footers.  The great thing about P39 and the Crossfell traverse is that it gets high and stays high giving glorious mountain trail running for many miles above the 2500 feet contour.  If the weather is bad, good skills, good gear is called for ....but it will be safe to those with the knowledge.  Plan B will be to choose Pennine 24, which splits at Cauldron's and heads North on the East side of Crossfell on easier and less remote paths and trails.  Pennine 24 is ideal for those wishing and unmarked trail run in wilder terrain, but with relatively easy navigation.  The route follows the Pennine Way and South Tyne Trail for much of it's twenty four miles.   And ...you get the same NAV4 'Soup+' and cake as the P39'ers!

Training, Coaching ... Learning 

This past week, we have delivered some very rewarding training to a highly motivated and competent group of event planners.  Two days were spent in Shropshire discovering 'Navigation, Hill Skills and Event Safety'.  It's worthy of a full blogpost, maybe....but a quick dash home, gear sort and then a  long weekend trip to Arran, working with RAW Adventures to provide Mountain Safety cover for the Ultra Tour of Arran followed, so a few motorway miles and ferry time to reflect and contemplate, 'What is #SMJ?'

Hot weather is 'Bad Weather' too?

Sound Mountain Judgement

There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing ....( or wrong choice of activity)

Hence a climber goes canoeing when it rains, or a MTB rider sticks to hard packed trails or tarmac when the trails are saturated. And a hill walker or runner changes their route and clothing to suit. 

In terms of Lakes Mountain 42, that meant cutting out the summit of Helvellyn due to really hard frozen old snow and ice, plus a fresh dusting of snow hiding the previously visible green and brown grippy terrain, PLUS  a very high chance of poor visibility on the event.  

Everyone was glad to see John Bamber at CP3 Lakes Mountain 42

One of my own reference points when making decisions is the excellently written up in Chapter 21 (?) in Feet in the Clouds - 'Risk and Responsibility'. Read it, or re-read it.  I vividly remember that day at the Kentmere Fell race.  I found myself climbing well and running strongly behind Helene D and Jon Broxap; John kitted out in full length thermodress legs and a Goretex cycle smock (I think?)  We had a head wind behind us to the summit of High Street then.... Bang! The full force of a fairly horrid wet and windy and sleety weather front made progress tough and communication non-existent.

Suffice to say I ran hard and fast, head down towards Nan Bield Pass, but the pass didn't arrive out of the mist despite me knowing the area very well and I found myself on some steep rocky loose and slow ground somewhere to the South of High Street and totally unrecognisable.  Stressful and scary map and compass relocation ensued and a decision was made to contour leftwards.  Steady work brought me to the marshals huddling in the shelter and Nan Bield. ' Well Done ....you're ninth runner '

I've never been top ten in any fell race.  Shit this is serious. I'm cold, I've been misplaced...and other people are having a worse time than me.  I thanked them, and headed straight down the path to Kentmere and safer ground, rather than up Harter Fell.  Time to GTF out of here.  I rain hard and fast in effort to keep warm, on the three miles to the finish, checked in and assured the team that I was Ok, then continued on to run to my car and another couple of miles away.  The sense of doom was impending.  Unfortunately the weather claimed a life.

Judith Taylor was a friend of a friend and a regular on the fell race scene;  strong experienced and well equipped.  No Blame, just powerful learning for us all.

I spend a lot of my time managing events.  Kit-checks to me are nearly as disgruntling as plastic lids on take away coffee cups. If you need a plastic lid - don't go in the mountains?   

Technical Skills x Experience = Competency

NAV4 Training

Really, these should call these 'learning days' as that is what happens! The NAV4 ethos is give you the skills to go further and learn and improve your all round performance   The vast majority of us learn by doing, not by reading or watching.

Through all our training and facilitation, be it one day, weekend or One-One bespoke days, the re-occurring themes are 'Confidence, Compasses, Contours ...and Confidence'  There are three key 'C's  or five if you include cake and complacency. 
Our mantra: 'contoursarecrucial' and #itsnotrocketscience and I've become fascinated at breaking down the navigation mystic to one and all.   

Basic Navigation for Runners - Parts One & Two

I've just scheduled some new dates for our Summer evening courses, in June and July.  Each course consists of a Monday and Thursday evening based local to Keswick and near the M6.

June - Monday 11th & Thursday 14th - 6;30pm - 8:30pm 
July - Monday 9th & Thursday 12th - 6:30pm - 8:30pm

These courses first ran last year and due to the many requests from runners who 'just can't navigate' . The aim is make the sessions as accessible and affordable as possible, and to give you the opportunity to kick-start your navigational abilities as an off-road runner.  It is also very suitable for those fell runners who might sheepishly follow the pack, in constant fear of getting lost. This course may even save your life ....it will definitely save some  embarrassing 'DNF's or dodgy route choices.

The NAV4 Adventure website gives a fill flavour of what we can offer, including our one day 'NAV4: Mountain Running Skills' day, which is generally monthly. There is also our iconic 'Mountain Running Essentials' weekend course which happens Spring and Autumn but bespoke One-One custom days are increasingly popular with individuals, couples, pairs and small groups, especially mid-week. 

Please take a look and keep an eye on social media, too - @navadventure and NAV4 Adventure on facebook.  Email - nav4adventure@gmail.com or the old jellybone 07749364248 works too! 

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