News from Roy Henderson for February 2014

  • A Code for Winter Climbers in the Lake District

    15:54 27 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week I mentioned the new Code for Winter Climbers in the Lake District that can be found in full here. This code was compiled by a group of Lake District climbers representing both winter and rock climbing interests. The project was supported by the BMC, FRCC, National Trust, National Park Authority and Natural England.

    Here are the key points for ethical climbing in the Lake District and a list of agreed crags that we should stay off with ice climbing tools to prevent damage. We could so easily damage fantastic rock routes for ever if we scratch our way up them with ice axes and crampons. But there has to be space for both winter and summer climbing as many people, including me. climb in both summer and winter conditions.

    The following voluntary code is a guide to allow for an accepted ethical ascent that has minimum impact on rock climbs, the natural cliff environment and the future of the sport:

    1. Winter climbing should only be undertaken under frozen and snow-covered conditions.
    2. The cliff should have a ‘wintery’ appearance with snow, rime or verglas covering most of the rock, not just snow covering ledges.
    3. Consider if your ascent would be feasible without axes and crampons; if you could brush the snow off the rock and rock climb the route then you’re doing a rock route.
    4. Turf can be an excellent winter climbing medium but should only be climbed on when it is solidly frozen or deeply covered in snow/neve and so unlikely to be dislodged. 
    5. Many summer routes have little vegetation or even ice. They are vulnerable to damage even in perfect/ideal winter conditions. This could involve loss of small holds, loss of flakes, modification of pockets and loss of protection placements. To prevent damage to summer routes please consider whether your proposed ascent is likely to cause such damage; if so, choose another objective.
    6. During any winter ascent there should be a presumption against the use of pegs if at all possible. Placement of bolts on mountain routes, as in summer, is unacceptable and counter to the area’s traditional ethic.
    7. Routes should be climbed from the bottom to the top of the crag in a single push, with no abseil pre-inspection. If a bivouac en route is required so be it, however abseiling off and resuming from your high point the next day is not a valid ascent. 

     Please keep off the following crags when climbing with winter equipment:


    Raven Crag, Walthwaite.
    Scout Crags - Lower, Middle and Upper.
    Raven, East Raven and Far East Raven Crags.
    Gimmer Crag – the South-East Face to the North-West Face inclusive.
    Flat Crag – from Conditionalist to BB Corner
    (excluding those routes).
    Black Crag.
    Lightning Crag.
    Long Crag.

    Dow, Coppermines & Slate

    Dow Crag – A and B Buttresses not including the

    Duddon & Eskdale

    All the low lying crags in both valleys unless via
    obvious ice lines.
    Esk Buttress – from Gargoyle Groove to
    Trespasser Groove (including those routes).

    Scafell & Wasdale

    East Buttress, except the obvious ice and
    turf lines.
    Scafell – from Moss Ghyll to Botterill’s Slab
    (excluding those routes).

    Buttermere & St Bees

    Grey Crag.
    St Bees.

    Gable & Pillar

    Kern Knotts – from Cat Wall to the Cracks Area
    (including those routes).
    The Napes – Tophet Wall and all the major
    buttresses excepting the gullies.
    Gable Crag – from Engineer’s Chimney to
    Engineer’s Slabs (excluding those routes).


    Shepherd’s Crag.
    Black Crag.
    Quayfoot Buttress.
    Woden’s Face.
    Bowderstone Crag.
    Sergeant Crag Slabs.

    Eastern Crags

    Castle Rock of Triermain.
    Raven Crag, Thirlmere.
    Raven Crag, Threshthwaite Cove.
    Dove Crag – North Buttress.

    Eden Valley & South Lakes Limestone

    Everything except High Cup Nick and various
    New and existing winter routes climbed on
    the above crags may no longer receive official

    In addition to the above list, there will also be a general presumption against recording future
    first winter ascents of any existing high quality rock climbs (** and *** for instance) unless
    they are natural ice lines. Such climbs may no longer receive official recognition.

  • An away-day.

    06:30 21 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week saw the day when rangers and volunteers gathered for a start-the-season meeting to catch up with news about what we have all been doing.  We all live and work in a large area of the country and it would be easy to become immersed in our work and never see one another unless we plan to meet up.  There is a lot to learn by sharing experiences so it’s important that we create the opportunities to do so.

    This time we met in Ennerdale where an innovative project known as Wild Ennerdale is being developed.  You can read a lot about that at the dedicated website here.

    During the morning we had presentations about a range of projects.  In the afternoon, the weather allowed us to have a walk along the lake shore to see some of the work that has already been done in the re-wilding of the valley.  This is a project that will be ongoing for many years but already the amount that has been achieved is impressive.  I still like to think of Borrowdale as the best valley but I do like to visit the others to see what’s new elsewhere.

    Another project I’ve been involved with has been the collaboration of the National Trust with the Fell & Rock Climbing Club (FRCC), the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), the National Park Authority and Natural England to draw up a code of conduct for winter climbing.  The outcome is a newly-published voluntary code that will encourage winter mountaineers to make ethical ascents that have minimal impact on rock climbs, on the natural cliff environment and on the future of the sport.  You can find out more about the details including a summary version of the code at this site.  This is big step towards minimising environmental damage whilst allowing shared use of the Lake District.  There has been extensive consultation and agreement with user groups so we hope everyone will be happy to observe the code.

    Hi, Daisy here,

    Che’s come to stay. He’s my best friend now.
  • Reflections.

    08:27 13 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    In sharp contrast to some of the outdoors work lately, I spent some time last week putting together materials for a presentation at an early season meeting for all the volunteers in our area.  This is where we reflect on what has been achieved during the year and remind ourselves of the vision for what we do next.  As an organisation the National Trust has thousands and thousands of volunteers and it is really important that we acknowledge and thank them for the vital part they play in what we do.

    I’ll be talking about two major projects my team has completed.  The first is the creation of what we have dubbed the amphitheatre.  This is the area beside our Trust shop where we have made what might be called a platform with seating that can be used by both visitors and local residents.  The second is the rebuilding of a water heck at Stonethwaite when we even felled our own tree and stripped off its bark before installing it.  These were two very big jobs done against the background of the routine maintenance and litter picking etc. that keep the valley safe and stunning.

    This is a part of my job that I especially enjoy doing because it gives me an opportunity to see the big picture of the phenomenal amount of work my volunteers have completed.  Usually we are focused on what we need to do next and that can sometimes seem daunting.  It’s only when we pause for reflection that we realise just how much we have achieved.  That’s the confirmation of how important our volunteers are and is also all the motivation they need to get stuck into the next big task.  Volunteers really are at the heart of all that the National Trust is able to achieve.

    Amongst the Trust staff there is much good-natured banter about the merits of all our volunteer teams but of course, I know that my volunteers, including my behind the scenes office helper, are the best!

    Daisy here,

    I’ve been in the office.  That’s boring.

  • Replacing a decaying boardwalk.

    10:14 07 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    For most of last week I was working with a group of National Park authority apprentices.  The National Park operates an apprenticeship scheme where the apprentices work with park rangers to develop a wide range of skills.  Last week was a collaboration between the National Park and the National Trust.  They came to spend the week with me learning how to replace a decaying wooden boardwalk with a new, recycled plastic one.  I’ve done quite a lot of this now so have a lot of experience to pass on to them.

    The recycled plastic we have used has several advantages over the old wooden one.  It lasts longer and needs less maintenance and it has a textured surface so is less likely to be slippery.  We have used our usual supplier in Liverpool that recycles plastic collected in the north-west of England so it has minimal transport impact on the environment. And of course it recycles plastic that might otherwise become long-life waste in landfill sites.

    The apprentices were a really keen and enthusiastic group to work with and, despite some inclement weather, we were able to crack on and complete a lot of work. 

    Our weather seems that it might be about to change to something a bit more wintery than we have had recently.  There has been some snow on the fell tops but it is still much warmer than we would expect in February so it is mainly rain in the valley.

    Daisy here.
    Have you seen how big cows are?  They’re great.

News from Roy Henderson

Photo of Roy Henderson

I’m the National Trust ranger for Borrowdale and Newlands in the North Lakes, UK. I volunteered for the Trust when I came on the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme aged 13. I started by building a new fence on Friars Crag to tackle an erosion problem and making paths more accessible for people with limited mobility. I enjoyed it so much that I continued to volunteer until I left school and was lucky enough to get a job with the National Trust. After working for the Trust for 29 years, I still love the job.