Promising Hold

promising hold

As a mediocre (at best) climber I tend to favour routes with obvious and large holds, I can be fairly confident with my feet as long as I have something substantial for my hands.

One of the most disheartening feelings when climbing is dragging yourself up a wall or crag focusing on the big juggy hold that will allow you a good place to rest and relax your fingers, only to get there and discover all is not as it seems. This is the gutting moment that you find out the amazing hold you were looking at has in fact a rounded, slimy, finger muscle destroying sloping  top to it. The only real function this hold actually provides is a focus of your screamed abuse as you plummet embarrassingly from the rock.

The great challenge of being a Christian is to be the good hold that people can rely on rather than the disappointing mirage.

It is easy and often accomplished to gain the reputation and appearance of a Christian. You can look like one in the same way a hold can look useful, however it is easy, like the promising hand hold, to fail to back this up. Just because you look like something does not make it the case.

As a Christian I feel it hugely important to follow through on my beliefs. In the Bible much of Paul’s letters to the Churches are devoted to telling people this very thing. Acting and behaving as a Christian will lead to looking like one and providing people with something to rely on, looking like one and not acting like one will lead people to question you and your beliefs.

– Graham

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Mining for Wisdom

mining for wisdom

Mine exploration is a good physical way of exploring history and geology. I think it also demonstrates a lot about human nature.

As we grow up we often hear from society that success is an important part of life and that success is often measured in wealth.

Mine exploration allows you to, at first hand experience the lengths that people are prepared to go to and the risks they are willing to take in the pursuit of wealth. In these old abandoned mines you get a good feel for the loneliness and isolation the miners must have felt, not to mention the extreme danger that they faced on a daily basis. Although these miners may not have personally achieved a high income, someone up the food chain would benefit greatly from the harsh environment these men had to endure.

In the Bible, the book of Job speaks of how mining shows that people have become good at searching out precious minerals and treasures. Job speaks of how wisdom is the most precious treasure of all and cannot be bought with minerals and wealth. This precious treasure of wisdom comes only from God.

For me mining is a great reminder of how success is in truth based on wisdom and a relationship with God, a welcome reminder in a world which is seemingly dedicated to chasing precious money.

– Graham

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A Manual for Life

manual for life

With this evenings bike maintenance workshop coming up it gave me a good reason to dig out my bikes and tools.

Those of you who know me will know that I am passionate about bikes and a few years back took on the challenge of building my own mountain bike to my own specifications. By doing this I was able to customise it to the trails and conditions which I regularly ride. Due to my researching and carefully choosing each component no one knows this bike like I do; they could not pick it up and know all the purposes and reasons behind every component choice as I would. I am not claiming to be an expert on bike building, I simply had my own reasons for choosing the components and set up that I used.

Companies that pour millions of pounds into bike research produce a huge handbook to go with your high end bike so that you can sit and read about all the features and options to get the most out of your bike.

Our lives are much like a mountain bike in that we have been created to a high standard and have many different options. Like my mountain bike it would be hard to get the most out of life without knowing the creator’s purposes, and like a mountain bike we come with an instruction manual. As Christians, we believe that we were created by God and that we have a purpose and a certain lifestyle that we should follow. Our instruction manual, the Bible gives us an insight in to the purposes our creator has for us. Without this manual, like a mountain bike we can find ourselves falling short of our true potential, with it we can find ‘life – life in all its fullness’.

– Graham

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An Invisible Trust

mountaineering and an invisible trust

Over the weekend I continued my attempt to tick off all Wainwright fells by taking my family up Castle Crag. My daughter has just started to walk up hills without having to be carried, however the steep section to get to the top of this one was something she hasn’t experienced before. To keep her safe I put her on a short rope to help her descend the short section of loose rock. The amount of trust she put in me reminded me of a thought for the week I did back in July 2013 and it seemed appropriate to share this again.

Mountaineering and hill walking can be an overwhelming environment to find yourself in. Members of your group can often find themselves feeling exposed and uncomfortable on rock faces and steep ground. For this purpose mountain leaders carry a rope to use in times of need.

A rope can be a great way of giving an individual a feeling of comfort and security. The leader would often climb the steep ground first and lower the rope down for the group member to tie themselves into. As a consequence the leader can often be out of sight and all the group member has is the rope and words of encouragement shouted down from above. This is where a good relationship of trust in the leader is essential.

As a Christian you are often asked ‘how can you believe in someone you cannot see?’

As with the overwhelmed mountain climber, it comes down to trust and faith. A Christian believes that he has a relationship with Jesus (not known for breaking his promises), choosing to follow him is like accepting the rope from the unseen mountaineer. It is often a liberating experience to put all your faith and trust in someone that has never and will never let you down.

– Graham

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Tip of the Week

How to estimate remaining daylight

sundown

As you get towards the end of the day it can often be helpful to know how much daylight you have left. Whether you need to know how much light you have to get off the mountain, how long you have to set up camp or simply want to know when to get the camera to catch the sunset.

This is a simple way to estimate how long it will be before the sun disappears behind the horizon.

Hold out your hand at arms length with your palm facing you and use it to count how many fingers you can fit between the sun and the horizon.

As a general rule there is 15 minutes until sundown for every finger. Remember to take into account mountains etc in the foreground and try and measure to where the horizon should be.

sundowndiagram

This method has many huge flaws – people’s fingers are different sizes, people’s arms are different lengths, it varies depending on where in the world you are. It is not an exact science, merely a method for making an educated guess.

Obviously when doing this you should avoid looking directly at the sun as it can cause permanent eye damage.

– Graham

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Trust in the Cross

the cross

The winter is a great time of year for people with an unhealthy (if you ask my wife) love of outdoor equipment (or toys – again in you ask my wife).

The weather opens up great opportunities to dig out your snowboard, snow shoes, ice axes and crampons along with whatever other pieces of gear have been gathering dust in your garage since last year.

Every year I like to go through my books looking into different techniques for using these bits of gear that rarely see the light of day. While leafing through my books this year I was reminded of a technique which I think is an excellent example to follow as a Christian.

While out in winter mountain conditions carrying an axe is essential. An ice axe can make ascending in snowy/icy conditions much easier and can save your life in a fall by acting as a brake while sliding down the mountain.

One technique for when things really go bad is to use two axes to help you abseil off the mountain and out of trouble.

The technique involves driving an axe in to the snow vertically and a second axe behind it horizontally forming a cross. A rope is attached to the horizontal axe allowing you to use it as an anchor to abseil off.

crossed axes

For me this is a great example to follow as a Christian. All your worries and fears can be passed on to the cross – it may not remove them but will get you through them.

The cross of axes will not magically transport you from the danger, but by trusting in them they will allow you to have the strength and ability to get through the situation.

The Biblical message is very similar;

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you – 1 Peter 5:7

Trusting in the cross of Jesus does not take you out of the troubling situation, but by passing your worries on to him it can give you the strength to get through it.

– Graham

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Tip of the Week

Pre ride mountain bike checks

m check

A good pre ride assessment of your bike is essential to keeping on top of issues that could cause harm to your bike or to you. As the saying goes ‘look after your bike and your bike will look after you.’ Personally if my brakes aren’t working properly, I’d rather find out before I start pedalling.

At the very least you should always start with the ‘drop test.’ Simple – lift your bike a couple of inches and drop it (onto its wheels!), listening for anything that sound out of place – unusual rattles/bangs etc. This will give you a general idea if there is something major wrong.

However, this is about as scientific and delicate as a hammer – it will only give you a rough idea and won’t check things like brakes etc.

The ‘M Check’ technique is a great way of remembering what to check and making sure you don’t miss anything.

So called due to the ‘M’ shape you follow while performing the check – you start at the front wheel and end at the back.

m check - bike image1   m check - bike image2

1 – Start at the front wheel.

  • Check quick release skewer is tight (or wheel nuts, if you don’t have quick release), the skewer levers should ideally be pointing up or backwards to avoid opening on contact with rocks etc.
  • Check tyre pressure is high enough and tyres are in good condition (no cracks in sidewall etc)
  • Check for loose spokes and that the rims are running true (no major kinks etc)
  • Check hub bearings by rocking wheel side to side with your hand checking there is no play.
  • At this point hold the front brake and push the bike forward to make sure it is working.
  • As you move on to point 2, check forks for obvious damage.

2 – Handlebars

  • Check headset by holding the front brake on and rocking the bike forward and backward. Put your fingers around the join between headset and frame and feel for play.
  • Give each handlebar component (brake levers, gear levers etc) a push to make sure they are tight.
  • Check grips are not loose.

3 – Frame and bottom bracket

  • Check frame for damage.
  • Check cables are not caught or kinked.
  • Give pedals a wobble to check for excess play.
  • Check for damage and play in the bottom bracket by holding a crank arm or pedal in each hand and rocking them from side to side.
  • Check front gears are working by holding (or preferably getting someone else to hold) the rear of the bike off the floor, pedalling and changing the gears. Gears should always move smoothly rather than jumping.

4 – Saddle

  • Check saddle is at correct height and is tightened up.
  • Check release clamp is tight enough to stop the saddle dropping when under weight.

5 – Rear wheel

  • Check rear gears in same way as front.
  • Perform all same checks as front wheel – skewer/pressure/tyre/spokes/rim/brake/hub

If your bike has rear suspension, check that this is in good working order and feel for play in all bearings.

m check - bike image3

At first this does seem like a lot of work and a lot to remember, however the more you do it the quicker it gets until it becomes second nature.

Look after your bike and it will look after you.

photo 1 (7)

– Graham

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A View of Creation

creation

Last week was a spectacular week for weather in the Lake District and after a few days in lock ups, offices or staring at a laptop screen I decided to head out into the mountains and enjoy the clear blue skies, snow underfoot and stunning views.

Unfortunately the day I picked involved very little in the way of summit views, unless your idea of a good view is staring at the inside of a cloud.

DCIM102GOPRO       DCIM102GOPRO

Ironically the days following my trip were full of cloud inversions, and social media has been flooded with pictures of people staring down from mountain summits onto the tops of cloud.

Regardless of the lack of views, myself and two others decided to head up onto the cloud covered summit of Blencathra. As the only one of us who had been up Blencathra before I was disappointed that they were unable to see the spectacular view of the lakes that I knew was tantalisingly close.

Despite the weather we had a great day and were finally rewarded with a view on the descent, made all the more impressive by the lifting cloud and the dropping sun creeping through.

One of the people I was with made a comment which I have heard time and time again in the outdoors –

‘How could this not have been created by God?’

It’s amazing how many ‘coincidences’ occur when you start looking into faith and as it happens the following day I attended a men’s breakfast at my local church, where the vicar had chosen to speak on the views of religion and science. One hot topic was – was the world created by God or not?

Many people believe that the world came from nothing and many think it was created, this is something that I think deserves a lot of serious thought.

As for me, looking out at views as perfect as these – there really is no doubt.

DCIM102GOPRO

– Graham

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Tip of the Week

Call in

call in

If you work in the outdoor sports industry ‘call in’ procedures will be second nature. However, many people who use the outdoors recreationally will very rarely use these simple systems that could very easily save your life.

Whether you are underground, out on a river or up in the mountains, there is always an emergency service equipped to rescue you – but this can only happen if they know you are in trouble and know where you are.

Mobile phones can not be completely relied upon in many situations – you may not have signal, you may have damaged your phone in an accident or have had an accident which would leave you incapable of making a call yourself.

Following a few basic procedures can increase your chance of rescue enormously;

  • Find a ‘call in’ person – spouse, friend or parent it doesn’t really matter as long as you can rely on them to follow your progress and raise the alarm if necessary
  • Leave a detailed plan of what you are doing and where you are going – grid references are ideal
  • Leave details of vehicles and where you have parked
  • Leave details of who is with you – how many, what ages
  • Give a definite call in time for when you expect to be finished – if you have not phoned in by this time your call in person is to contact the emergency services by calling 999

Following these simple steps and leaving as much information with a responsible person, who will immediately raise the alarm if necessary, will make sure that in the case of an emergency someone will know that you are missing and what to do to help.

– Graham

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Journeying Through History

journeying through history

This week’s thought came to mind whilst I was out with the Active Project on Saturday’s mine exploration, so it seemed appropriate to post along with some of the great photos we took that day.

Anyone who knows me will also know that I am not a big fan of caving (as in my opinion it is cold, wet, miserable and would be more suited to trolls and other mythical creatures), however I do enjoy mine exploring. The reason I prefer mines to caves is that I enjoy the historical aspect of walking through places that are today more or less exactly as they were when the last miner walked out of them all those years ago.

Down the lead mines at Nenthead (where we were on Saturday’s trip) you can still see examples of the trucks and rails used to transport the lead or galena, tool marks in the rock and even horse prints perfectly preserved in the dust for over one hundred years.

It is a humbling experience to walk in the footsteps of people who have long since passed away and see things as they would have done all that time ago.

It was quite fitting that the passage we heard preached this Sunday at our local church included 1 Peter 1:24  which quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8 “ All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

It is hard enough to put yourself in the place of someone who lived a mere one hundred years ago, but to think that these people are, in historical terms, pretty recent puts into perspective just how long ago these words were written. Since then how many things have happened? How many empires have conquered and fallen? How many wars have started and finished? How many people have come and gone? Words written more than two thousand years ago, before these mines had even been started were relevant to be quoted in 1 Peter and are as relevant today as they were back then.

If the teachings of the Bible are important enough to still be around today surely we should do what we can to help bring these words to others.

Active Project – mine exploration trip

As I mentioned, the thought for this week came to mind whilst out and about on the Active Project mine exploration.

This was the first event for this project and I am very happy to say that it was a great day and a very encouraging first event. Here are a few photos from the day, which I hope is the start of a successful project building a close community within the Carlisle area and beyond, enabling a comfortable environment in which to explore sport, the outdoors and faith.

– Graham

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