Monday, 22 February 2010

Winter ML Training

Got back yesterday from a brilliant and challenging week at Glenmore Lodge on my Winter Mountain Leader Training course.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather- with 4 out of 6 days with good visibility and at times clear blue skies, and a couple of days of whiteout conditions to test the navigation properly. There has been a huge amount of snow in the Cairngorms already this winter, and while we were there several inches more fell giving hard conditions underfoot with deep snow and the potential threat of avalanches on steeper aspects, but the winds stayed light so we never had to contend with the famous Cairngorm hoolies that can blow up.

The picture above is of me abseiling into the top of a gully to check the snow conditions- under the watchful eye of course director Eric Pirie.

On the final night we dug and slept(?!) in our own snowholes on the Cairngorm Plateau above the Loch Avon basin. We stomped up and over Ben Macdui for our night navigation excercise in temperatures around -10. Cold! Thankfully it was a lot warmer in the snowholes.

Thanks to our instructors Eric Pirie and Dave Haygarth, who really were the founts of all knowledge, and to the Glenmore Lodge staff for looking after us so well and feeding us up. Also a big thanks to the other guys on the course. It was great spending time with so many experienced outdoor professionals, and the banter and warm atmosphere made it a special week.
Oh and thanks also to the mountain hare who legged it across our path on Monday! A fantastic sight!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Adventures on the mainland

Just returned from a slightly bruising few days on the mainland finally getting to grips with some winter climbing. Its been a while and teh effort cold and scariness came as a bit of a shock on Friday, when we headed in to Stob Coire nan Lochain, Glencoe, to do Forked Gully Right Hand (II/III). The top ice pitch was thin and exciting. Wally lead up with no real problems but said afterwads it felt tough. Definately grade III on Friday!

Final ice pitch of forked Gully RH

On Saturday we took the Gondola up Aonach Mor and headed to the West Face. The routes here are really long and wild with a remote feel to the mountain despite being so close to the ski areas. We picked Western Rib, (III), which at 500m was probably a bit ambitious for two rusty climbers. We took far too long and finished in the dark, and enjoyed our comeuppance in the form of a very long walk back down to the van. We did get a good look at the world cup downhill mountain bike trail. Its steep!!Top of the Nevis Range, Aonach Mor Ski runs at night....