Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Change of season...change of plan...

I'm supposed to be on my Winter Mountain Leader Assesment this week.  Right now I should be descending to the minibus, somewhere in the Cairngorms,  after a long mountain journey day putting all the elements I've been training for in to practice.  I'd probably be mulling over packing my rucksack this evening for a 3 day expedition, when my skills as a winter leader would be put to their biggest test yet.
Not this week.
I arrived at Glenmore Lodge on Sunday night, and was warned straight away that conditions were looking sketchy for the assessment. The recent thaw has been brutal, and the forecast was unfolding in to an unseasonably mild week. It was an agonising night- for candidates and no doubt assessors too, as they wrestled with weather forecasts, diminishing options, and a need to uphold the integrity of the award. In the end the sad news was broken to us after breakfast. There could be no Winter ML assessment taking place at Glenmore Lodge this week. I think everyone, including the assessors, was pretty devastated by the decision, but I believe it to have been the best one they could make. To reach the end of the assessment and be deferred because they had not seen enough of us in full winter conditions would be an even worse fate. Passing us without testing us properly is not an option.

We were offered a day of coaching with Alan Halewood, an MIC who delivers a lot of the winter programme at the Lodge, and the opportunity to transfer to next year. Four of us spent a very valuable day with Alan in Coire an Lochain looking at skills progression and polishing the tools in our steep ground tool box until they were much, much shinier.  We got some great feedback (none of us produced any howlers) and we all went away having learned something and improved our skills. I should feel completely deflated after all of this, but in fact I'm totally psyched for a summer on rock and in my kayak, and then back in to the gnarl as soon as the first snows of winter arrive.  I'm looking forward to it already!

Dry warm rock in Lochain- the rock climbing season has begun. 

Some old icebergs still bobbing around in the lochain. 

Buckets, buried axes and steep ground. 

 "South African" style abseil over an overhang.  Ouch!!

Alan Halewood has also put some nice pictures from our day in Lochain on his blog: http://alanhalewood.blogspot.com/2012/03/disappointment.html

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