Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Rock, snow and a promising start...

My efforts over the last few weeks have been spent preparing for my SPA assessment which I undertook last week with Pete Hill. We started with the climbing wall aspect on the Friday night at Grantown. Leaving the centre we were surprised by the 2 inches of snow that had fallen since we started the session! A rather chilly forecast saw us heading to Cummingston on the Saturday which focused on the personal climbing element

Alan holding Gareth as he jumped....eh...fell off!
Cold fingers aside, we managed to avoid the bad weather seemingly affecting everywhere else which was a bonus! The final day saw us looking at the group side of the SPA syllabus at Huntley's Cave, concentrating on group rigging, top and bottom roping, problem solving and abseiling sessions. Whilst always nerve-racking, I find the assessments a great experience and am always pleased to come through these having learned more than I knew before. Happy with a pass result, it was time to start getting the Winter head on, ready for the season which awaits...

Zig Zag number 2 under there somewhere!

I returned to Fort William, working for Abacus Mountaineering to guide Alex and his son, also Alex on Ben Nevis. We had snow down to about 650m and I found myself in the unusual position of trail breaking on the Tourist Track. As we gained height the snow became pretty deep and making out the Zig Zags under the snow became slightly more challenging. As so often happens in Winter, the blue sky day readily disappeared as we reached the summit plateau and the compass came out to avoid heading too close to the corniced edges of the North Face. The guys did really well considering the relatively tough going in the snow.

Looking west to Beinn Teallach before the weather turned

Back over to Beinn a' Choarainn as the weather improved!

Sunday I headed out for some preparation of my upcoming Winter ML assessment. I headed to new ground near Roy Bridge up Beinn a' Choarainn and Beinn Teallach for some nav practice and a workout. By about 800m up the first hill the cloud descended and I found myself in a full on white-out. Perfect for some navigation practice! Managing to avoid the edges on the East side of Beinn a' Choarainn I descended to the bealach between the 2 tops for some lunch. After a sociable lunch stop with some walkers I headed up to Beinn Teallach as the weather improved and back down to Roughburn. Slightly worrying was the approach by some other parties out of simply 'following the footprints' as a navigational strategy to get through the whiteout...

Yesterday I headed up Aonach Mor for a brief wander with Glenda. The snow was pretty soft and mushy even at 900m so we did a bit of nav in Corrie Dubh and headed down. Hopefully a freeze after this thaw today will start to improve climbing conditions a bit. Looking forward to the Winter season ahead...!