Friday, 27 February 2015

Winter Navigation

The last couple of days I've been out with Edith, David, Joseph, Rebecca and Rachel from the Adventure Tourism Management Degree at West Highland College. I was running a Winter navigation course as part of their Winter workshops.
With strong winds and a high avalanche forecast we decided to stay pretty low yesterday and headed to the North side of Glencoe to look at some Winter navigation skills. We covered using timings, pacing in deep snow and aspect of slope. There was some really wild weather that blew in just after lunch and we got a taste of some real Winter weather! We also looked at techniques for dealing with whiteout conditions which were put to good use today!

Today we headed up Meall a Chaorainn from Lundavra on what started as a nice day. We recapped on some of the skills covered yesterday and as we got higher, some bad weather came in at very convenient time for us to practice our white out strategies!

Into the white room...!

A really enjoyable couple of days with some really keen young outdoor enthusiasts! Well done to everyone for a great performance, especially in some testing conditions!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Fresh snow on the Ben

After a lot of overnight snow the mountains were looking nice and white this morning. I met up with Jared and Tom who are both from the US but are living in Scotland for a few months. There was fresh snow down to about 300m this morning which gave the day a great Winter feeling from the start. A few teams had broke trail before us up until about corner 6 on the zig zags, from which I had to wade through some pretty deep powder onto the plateau and the summit. A very strong performance by Jared and Tom saw us at the summit in 3 hours 30 min even in the tough underfoot conditions. A speedy descent on the soft snow saw us back at the Ben Nevis Inn in just over 6 hours in total and some well earned food and drink! A top day with some top chaps!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Challenging weather on the Ben

Today was a chance for Juniper to put into practice some of the skills we'd looked at the past couple of days ( as well as climbing Ben Nevis!). Some icy rain at the car park this morning warned us it was going to be a testing day. We had a nice break in the weather until about Corner 3 on the  Zig Zags after which the wind and snow started. Yesterday's thaw had certainly stripped the snow back a bit but very quickly things were getting topped up by the new stuff! We made it to the summit in good time but the weather started to get pretty gnarly as we left with zero visibility at times in the spindrift. Still, Juniper soldiered on (with the help of a belay jacket!) and we eventually found the Zig Zags where we'd left them at corner 6.

Winter face!

 Great to have the comfort zone stretched a bit today in the conditions!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A bit of a catch up...

Last week I had a couple of superb days out with some of the first year ATM Degree students from West Highland College. Nathan, Cormac, Gregor and myself headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe for our mountain day, putting in practice some of the skills covered last week. The students were also looking at the day with a view to examining decision making and dynamic risk assessment. A good effort from the lads saw us making it to the peak of SCNL and even glimpsing the tiniest bit of blue sky! 

Some deer living life on the edge!

On Friday I was back out in Glencoe, this time with Richie and Alex. We headed up Buachaille Etive Beag and in whiteout conditions with a bit of wind, it felt like a very decent hill day. Well done to everyone for a really enjoyable couple of days with some good skills on show!

On Sunday I met up with Dan and his family. Dan previously climbed Ben Nevis with me last year on his third go (after the two windiest attempts I've had!)! He was keen to share the Scottish mountain experience with his family so we went to Glencoe, up the Devil's Staircase and along to Beinn Beag. Some pretty strong gusts gave everyone a proper mountain day but we all made it to the top still smiling and even had time for some fun in the snow on descent!

 Yesterday I was out with Juniper and Craig from the Cotswold Outdoor Fort William store. It's was Juniper's first time out in Scottish Winter so we had a couple of days planned before our attempt on Ben Nevis tomorrow. We walked into the CIC hut and found some great snow for some skills practice. We managed to cover ice axe arrest, self belay as well as step kicking and plenty cramponing.  Thanks to Craig for coming along and showing some support as well as bringing the Cliff bars for us to 'test'!!!
 With a bit of a wet forecast today, I decided to take the drive East in the hope of avoiding most of the rain. The plan worked and we stayed pretty dry for the day. Juniper has done lots of hiking in her native Singapore and around South East Asia but wanted to try and improve her navigation. Carn an Fhreiceadain was our hill of choice, a nice Corbett near Kingussie. Whilst in Summer it has a superb landrover track pretty much over the entire route, there was still plenty snow around today to test the skills. Lots of good opportunity for contour interpretation, timing and pacing.
Juniper and Juniper!

Tomorrow it's back up the Ben and with things turning colder again, it's looking nice and Wintry for the Fort William Mountain Festival. I'll be at the Carpe Diem stand in the exhibition hall some feel free to come along for a chat about this exciting project!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Inversion on Carn Mor Dearg

It's always great to have returning clients and yesterday and today I was out with James and Sarah.
 James came on a course with me a couple of years ago and was keen to get back out and also take Sarah along too. We started with a Winter Skills refresher on Aonach Mor yesterday and were lucky to find a nice sunny corner of the mountain to use.

 Today was our Mountain day and we were quite undecided as to where to go. With a low level of cloud and only the higher tops forecast to be clear, we decided to head up Carn Mor Dearg to bag Sarah's first Winter Munro!

 After the initial hard work, we soon realised we'd hit the jackpot.
There are many days when I wish I had a better camera with me, Today was one of those days but I had better as James and Sarah are both superb photographers. Check out James' website here. The pictures say it all really.. a truly memorable day!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Ben Nevis Winter Weekend

Yesterday David and I started the first day of his Ben Nevis Winter weekend. We headed up to Aonach Mor to make the most of the excellent snow conditions. In this brilliant Winter 'classroom', we covered step kicking, step cutting, ice axe arrest and cramponing. We also had a go digging some emergency shelters  which was rather hard going in some hard snow/ice!).

 Today it was time to put the skills to the test on the Ben. Some murky weather as we headed up but we also managed to get some great views of the blue sky just above our head. A great effort from David saw us up and down in just over 7 hours. Some very hard neve just at the top of the zig zags certainly tested the crampon skills. It felt pretty warm on the summit today with some water dripping from the ice on shelter.
Dave B was also out for us today with Virginia who also put in a sterling performance on the mountain.
Overall a great couple of days and thanks to David for being superb company on the hill.
Dave B and Virginia a little bit ahead of us

David 'enjoying' the Zig Zags!

Success at the summit!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Winter Skills on some Bluebird days!

Today and on Wednesday I was working with students on the Adventure Tourism Management Degree at West Highland College. We had a few aims- firstly to get the students some basic Winter Skills training but they were also interested in the different coaching styles we use for these sessions. We also covered a bit bout risk assessment in relation to the Winter mountain environment.
A really rewarding couple of days, thanks to Nathan, Cormac and Gregor on Wednesday and to Louise-Ann, Richie, Shannon and Tom for today. A great effort from everyone and a really high level of winter skills shown in such a short time on the hill- well done everyone!

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Also on the hill for us today were Steve and Hannah with a group from Sheffield University Mountaineering Club. Not a bad day to be out at all!