Thursday, 16 February 2017

Winter steps...

It's been a challenging first part of the winter for me. Just before Christmas, my previous back injury recurred putting me out of a action for a few weeks. Winter conditions have been slow to build up in the mountains with quite a few periods of thaw and never a huge amount of snow to build up a good base.

I had booked to do my MIC training at Glenmore Lodge during the last week in January but due to the complete lack of winter conditions, this was postponed until early February. Thankfully, everything seemed to come together at the right time, with cold temperatures, snow and a significant improvement in my back all happening at the same time.
I had a few days out testing my back, including an icy trip up a verglassed Tower Ridge, some soloing on the easy Nevis gullies and a grand day snatching a couple of ice routes on Aonach Mor while they were still there!

Icy Tower Gap but not very wintry!

Ascending No.4 Gully with WHC students

With winter returning, my MIC training course went ahead at the start of February. The course was run in an excellent manner, allowing us to really get the most out of each day. Our first day was a refresher looking at snow anchors and the difference between these in the context of Winter ML and MIC. We had a good bit of exfoliating spindrift to contend with but managed to get lots covered.

Next up was our mountaineering day and we headed to the Fiacaill Buttress and onto the ridge looking at short roping in winter. This was a great day and really emphasised the importance of good judgement and decision making (despite me losing my ice axe at the end of the day!).

We headed to Creag Coire Cha-No for the first of our climbing day and explored accessing the crags from above and climbing in series, with teaching points and progression all covered.

With a high avalanche hazard over West, our parallel climbing day saw us going on a mini-adventure to Lurcher's Crag. We descending South Gully and looked at changing the different rope systems from single/mountaineering styles to climbing in parallel on the harder sections. This was a grand day out and the crag had a superb sense of remoteness despite being easy enough to access.

On our final day we went to the Twin Rib area in Coire an-t Sneachda and covered accessing crags through the crag apron as well as changing over from different rope systems and some snow pack analysis.
Many thanks to Derek, Mark and Dave at the Lodge for running a superb training course and to fellow candidates Niels, Patrick and Ross for making it good fun too.

Back to work on Sunday, I was out with returning client Nikki and her son Olly for an outstanding day on Meall Cumhann followed by some scrambling and an abseil on Scimitar Ridge. A great day with great company- thanks guys!

Summit selfie with Nikki and Olly on a snowy Meall Cumhann (698m)

Abseiling on Scimitar Ridge

Monday saw me start my consolidation process towards my MIC assessment and I was out with Mac and Sam who had kindly offered to be my guinea pigs for a couple days. I have signed up to the AMI Mentoring Scheme to help me towards my MIC assessment and it was very useful to chat through plans and options with my mentor, Al Halewood.

With strong Easterly winds forecast, we headed to a new route for me, the Dragon's Tooth on the Ballachulish Horsehoe. This was the fist time I had done this route and it turned out to be a great wee day out with some nice easy climbing up the gully and some good grade I-II mountaineering on the ridge. We stayed reasonably sheltered from the winds too!

To up the challenge a little bit, on Tuesday we went to tackle the super classic Curved Ridge (II/III) on the Buachaille. Things were unsurprisingly busy on the route but we made steady progress and had some amazing views from the summit. The descent into Coire na Tulaich was well travelled and safe so we made good time back to the Glen. Thanks to Sam and Mac for being excellent company over the last few days.

After a quick stop at home I had the pleasure of delivering one of the Clachaig Winter Safety Lectures. Thanks to everyone who came along in support and to Ed at the Clachaig for asking me to present one of the lectures. Hopefully everyone found it useful and entertaining!