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Bespoke Winter Skills

20-21 February 2016
After a couple of grand days midweek, it was back to gales and rain low down, with wild snowy conditions over 500m in Lochaber this weekend. John was running our bespoke winter skills weekend for Helen and her 5 friends, and there had to be a Plan B after the obvious ride up the Aonach Mor gondola was cancelled due to the wind.

Winter skills, photo 1 We met at Martin's house, a fellow ML who had two clients too, and he kindly provided a room with a spectacular view of the Nevis range, where he held a briefing for the two groups on kit, route planning, avalanche awareness etc. It was then off for a tramp up from the North Face car park into Coire Leis, the gateway to the awesome North face of Ben Nevis. This would allow us access to some snow patches on which to practice skills, as well as give us relative shelter from the wind.

We had great fun learning how to deploy the various hardware, how to self-belay to prevent a slip becoming more serious, and finally how to arrest a fall if it did. It would be fair to say the folks found the conditions most wintery, and before long it was time to join the others groups doing the same on the descent, (along with many members of Lochaber MRT, who were out continuing the search for two missing climbers).

Winter skills, photo 2 Sunday was no more promising weather wise, and this time we joined up with Steven who was leading a group into the Loch Lochy hills, and specifically Sron a'Coire Gairbh. He was going for the summit, but with 40mph Westerly gusts and persistent snow, we were happy with our plan to find the first decent snow to continue our course. We found our goal around the 600m mark, just East of the bealach, and the guys were surprised that when I probed it with my avalanche pole, it was 2.5m deep! Despite one or two folks feeling cold in the harsh conditions initially, everyone joined in sliding forwards, backwards and even upside down, and demonstrating some great arrest techniques.

Before long it was time to descend, with the group having a pre-arranged meeting with some others, so off we went, often knee and thigh deep in the new snow. Steven's group caught us once we hit the forest trail on the way back to car at Kilfinnan, and we walked together along the new Great Glen Way. Another example of how one needs to plan, but be very flexible when walking in the Scottish highlands if you are going to get the best from your day!

More photos are up on Flickr !

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