Our blog - Winter Skills, 20-21 Jan'18

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Winter Skills in the Cairngorms

20-21 January 2018
Two days of winter skills based in the Cairngorms. Richard Kermode was leading....

Day 1

The winter conditions were looking good as I met up with Carol, Suzanne, Harsh, Neil, Maciek and Andrew for a weekend winter skills course in the Cairngorms. We had a wee intro to winter clothing whilst fitting the crampons with the help of Steven who arrived with the equipment along with John who was shadowing the course and working with me.

It wasn't long before we were driving up to the ski centre to get out into the snow! The carparks were extremely busy with the good weather forecast and all the snow coinciding for a change and we were not the only skills group by any stretch of the imagination.

After a quick check on clothing and equipment we ran through the avalanche forecast before setting off from the mist car park into some lovely deep snow and beginning the course with footwork and tactics if you're in a group. We soon worked our way up to some steeper slopes and introduced the ice axe slowly building up from self belays to stop a slip becoming a fall to a full ice axe arrest from various scenarios. Unfortunately the more we were sliding around the snow began to thaw a little and would no longer support our weights so we had to move on after having our lunch in the sunshine.

We made for a notch in the rocks on the ridge and found some excellent hard neve and spent the rest of the day looking at kicking steps and crampon skills. It was a good session and everyone was soon feeling much more confident moving about on the hard icy snow. The light began to fade and we headed back to the carpark in no time plunging though the deep snow all the way back down.

Day 2

Our second day the forecast was going to deteriorate with strengthening winds on the cards and snow coming in with it in the afternoon. We decided to go for a traverse of Meall a'Buachaille for our mountain journey hoping to practice some of the new skills from yesterday. It was soon apparent we weren't the only people with this ideas as we met snowshoers, ski tourers, runners, walkers and other skills groups! As we were discussing the way plans must be flexible in winter we actually changed our plan and were heading in a different direction hoping to reach the high point before the weather came in.

Crampons were the order of the day and we used them on the harder snow on the path and then looked at them in deeper snow to see how they become a hindrance and then again as we summited we put them on in gales and lots of windblown snow and ice. It was really wild and the plan changed again to retrace our steps and armed with our ice axes and crampons we soon made our way down thankful that we all had snow goggles to protect our eyes from the blasting wind and snow. We found some shelter for a spot of lunch before discussing the observations of the different snow that we had walked on with our crampons before heading back to the car park a little early due to the weather for a chat and a coffee in the cafe. It was a good weekend and as we parted ways the snow was falling heavily again!

More photos by Richard Kermode are here on Flickr.

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