Our blog - Winter Skills, 24-25 Feb'18

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

Winter Skills in the Cairngorms

24-25 February 2018
Winter skills in the Cairngorms, Feb'18. Richard Kermode was leading....

Day 1

I met up with Mhairi, Carwyn, Chris and Paul in Rothiemurchus on a cool clear morning for a winter skills course. The forecast was for strong winds and otherwise good weather so after a wee intro to winter walking, planning, avalanche forecasts and fitting the crampons we headed out from the ski centre.

It was definitely windy and the ground was frozen solid with icy hard neve in every direction. Most of the day would be about staying warm and using crampons and ice axe effectively.

We were soon wearing the crampons to make any progress on the icy snow and tackled a variety of different terrain challenges and techniques to deal with them. The conditions were certainly challenging and we were walking through the scenic northern corries spotting some mountain hares along the way before finding a relatively sheltered location fro some lunch.

Finding a slope to slide on wasn’t difficult, but finding one that wasn’t too fast with a dangerous runout was! On a good bank snow we took of the crampons and went through the basics of ice axe use with self belays to stop a slip becoming a fall and step cutting before doing some ice axe arrests. They were carried out on a gentle slope otherwise the speed and axe breaking would have been too serious to be considered an introduction anymore.

It proved a good session and we had some more food and drink before donning the crampons again and setting off back to the car park with a strong winds and windblown snow still prevailing along the icy track.

Day 2

The second day was all about planning a journey and successfully making decisions about winter kit and route choice along the way. We put the crampons on at the carpark and set off allowing us to head straight up Fiacaill a’Choire Cas along with numerous others heading for the Cairngorm Plateau. It was a lovely day with lighter winds and plenty of sunshine though it was still a very cold wind.

We discussed route choice through the terrain ahead of us as well as when we would take out our ice axes on the climb not to mention observing others and the cloud plastered to the plateau albeit a think veil. The climb took us onto some great snow for crampons with solid water ice, extremely hard icy snow and some slightly softer snow so we looked at several ways to deal with these along with the ice axes to make life easier and safer.

The plateau was much colder when we arrived with cloud advancing and intermittently obscuring the view of Cairngorm. We put on some extra layers and planned our navigation to the summit enjoying the winter conditions all the way to a relative bit of shelter behind the weather station for some more lunch.

Our next stop was the Ptarmigan restaurant for some hot drinks and to talk through any questions the group had regarding everything we had covered before enjoying a gorgeous walk back down windy ridge in the sunshine to complete and enjoyable winter skills course!

More photos by Richard Kermode are here on Flickr.

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