At the end of January we had two groups of 4 people on our Basic Winter Hillwalking Skills days. On the Saturday we enjoyed clear skies and still, cold air, whereas Sunday presented us with a more typical Scottish day - windy with snow and rain moving over later in the day.
On Saturday we met with the guys at Grantown-on-Spey in the fine Ardenbeg Hostel and had an hours chat about gear, route planning and what to expect on the day. We then headed to the Northern Cairngorms and drove to the Coire na Ciste car-park. On foot, we aimed up the eastern shoulder above this coire, discussed navigation techniques, then headed onto the flat ground above Coire Laogh Mor overlooking Strath Nethy with fine views over to Ben Avon, Beinn a'Bhuird and Beinn Mheadhoin.
In perfect conditions, Jim talked and gave demonstrations to the guys of all the winter essentials of ice belays and self arrests. The guys had a great time sliding about and learning how to stop themselves. With the use of a well dug pit, Jim explained snow and ice formation and talked about avalanches before we headed back down into Coire na Ciste and back to the car-park as light faded, the guys now well versed in the use of crampons and ice-axe.
After dropping of the guys back at their base, Jim and I headed to Newtonmore to meet with our Sunday clients at the sumptuous Eagle View Guest house run by John and Moira.
On the Sunday, we had hoped to run with much the same format, however the weather had other ideas ! Today a strong wind was blowing from the south and funnelled through Coire na Ciste, so Jim took the group up the western side of the coire and quite quickly the guys were made familiar with moving on steep snow and ice covered ground before heading to around 900m to practice self belays and arrests. While the guys enjoyed lunch in a warm storm shelter, Jim and I prepared a snow pit while being blasted by the cold wind. We returned back down the eastern shoulder above Coire na Ciste, with the temperature dropping and weather deterioating - the day had been timed just right !
Some more photos are on our Flickr site and a video is on our YouTube Channel.