Sunday, 11 January 2015

Winter skills, Jan'15

We had organised a weekend of winter hiking skills in mid-January. Designed for summer walkers who are keen to aim onto the Scottish hills in winter with us, Richard was the team's guide for the event. Here's his take on the weekend.... 

The weather leading up to the weekend was mild and windy, we were worried about not having enough snow or ice for the event ! We all met and in our 'classroom' situation for an hour or so, we discussed various topics before preparing our gear for time outdoors. The weather forecast for the weekend was ferocious and extremely discouraging, so we chose our locations carefully. On the first day of our course we made our way up onto some relatively sheltered slopes near Geal Charn Mor above Aviemore. It was wild and there was a lot of wind-blown snow lying around, we also had heavy falling snow for most of the day. But we found a good location with reasonable slope to introduce foot work and safe travel in the winter hills before progressing through the uses of ice axe and arresting a fall. It was challenging and after a brief foray up higher into much stronger winds we retreated to warmth and shelter for the day, returning to Aviemore as darkness fell.

Day two was less windy though the threat of heavy driving wins and rain in the afternoon sped us along as we headed into the Cairngorms to find some ground to use our crampons on. After a surprise encounter with the Reindeer herd we broke trail through deep drifting fresh snow looking at teamwork for making more efficient progress through the tiring snow. We struck gold and hit our sheltered destination which had all kinds of slopes suitable for an introduction to crampons and soon were moving about all over the place with confidence. Into the afternoon, weather began coming in quickly and temperatures climbed, so we headed back through some unpleasant rain. Back in Aviemore we congregated at the Active Cafaidh for some warming refreshment and a we chat about the course and how folk felt. All in all a great wee course in testing conditions!

More photos are on our Flickr photo-sharing site.