Bronze DofE Training Day

Today I was out with staff and students of Haygrove School on the Quantock Hills for their first day of DofE Training. It was cold and dry so the students had a good time and made a few navigation errors so that they could learn from them.

Development Coach Training

Yesterday and today I was on the Mountain Training Development Coach Award Training at Aber Rocks with Paul Smith. Just the one picture I am afraid. Lots of coaching theory and practice covered.

Wild Winter Skills

Today I was again working for Peak Mountaineering on the first day of a Winter Skills course. It was wild on the hill so we found some snow only 400m from the ski centre carpark and looked at footwork, using an axe, crampons, ice axe arrest and avalanche awareness without fully exposing ourselves to the wind.

Almost went climbing

Today (on what turned out to be a blue sky low wind day) Olly and I walked into Corie An T'Sneachda to climb a route. On the walk in we looked the options and headed over to Mess of Pottage with a view to climbing Hidden Chimney. I did get as far as having my harness on and one crampon when Olly dived for one of my gloves that had travelled less than a metre for me and messed up his old knee injury. A rest did not improve it so we headed to the moraines for Olly to practice his emergency shelters and then hobbled (him not me) out back to the van.

Olly had bought some new axes and this was to be their maiden voyage and as he is back home tomorrow they will have to wait for next year

Skiing and Digging

Yesterday's weather stripped a lot of the snow back but there was still plenty for Olly and I to have a ski tour up the Fiacaill a Chorie Chais, over Cairngorm and then ski the full length down to the car using some of the pisted snow.

We then headed round to a patch of snow to work on Olly's snow anchors and ropework for when he takes his WML assessment.

Admin and Ski

Today with wild weather up in the hills I spent some time catching up on admin in the Active Cafe. Olly and I then snatched a few minutes outside at the Hayfield setting up my old skis for him to use tomorrow for our planned tour.

What a great day

On the third and final day of working for Peak Mountaineering. The clients Phil and Jasmin wanted to climb Cairngorm and get some views, so that is exactly what we did. Ascent via Fiaciall a Corie Chais and descent via a coffee in the summit station)

I still have spaces on my 2 Day Winter Skills/Guided Mountain this coming weekend.

Disclaimer: Not all Scottish Winter Days are like this but when they are, it is awesome.

Winter Skills Day 2

Back out on the hill today working for Peak Mountaineering. The clients and I headed into Corie An T'Sneachda to look at emergency procedures, steeper ground and navigation along with the ever present avalanche awareness. We even had a bit of "whiteout" time today which was great to practice navigation in.

We saw a couple of Red Grouse today but still failed to find them a Ptarmigan as they requested. There is always tomorrow.

Winter Skills Day 1

A great day out in The Cairngorms teaching a Winter Skills course for Peak Mountaineering. Today we looked at footwork, stopping a slip, ice axe arrest, avalanche awareness and general hill travel. We were lucky enough to see a couple of mountain hares during the day

Unlucky or Poor Decisions?

Today Stu and I triggered a slide on the West Face of Aonach Mor. Why? Here are my thoughts

Last night we looked at the SAIS forcast

This showed that the W/SW aspects were the least likely to be affected with a forecast of LOW

We chose to go to The West Face of Aonach Mor and climb a route called Golden Oldy (II). This would have put us on the lower risk side of the mountain. Winds were forecast as low speed Easterly and picking up during the afternoon. This of course would move snow over to the west during the day but hopefully later in the day.

Our plan was simple. Skin up to the summit of Anoach Mor, ditch skis, either down climb Downhill Gully (1) or walk round to the Aonach Mor/Aonach Beag beleach and approach the routes from there. These would mean we did not have to carry skis and they would be at the top for our descent.

During our planning phase we had considered the weather, the party (2 competent mountaineers) and the terrain

During the travel phase we had maybe not picked up as much information about the snow as we could have, maybe because we were on skis and this does reduce the feedback from your feet. Also we skinned up a piste so this again has impacted on the snow feel.

Our first key decision point was the summit of Aonach Mor at 1221m. We were aware of the slightly stronger than forecast Easterly winds and the lack of visibility at the top meant we chose to head to the bealach as we could not see the top of Downhill Gully and we were concerned about the snow accumulations in the top of the gully

At the bealach we turned west and started to head down into the Alt Daim. I stopped as suddenly I felt something in the snow that I didn't like. Stu took one more step (with a planted axe) and a crack propagated around 15m from his foot and the whole area slid away below him (he was fine). The depth of the slide was only 3-4 inches but at 10-15m wide this could have easily taken one of us with it. It went about 60m before going out of sight.

We needed no discussion or debate and walked back to the bealach and back to our skis. The day got worse when I broke the top buckle on my ski boot which made the descent interesting. 

The slide has been reported via the SAIS website and I will be thinking over the next few days whether there was a flaw in our decision making or we were just unlucky.

For those that don't know, here is the latest aid to Avalanche Awareness

Great day on Craig Meagaidh

Today I joined Jez, Mike and Oreo (the spaniel) on a nice walk up to the summit of Craig Meagaidh.Although the weather was not quite as good as forecast it was good to be back up in Scotland and out on the hills without being blown over or rained on

Back on The Barle

A quick high water blast from Dulverton down to The Anchor Inn at Exebridge. Medium flows made for a quick journey with the main play spots washed out.

Open Boat on The Barle

Today I paddled the Upper Barle (Withypool to Tarr Steps) as the water levels were high enough to make this a worthwhile run. I have not paddled this section for a long time so it was nice to be back on it. It was a mixed group with me in the Open Canoe, Will in the OC1 and Mike and Leon in Kayaks.

The level did drop during the day so hoping for some more rain tonight.

Canoe on The Dart

Back down in the South West for a week before I head back upto Scotland. Today I was on the Lower Dart in the Open Boat being a Guinea Pig for a MWE Course run by Inspiring Adventure. As always, with Gary running the show a lot was learnt and a fun day had by all. Water levels were a bit low but the rain due over night should sort that out