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.
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
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.
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.
We saw a couple of Red Grouse today but still failed to find them a Ptarmigan as they requested. There is always tomorrow.
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
The level did drop during the day so hoping for some more rain tonight.
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