Wednesday 20 January 2016

Alpine winter

Back home to snowy Scotland after 10 days away in the French Alps. The first week was taken up with the winter training course for the International Mountain Leader (IML) award, delivered by IML and IFMGA guide staff from Plas y Brenin. We covered lots including client care in winter, snowpack assessment, avalanche rescue, terrain choice as well as the winter environment. Really useful course, and I am looking forward to taking the winter assessment next year, which is the last step in the training scheme. After the course we stayed on for several days and enjoyed some great snowshoeing in the wider Aravis mountains, and researched local culture (food and wine!). One particularly interesting day was spent doing a circuit of and above the Plateau des Glieres......this is a fascinating area historically as it was here that the local Resistance (Maquis de Glieres) hid from the combined might of the German army and Vichy France. It was even chosen as a site for air dropping supplies by the RAF. Quite rightly it is an important site for France, and there is a definite atmosphere about the place. A fabulous restaurant there too! Lots of new snow in the Alps---a winter wonderland, and cold at -10 deg C at different from Scotland at the moment then!

Hard work in deep powder

As cold as it looks.....

IML Journey

The soft light of early evening

My turn out front

Practising a multiple burial avalanche scenario

Above the Plateau des Glieres


Winter wonderland

Working our way through the trees

Local Savoie culture!

Monday 4 January 2016

Lonely Monadhliath

Today was still a Public Holiday north of the border. You wouldn't have known it---once away from the car area we saw nobody all day. Plenty of deer, hare and ptarmigan though. To be fair, a cursory glance at the weather forecast this morning may have made even the determined roll over for another 40 winks.....gale force winds, 0% chance of cloud-free Munros, and blizzards. Hmmm. Deeper in the forecast was some more detail though---that the hills west of the A9 such as the Monadhliath would remain predominantly dry with higher cloud bases. And so it faired...thank you MWIS! Even the wind wasn't much of a problem. We climbed Carn Dearg 945m from Glen Banchor above Newtonmore. We biked up the glen and then up the track alongside the Allt Fionndrigh before switching to walking mode to head over into Gleann Ballach and thus onto the summit. We weren't expecting much snow, and there was none to be had until around the 800m mark, when there were fairly hefty patches of mostly old snow, requiring some step-kicking. A late start meant we were chasing the gloaming as we wheeled easily back to the car. A great day out!

Biking up
Up the glen

Some tramping

Taking a breather

At the snowline

Spot the ptarmigan?

Booting up

Moody view across to Lochaber