Friday, 29 December 2017

A wild winter's day-Winter Hillwalking skills day 3

For Emily's last day out with me we planned to look again at some specific skills. After yesterday's efforts a shorter day was called for, and we headed into Coire an t Sneachda. We looked at building emergency snow shelters, and had a go with the Bothy Bag---these can be lifesavers in winter.  The weather was wilder than forecast with strong SE winds funnelling over the Cairngorm plateau; lots of new snow being deposited, with windslab forming readily. Plenty of spooky "shooting cracks" too, so check the avalanche forecast carefully and remain aware of which aspect and what gradient of slope you're heading onto!

Poor visibility requires careful navigation

Windslab and shooting cracks

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Glorious in Glen Feshie--Day 2 Winter Hillwalking Skills

For Day 2 of 3 with Emily, we went for a bit more of a journey, doing a lovely circuit of Sgorr Gaoith, a Munro above Glen Feshie, on the western side of the Cairngorms. Today we focussed on navigation whilst we were journeying, with Emily taking us from point to point using map and compass. We looked particularly at the importance of having a system to use for each and every leg, so you can be confident of how far  you have come on your compass bearing, and what to expect from the ground underfoot. On the way down from the cloudy summits we were treated to some of what Scotland does best, that magical winter light that is simply breathtaking. A brilliant day out!


A holiday snap for Emily

Hard work but fun

Looking across Gleann Einich to Braeriach

Cornices---not a place to get your navigation wrong!

Starting the descent

Summit selfie

Beautiful light

Heading down

Last of the day's light--a great day

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Winter Hillwalking Skills-Day One

Emily was out with me today for the first of three days, aiming to learn and consolidate winter skills. She is over from Australia for a short holiday and keen to make the most of her time. Winter has made a welcome return to the Highlands with plenty of snow. We started with a discussion of how to interpret weather forecasts and avalanche forecasts then it was straight onto the hill. We covered footwork and use of the winter boot, kicking steps etc before looking at the ice axe as a tool for security and to stop a slip. We found some hard snow on the side of the Fiacall a Choire Chais which allowed us to do some crampon work up onto the ridge. We finished the day with a look at how to use avalanche safety equipment; transceiver, shovel and probe to effect a companion rescue. With just 30 minutes of training Emily was already looking competent----being also keen on backcountry/off-piste skiing these will be really important skills for her.

First time on crampons--great fun

Friday, 22 December 2017

A good start to winter

The first three weeks of December brought some very cold and very snowy weather. Following on from my day out ski touring I have managed two further days out, one climbing and one on skis, but both in the Northern Cairngroms. Both days of contrast, the climbing day was bitterly cold as we climbed Hidden Chimney (III), the skiing day brought spring like weather and snow that was a real joy. Unfortunately we have had a major thaw since then, and whilst there is some snow hanging on, it is a tiny fraction of what we had just a week ago. Oh well, it's early days in the winter yet.........

A COLD day on Hidden Chimney
Short days mean early starts in December, but worth it.

The snow just starting to soften.... us some great turns

Friday, 15 December 2017

Ski touring Strathfarrar

We've had a great start to winter this season, with lots of snow. I was keen to make the most of the low snowline today and get out on the skis. We plumped for the shapely hill of Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard. This hill lies at the foot of Strathfarrar, in the NW Highlands. We were able to put skins on from the road and had a lovely day weaving our way round the hills. There was the usual mix of Scottish snow conditions, some great, some not (!). The Scottish Avalanche Information Service started issuing forecasts as of today so make sure to include it in your planning process.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Altitude Medicine

Last weekend I attended the AGM and Conference of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML). It was good to meet up with old friends and new, and see a large collection of experienced, professional fellow International Mountain Leaders. Lots of Continuing Professional Development workshops were on offer, and I was pleased to assist Dr Jon Dallimore  (also an IML and doctor!) with a workshop on high altitude medicine and cold injuries. We had a real mixture of experience in the group, from those who had never been higher than the European Alps (fair enough, they are amazing!), to IMLs that had summited 8000m peaks. We had a good division of practical and theoretical sessions, including how to use a Gamow bag---these are increasingly taken by groups trekking and mountaineering to high altitiudes, and provide an extra tool for temporary emergency treatment of the serious forms of high altitude disease in particular: High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPE).