Saturday 5 March 2011

Outdoors Magic Winter skills week with Kendal mountaineering Services. Feb 26th - March 3rd 2011

Kendal Mountaineering Services has just finished yet another successful set of winter courses - run on behalf of Outdoors Magic.

This year we were markedly down on numbers compared with last year, but that seems to be the same story throughout the industry - a sign of the financial times we find ourselves in. Hopefully, eventually, things will come good again for everyone.

Anyway, Iain & five delegates started on Saturday with our 2 day winter skills course in Coire An T Sneachda in The Cairngorms. Here, we spent the day practising step kicking and cutting, self belay, moving up down & across steep snow slopes and as can be seen in photo one, ice axe arrest techniques.

Sunday found us back in Coire An T Sneachda where we firstly dug some snowholes and then following this we practised making snow anchors - bucket seats, buried axe anchors and bollards before linking them together to make a useful belaying system for climbing easy gullies and snow slopes and everyone got a chance to dynamically arrest a sliding fall using such a belay. In photo two, Mark was determined to try and dislodge Kelvin from his bucket seat - Kelvin would have non of it!

All of the pictures from the Winter Skills course can be viewed here

On Monday, we all headed off complete with maps & compassess for a two day nav excercise on the Cairngorm Plateau - carrying enough equipment for an overnight bivouac in a snow hole.

As can be seen in photo three, the weather was perfect - all we had was a light cool breeze but great visibility.

Shortly after this photo was taken, two of our party members made the decision to withdraw from the trip and we were very sorry to see them leave. The rest of the party rapidly made progress - not only with the map reading but also with covering terrain - the recent warm spell followed by a freeze had left the Cairngorm covered in a hard icy shell of neve which, for the most part, was very easy to walk on - unlike last year's knee deep power snow.

Shot four shows us heading into Coire Domhain - directly to where we snowholed in last year's OMWS2010 course.

In the distance can be seen Ben Macdhui (N Top) centre left and centre right Cairn Toul sticks up with Angel's Peak to its right. This time, we navigated way beyond Coire Domhain to a hanging corrie above Loch Etchachan where we dug our snowholes and were all comfortably esconsed by dark.

Tuesday dawned cold and clear and after an hour's walk up, the team had a fantastic view all around from Ben Macdui 1309M - the second highest summit in the UK. We returned via the path leading up from Coire An Lochain to Coire Cas - finishing at 3pm. Everyone was tired but well satisfied with what had been achieved over the two days and all had enjoyed the snowholing experience in particular. All of the pictures from this winter navigation & snowholing course can be viewed here.

After a chance to recuperate on the Tuesday afternoon, Mark & Gary - two of our OM delegates, were out again with Iain the next day. Mark wished to learn about winter climbing techniques as he is off to climb Everest very soon with a view to raising £30K for an Irish Charity. Good luck Mark!

Iain decided to take the pair climbing on Central Left Hand Route in Coire An T Sneachda (grade I/II). Gary had prior experience of rock climbing techniques but not of using them in a winter setting - it was all new to Mark however! Both did extremely well, although it was a steep learning curve for Mark who can be seen here in photo five belaying Gary who is about to climb the short ice pitch at the top of the 3rd pitch of Central Left Hand Route.

The pair thoroughly enjoyed the day and both claimed to have learned a lot of new skills. The rest of the photos from this day can be viewed here.

Being a glutton for punishment, Mark came out again with Iain on Thursday for another day of climbing - as it was 1 on 1 - a guiding day for Iain.

Iain felt that Invernookie (III'4) would be just the route for Mark who had climbed well the previous day. Thursday was very warm as we walked in to Sneachda with low cloud through which we could hear the local grouse chattering excitedly about the prospect of an early spring!

Invernookie was interesting as the route was thawing rapidly but fortunately the party in front of us left enough ice for us to follow although the many parties in the area were getting peppered by falling ice from all climbing parties above. In photo six Mark approaches Iain at the "cave belay" just above the crux pitch. He found the route challenging but thoroughly enjoyed it!

You may notice that the shiny new pair of Quarks he was using were, at no time during the climb, attched to him. Iain decided this was unacceptable and took him into Aviemore after the route to buy a pair of lanyards. After this winter Iain has gone leashless but no-one should be climbing un-attached to their tools - for their own safety -as well as that of others below.

After reaching the top of Invernookie, the pair scrambled up the remainder of Fiacaille Buttress
and then abbed the first part of the descent into Sneachda from a bollard. Mark had a great day out with us.

To find out about winter courses such as the ones described in this post with Kendal Mountaineering Services - contact us here.

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