Saturday 7 December 2013

2 day Winter Navigation and Snowholing Courses in Scotland. Starting December 2013, ending April 30th 2014.

So what are your aspirations in the mountains this winter? Perhaps you might fancy a real adventure with a difference such as one of our 2 day Scottish Winter Navigation & Snowholing Courses.

These have traditionally been done in the Cairngorms - the last remaining vestige of the Arctic anywhere in the UK and the largest upland area above 914m (3000 feet) in the country. But if you would like to do yours elsewhere in the Scottish Highlands or even The Lake District - then give us a call.

To attend one of these courses, you will have already attended a Winter Skills Course and really, you should already possess a good level of map reading ability. This course is about transferring that map reading ability from walking on grass to snow where one minute you may be walking on top of a firm crust - and then next minute breaking through up to your knees! How do you pace in constantly changing walking conditions? The answer - with practice!

If you are lucky on our Scottish Navigation & Snowholing Courses, you may get conditions like the group in photo two here on their way to Coire Domhain in blazing sunshine with views to Ben Macdui and Cairn Toul or, you may have no view at all!

Whiteout conditions in the winter mountains can be completely disorientating when all you can see is cloud and driven snow in front of you and white snow below. Sometimes it is hard to see where the ground ends and the sky begins. In situations like these, you will need to have complete confidence in your map reading ability and your ability to walk accurately on a bearing and pace distance.

Our Navigation & Snowholing Courses require reasonably settled weather to be run and that is more important the higher you go. Our instructional team will have obtained the latest MWIS weather forecast and will discuss this with you and it's implications. Our aim is to give you a positive & safe experience at all times.

Our Scottish Winter Navigation & Snowholing courses will be run by qualified Winter Mountain Walking Leaders and Mountaineering Instructors who have a good knowledge of any areas where these courses are being run. We supply laminated maps for your convenience, you will need to provide your own equipment for walking in the mountains in Winter and for overnight snowholing.

At the end of day one we will aim to arrive at a snow holing site around about an hour before dark - this is just in case we have to construct our own snowholes. You will have with you a Winter Mountaineering Axe which you can use to dig although we will provide you with snow shovels for this task as well.

Ideally, our site will be on a steep bank of snow where one can dig straight in - and then up! This is the easiest way to make a snowhole - be careful not to break through the roof though!

An ideal snowhole will have it's entrance at the lowest point; and if possible, a shelf inside to sit and sleep on. Building a snowhole in this way allows the cold air to sink whilst you remain above.

So how comfortable is a snowhole? Most people probably think "Bloody freezing, terrible!" Well true - if you arrive with the wrong equipment you will probably have a cold & sleepless night - but we will make sure you do arrive with the right equipment! Take Kirstin in photo three for example - snug as a bug in our snowhole; inside a good quality down sleeping bag packed into a Goretex Bivvi Bag, sitting on a Thermarest for additional insulation and wearing a decent down jacket. So there you go - some clues already as to what you'll need if you want to spend a comfortable night in the Scottish Winter mountains and if you like the look of these courses already but haven't got the kit, then get it on your Christmas wishlist now!

People sometimes think that snowholing is a cold cramped affair in a very small space, but if we find a big enough bank of snow then it doesn't have to be.Take Kelvin here in this massive snowhole that he excavated with his partner for the night - plenty of room to eat, sleep and move around!

On this course you are advised to bring dehydrated meals and lots of high energy snacks. Mountain House make an excellent range of dehydrated breakfasts, main courses and deserts. Also, bring a stove that will work well in the cold and will not take up too much space on your pack. A Jetboil is advisable or a Primus Omnifuel and both are excellent stoves for Summer backpacking too!

So how can a snowhole possibly be a warm & comfortable place to spend a night? Well, surprisingly, snowpack contains a lot of airspaces and this provides the insulation from the cold air and wind which may be howling outside. And that is another thing - blocking up the entrance last thing before you go to sleep will stop any sound from the weather outside disturbing you as the snow insulates against sound too. Leave a small hole for airflow though, but provided you've got the right equipment a good nights sleep should be perfectly possible.

On an ideal Scottish Winter Navigation & Snowholing Course you'll wake up in the morning, refreshed and invigorated by the experience. Hopefully, we will have managed to snowhole high in the mountains and you'll awake to a perfect day as the team did in photo five here.

The report involving this course, done in 2011, can be found on our blog and you can view all of the photos taken throughout the two days. On this occasion, weather conditions were truly ideal.
On day two, we will aim to make our way back off the hill taking a route that will allow for further Navigation Skills Training opportunities to be delivered. No matter what your map reading & navigation ability is we will aim to improve your understanding & confidence and these courses are a great progression from a Scottish Winter Skills Training Course.

We are happy to work with groups & individuals so if you fancy having a real adventure in the mountains this winter then contact us for details of our winter courses here. Prices for our Winter Navigation & Snowholing Courses start at £150 per day for one or two persons but the price decreases per individual as group size increases. For example, the group in photo six paid only £50 per day for their Winter Navigation & Snowholing Course! Give us a call, we are happy to put together  a course for you and advise on the  equipment you will need for this. We look forward to working with you.

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