Thursday 6 April 2017

Scrambling Skills Training Courses in Scotland. Glen Coe. Tuesday 28th March 2017.

On day two of what should have been a Winter Skills Training Course for the Cambridge University Hill-walking Club, Iain found himself being asked if it were possible to change from the Navigation Skills Training Course we had provided the group as an alternative; and would it be possible for some of the group to go and do some Scrambling Skills Training instead?

This was of course possible as Iain is a Mountaineering Instructor; and part of his remit is guiding & coaching Scrambling Skills. However, this should be done with a maximum of no more than three persons per MIA/MIC. As at least half of the group wanted to do this, Matt - the club president got all of those keen to "draw straws" and as it happened, three of Iain's group from the previous day drew the longest straws!

Left to right sees Alex, Jilles and Prab on the footpath en route to our Scrambling Skills Training Venue for the day which can be seen in the background in photo one. We were heading for the left hand side of Gearr Aonach where The Zig-zags make a popular scrambling route in Summer and a mountaineering route in Winter. Iain has been here with clients quite a few times in the past!

We got up to the foot of the nose of Gearr Aonach and Iain got everyone roped up so that we could go and practice "short roping" skills. Basically, if a slip could possibly turn into something more serious such as a fall, then the climbing rope should be deployed.

Short roping involves a leader who carries most of the climbing rope as "locked off" chest coils. This leader is also attached to the others (in this case the three guys as in photo two) and uses various belaying techniques with the rope to prevent any slips turning into something more serious. The rope should be tight between the leader and seconds whenever there is any scrambling taking place to prevent a slip. Iain took the three on a scrambling tour up the lower eastern side of Gearr Aonach where we could look at how short roping works; and how & where to apply the different types of belaying techniques available to the aspiring scrambler.

After spending the morning demonstrating short roping and belaying, it was time to coach Alex, Jilles & Prab in the techniques of scrambling.

Firstly, Iain got them all to tie on to the rope - both as seconds and as leaders, then, as it was already early afternoon, it was time to go and put all of the skills input to good use on a scramble.

Whilst we had all been having lunch, Iain had been studying the north face of Gearr Aonach and thought he could see a "scrambling line" that "would go" that is to say - a route that the lads could follow that would allow for variation in the application of belaying techniques whilst remaining safe. This route would also bring us out at the point on The Zig zags where the route changes from heading north to heading back south again - jut below the route's most interesting and technically demanding pitch.

The plan worked well; Ian put Alex in charge of looking after Jilles & Prab - guiding them up this scrambling route using all manner of belaying techniques such as the direct (Italian Hitch) belay seen being used in photo three.

We reached the change in direction on The Zig-zags after about an hour of scrambling during which Alex had used a range of appropriate techniques from moving together to "pitching" using a combination of body and direct belays where indicated by Iain.

Moving up the steepest part of The Zig-zags allowed Alex to bring the pair up to his stance before lowering them back down the pitch and then rejoining them by way of a counterbalanced abseil retreat to maintain his own safety.

We then headed off back down The Zig-zags (photo four) with Alex short roping Jilles & Prab - leading on ahead, whilst he applied appropriate belaying techniques as the three descended back towards the foot of the route.

All three lads thoroughly enjoyed their Scrambling Skills Training Course in Glen Coe with Iain who hopes that they continue to get out as a three practising what he showed then here today....of course they can always return to The Lake District in July for a refresher if they wish!

Scrambling takes you on to more exhilarating terrain in the mountains - enjoying a good scramble is so much better than merely using a footpath to gain a summit. If you are interested in learning all about Scrambling Skills..whether it be in Scotland, The Lake District; or North Wales, then contact us to book your training course. Prices start at just £80 per person per day and this fee includes the provision of ropes, scrambling rack, helmets & harnesses as well as coaching by an experienced & qualified Mountaineering Instructor. You won't be disappointed! 

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