Consolation winter day [WML Training Day 6]

Last glimpse of the Northern Corries from Glenmore Lodge

So that’s the end of the course, and winter, it seems, in Scotland, although today was the first nice day since Sunday.

The freezing level dropped overnight and was hovering around 800m today in the Northern Corries. Midway through the morning the cloud broke and cleared the tops, leaving great views over to Cairngorm and north.

We were in Coire an t’ Sneachda covering our steep ground journey day. We ended up on 0.5 Gully (not to be confused with the namesake on Ben Nevis, but simply because it is not quite Grade I ground) and put into context all we had learned about movement, crampons and ice axe, as well as simulating an exit from a gully with a bucket seat. We descended via the Goat Track, which is extremely thin and icing up, not that it will last.

The view into Coire an Lochain. N.B. The 'eagle' of snow on the right of the coire!

Overall, it has been a great week. A good team has helped to keep morale and enthusiasm high, and although we have not experienced the most wintry conditions, it has given me a good insight into the dynamics of being a winter mountain leader.

My potential timescale for assessment was next winter, which was similar to my reckoning, so I am eager to consolidate and, as ever, nail the navigation!

Winter out of the window [WML Training Day 5]

Looking into a wet Coire an Lochain. N.B. old avalanche debris on the lochan in the background

After the expedition phase of the last few days, it was nice to get out again, but dismaying to see how fast winter is retreating. Seeing photos from even a week ago reinforces just how rapid and damaging the recent thaw has been.

Even so, there is hope of some colder weather tomorrow, and never say never with Scottish winter, I suppose. On the other hand, you might not want to look at the synoptic charts beyond then…

Anyway, we managed to find some snow in the Twin Burns area of Coire an Lochain for bucket seats, buried axe belays, snow bollards and confidence roping.

There were a couple of highlights from the day: past avalanche activity could clearly be seen on the upper lochan, with the different colours between water ice and snow. We also used a snow slump on the left of the Twin Burns to practise lowering, which was handy.

Summer Conditions [WML Training Day 2-4]

Looking into the Northern Corries from Glenmore Lodge

With the prospect of ever warmer and wetter conditions, we began our expedition phase of the training at Glenmore Lodge yesterday. No report and no photos from Monday as it was just minging.

The Cairngorms are a sorry looking place currently, with reports coming in fr0m many sources of almost no complete lines, even gullies. I can concur with this. We were navigating and operating in what were really akin to summer ML conditions.

However, it was a good chance to hone navigation skills and techniques and continue to build on the teaching we had already received on group management, avalanche awareness and movement. We also managed to dig three snowholes in Coire Raibeirt between us and the instructors which mostly survived the night!

Hopefully we will be able to find some sort of snow patches tomorrow and Friday for ropework…

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