Tuesday 9 October 2018

RUM ML ASSESSMENT September 2018 - Day 2

After a late night of navigation we had a more restful day. The forecast was for strong winds and heavy rain to arrive by lunch time. It made it's appearance somewhat earlier!

Today was Ropework, Leader's Rucksack, Route choice, Home Papers.

We had hoped to get the Ropework done before the weather arrived. Intentions are great! Steve, Charlie and Graham headed up into Coire Dubh with the groups to suitable locations for belays, confidence roping and ropework. It was then a quick dash back down the path to the shelter of the Village Community Centre and CAKE!

The afternoon was spent completing route choice exercise and talking the assessors through them, and looking at Leader's Rucksacks and Home Papers as well as drinking copious amounts of tea and coffee and eating cake.

Then the candidates had the evening to themselves. Most opted to head back down to the Community Centre to listen to a talk on the Wildlife of Rum by Trudi, the Countryside Ranger for Rum. (useful for the 5 minute talks ;-) .

We were due for an relatively early start on the Expedition the following morning to try to beat the next band of extra bad weather which was heading our way so the assessors all had an early night!

Saturday 6 October 2018



The popularity of our unique Mountain Leader Assessment on the Isle of Rum is growing. This is now the fifth assessment that we have run there and this time we had 10 keen, if a little nervous candidates.

Rum is an incredible place with a unique flora and fauna as well as history. It has a large Manx Shearwater colony high up on the Rum Cuillin Ridge which in turn has changed the ecology of the soils. It has Golden and Sea Eagles (which normally give us some sort of display when we are on the island) as well as the Skye Bog (Sphagnum) Moss.

It was owned by Lancashire Industrialists, the Bulloughs, who treated it as their play island with a zoo, tracks for racing cars, and a folly castle. It was then gifted to the Scottish Natural Heritage until bought out by the local community.


We met the group as ever at the Mission Café in Mallaig at 8 am for an early breakfast and to give people a chance to buy their ferry tickets (these cannot be bought online in advance). Sadly the larger ferry was in dock for repairs so we had the smaller, slower one meaning no buffet car or coffees.
   The ferry sails to Rum via Eigg which gives great views.

We arrived around 12.45 so to speed things up we loaded up the lorry for £1 each to save us having to carry several lots of heavy bags to the campsite and accommodation in Kinloch.(the capital of Rum).  Then there was a quick turnaround to unpack/ settle into accommodation, pitch tents and eat lunch before heading out onto the hill for a Mountain day and Night Navigation.

People decided who they wanted to be with for the week and then Charlie, Graham and I took a group each.

So it was a then a quick walk up the path into Coire Dubh finding various navigation features on the way. We headed up onto the ridge for Hallival which then gave us some steep ground and scrambling so candidates could show their spotting skills and route choice through steep ground. Because of the time, we realised that we were not going to manage to climb Askival as well so we also spent some time on the environment and you can see we found some juniper as well as quite a few other arctic alpines.  (Last time we also found Stone Bramble but I couldn't find any this time)

 The weather decided to close in once we were on the ridge with mirk and drizzle and what was to become quite a feature of the week; strong winds!

Fortunately the rain didn't stay too long so having summitted Hallival we descended the scrambles before it went too dark and had our tea to let the night arrive ready for the night navigation.

The area below Barkeval and Hallival is excellent for night navigation with lots of decent features to see. The Manx Shearwater also decided to come out of hiding for some of the groups although sadly not for my group. (We did however see a long eared grey mouse which are unique to Rum!)

Each candidate was given two legs each to navigate while the others also had to follow and relocate (i.e. work out where they were when they arrived at the feature)

After around 3 hours of wandering purposely around in the dark it was time to head back to camp. We were back in Kinloch by 00.30 (a much earlier night than when you do ML Assessments in June or May! An early night, relatively speaking!!

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Autumn into Winter

It's been  very full Summer and Autumn with  trip to Scotland to run an ML Assessment on the Isle of Rum and then holiday time, Mountain First Aid in Bavaria for JSMTC and more MLs and First Aid courses. 

When we returned to Wales we hit the ground running with 6 First aid courses, followed by one in Leeds,  trip working in Iceland, an ML Assessment in the Lakes, two Mountain First aid courses for the Military and then two days of Geography Fieldwork for Oswestry School. 

Saturday 4 March 2017


Our Winterskills courses are becoming more popular with 7 people signing up to this year's events.

We based ourselves in the Cairngorms as being the most reliable area for snow (although it was a nail-bitingly close call with the snow arriving the day before the clients!)
In fact on the Friday we were reccying the decent snow patches on the Cairngorm plateau having watched the snow disappear the week beforehand!

Day One saw us heading up to Coire Mer  via the Coire Cas ski areas where snow was accumulating in the driving wind. It was a good chance for people to get used to walking on crampons in a safe environment and slope.                                            
We were able to practice using ice axes to cut steps and look at some impressive snow holes that ML groups had dug. We also bumped into several Mountain Rescue Teams training in  the area including our own, Llanberis MRT and Northumberland and Killin. Everyone was converging on what was one of the best accumulation areas for snow.

Day Two saw us heading into Coire Cas for some unexpected persistent snow (definitely not forecast as can happen in mountain environments). Again we were able to do further practice walking in crampons and cut stepping. We also looked at the Avalanche risk and how it was developing due to wind driven snow. There was time for a little play at ice axe arrests but the slopes which were safe (non-avalanche slopes) were not quite steep enough so we had to improvise.

The weather came in unexpectedly with persistent heavy snow around lunch time so we hunkered down in the group shelter for lunch before heading to the summit of Cairngorm. On the way down we played with the avalanche transceivers and did some small searches.

heading up the ski slopes in search of decent snow
Day 3 was wild; even the Lake District Mountain Rescue dogs headed down to the forests for search training and hardly surprisingly there were not many vehicles in the top car park bar ourselves and an RAF Mountain Rescue team. Valuable lessons were learned in how hard it is to navigate in strong winds, and how exhausting and debilitating strong winds are. (and how puny we are in comparison). At times we experienced full on white out which was a useful experience for everyone. A challenging but rewarding day.

The day before and brown hills. Where's all the snow?!

Luxury accommodation inside (not dug by us; probably by a Winter ML group

Step cutting; steeper slopes without crampons

Time to get the crampons on

Definitely white hills now!

Cluanie enjoying the snow.

The snow arrived

Practising ice axe arrests in case of a slip

some of the group enjoying better weather

Unexpected (unforecast) persistent snow on Day 2

Heading for the summit of Cairngorm

The Summit photo

taking respite in the Ptarmigan

A wild and windy day with gale force winds

We survived!

Thursday 9 February 2017

Winter Fun

Steve and I have just returned from a two week slot in Scotland. Some was personal training and pleasure and some was working (still pleasurable!)

We got some really decent Scottish winter conditions and several decent Mountain days in. The snow arrived at just the right time for us and our first day out was up Ben Tee, a delightful Corbett just north of the Great Glen.

We then headed across to the Cairngorms for the Mountain Training Winter CPD based at Glenmore Lodge.

After that we had several days to ourselves so we climbed Corriehabbie Hill by Morton's Way (very apt for me); a long walk from the east but with easy gradients, but as you can see the choice of walking was pretty much deep snow on tracks or deep heather.

We also climbed a Graham and a Corbett., Leana Mhor and Ben Iaruinn in Glen Roy, famous for the Parallel Roads of which there are three. These are different height lake shores. A glacier blocked the exit into Glen Spean and the melting ice from Glen Roy was damned back. The lines you can see are the former lake shores as different lake levels drained or overflowed. You can read up on it on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.


This day felt truly Scottish Winter with strong gusts of wind knocking me off my feet several times which meant gusts in excess of 50 mph, and redistribution of snow as spindrift. Never underestimate Corbett days. Although the mountains are smaller than Munros, the walk ins can be longer and often there are no paths or what paths exist can be indistinct which makes for hard going.
Mortons Way, Corriehabbie Hill

Thursday 24 November 2016

Play time in the snow.

At last some play time!

The sun is out and so is the snow (although quite a lot has melted already with temperatures above freezing to atleast 700 m today).

We decided to go out and blow the cobwebs away and they were definitely blown away by the winds which were blasting at 30 mph plus.

We headed up Carnedd y Filiast and onto Mynydd Perfedd for stunning views. We had intended to carry on to Elidir Fawr but decided with the strength of the winds and gusting, it would be nightmarish on the large boulders so we retraced our steps.
 There was significant drifting in places behind the walls and the beginning of cornice build up could be seen in the Carneddau in the distance (hardly surprising with those winds; snow redistribution was bound to happen).

The snow it self varied between being soft where shallow to having a hard break-through crust where deeper.

It was noticeable how much snow had melted lower down the mountain in the two and a half hours from when we set off, however with clear skies and freezing temperatures forecast overnight for the next few evenings, we can expect more icing of the top of the snow and crampons would certainly be advisable if going high.

Monday 21 November 2016

Busy, busy Autumn

Liathach from Beinn Eighe
Sorry for the lack of recent blogging. Autumn has been extremely busy with twelve REC courses since mid September, two ML Assessments, one ML Training course, and an ML Refresher, one week's work in
Iceland for NST. (a rather interesting trip with very mixed weather and a coach crash; thankfully no one was injured)

We also managed to fit in a glorious one and a half weeks in Scotland, mostly spent backpacking in the far North West and Knoydart.

Meanwhile if you check out our Facebook page you will find a Walk of the Month series I am running where each month I try to write up either a backpacking expedition or a Day walk in the UK to give people inspiration to #GetOutside. Have a read and get inspired!

Monarch of the Glen
 One of our backpacks was into Attadale where it was sad to see the effect of the new HEP schemes which seem to be springing up all over Scotland and other upland areas. However Attadale Estate is so friendly with a bothy where walkers are welcome and there is even firewood laid on. Despite it being Stalking season, the Estate workers were very friendly and seek to work with walkers rather than against.
Beinn Eighe ridge. one of the best!

Megaidh making herself at home in Attadale Bothy

Ben Aden: the rough Bounds of Knoydart and a real jewel.
Torridon, the Far North West, Knoydart and Glen Shiel areas are definitely my favourite areas of Scotland (and Glen Affric) as I love long mountain ridges where I can stay high all day and be treated to superb views (providing the weather is playing ball, which on this occasion it most definitely was!)

Meanwhile, winter is now showing its face in the mountain regions of the UK and some of my upcoming blogs will be looking at walking in winter and giving tips.
in the mean time check out UKHillwalking website where several of my first aid and walking articles have been published with more to come.