Wednesday 20 February 2013

Glorious spring!

We have been keeping busy; whether working or playing.

In the past 3 weeks we have taught 2 REC Mountain First Aid courses to the Military for JSMTC (Joint Services Mountain Training Centre) on Anglesey. Steve taught an Open REC Level 2 course for 9 participants while I was busy with GCSE Geography marking.

I got out on Saturday; a beautiful walk in the Glyders although the tops were cloudy but walking back along the banks of Llyn Ogwen it felt like summer! Cluanie was revelling in it!

Yesterday we headed up into Cwm Glas where Winter conditions are hanging in there. The snow conditions were great so we played around cutting steps and climbing steep snow. Cluanie thought it was Christmas as she chased chunks of snow downhill. She also discovered how slippery sheet ice is as I saw her disappear over an edge; thankfully it wasn't steep on the other side of the spur!

Today I headed up onto the Glyder up the Miners Path. The day started beautifully but sadly clagged in. However, again the snow conditions were excellent on the top.

Apologies for lack of photos, the blog is not allowing me to download any!

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Winter ML Assessment Day 5: The End!

The Final Day.

The wind built up all night and all of us had to dig ourselves out several times.

We were aiming to get away by 9 am to return to Glen Feshie by 12 noon so it was an early start in order to melt snow. By now there was no way I wanted to leave the snowhole for any reason until it was time to set off.

 The wind and weather had other ideas about our ETA. By the time we were walking along the Sgorr Gaoith ridge it was apparant that the wind was now gusting 70 + mph. Walking was extremely difficult and in the end we had to form a parallel line and link arms to stay on our feet and not get blown away. (This was becoming quite reminiscent of my WML Training on Creag Megaidh!). The snow had also arrived with large flakes mixed in with the spindrift.

We dropped to low ground as quickly as was possible also having to avoid windslab and rocky slopes. We finally made it back to the car at 3 pm. On our walk down, Steve debriefed each of us in turn. We were all delighted to find that all of us had passed the Assessment.


What an epic week. A big thanks to Sam Learey and Steve Spalding, our Assessors who not only assessed us but also used the time to add to our experience with coaching and tips, and to the other candidates, Neil, Danny and Emma. They were a great bunch, really supportive of each other and unlike some assessments I have seen we worked as a team with no one trying to play 'one upmanship' or putting others down. Thanks guys for an amazing week. Not sure I would want to repeat it, but I sure am glad I have had the experience and that after all these years I did go for the assessment.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Winter ML Assessment Day 4

Day 4:

At 8 am it was time to get melting snow for brews and I had not managed to get any sleep. I also did not get to wake to the smell of bacon as the snow holes closer to Danny's did. Danny had decided on luxury, and Steve, our Assessor said cooking bacon on a winter MLA was a first for him!

Into the bargain I felt really sick which limited the amounts I managed to eat through the day (not ideal for a long winter mountain trip).

Before heading out for the day Steve gave us all a quick debrief on our performance so far. Once again mine was really encouraging; words to the effect that so far, so good. If I keep up what I’m doing, I’ll be fine!

Snowhole village as opposed to the snowhole city!

I got to navigate the first leg leading us out towards Cairn Toul. By now we realised the going was really slow, averaging 1 - 2 kph in the deep snow. We also realised as we climbed the slopes towards Sgor an Lochain Uaine that the Low Pressure was winning the Battle of the Weather and the wind was rising significantly.

Wind beginning to rise! Climb up to the ridge as the sun sets.
Danny's photo

 Neil navigated us to the spotheight 1265 of Einich Cairn in now what was driving spin drift and debilitating winds.

My next leg was a spur down the slopes back towards Tom Dubh and our snowholes. By now the spin drift was incredible and on the lower slopes there were times when I felt to be going uphill only to turn round and see that the group behind me were actually higher. Very disorientating! The only way to have done an aspect of slope would have been to send people out in front.
Walking on a bearing through a boulder field and in the wind was not much fun; I managed to fall over and smack both my knee and head on different rocks. Fortunately by torch took the brunt of the head rock!

 After several long legs by the groups, we finally returned to our snowholes at 11.30. By now I was exhausted having been unable to eat for most of the day.  I had the final leg to find our snowhole village, and all the doorways had been filled in by snow. The amazing thing was that the snow hole really felt like a haven and home. I didn't find myself longing for a warm bed and central heating! I was just so glad to be out of the blizzards! (despite the spindrift which was pouring in through the door and covering everything)

By now I was counting down the hours to the end of the Expedition (mistakenly thinking we would be back at the car by midday on the Friday!)

The next few hours were spent cooking, rehydrating, clearing snow, trying to stop spindrift from covering our sleeping bags and equipment and so no one got to bed before 2.30. I think I managed 2 hours sleep from 4 am onwards having shivered for 2 hours. We were having to get up every 2 hours maximum to check that our doorways hadn't filled in.


Saturday 2 February 2013

Winter ML Assessment Day 3

Home, sweet home!
 Yet again, I had a poor night's sleep; probably 2 hours max. The following morning it was a final check of kit and rucksacks while Neil and Steve headed up to the Ski car park to pick up the Cairngorm Poo Tubes ( a brilliant idea by Heather Morning-Rich to cut down on the faeces found around the snowhole sites) and then we drove round to Glen Feshie to meet George MacEwan who was moderating Steve.
 We headed out in nice conditions up the Allt Ruadh with each of us taking it in turn to navigate different legs. Steve left it to us to choose our own legs as it was also assessing our abilities to choose suitable routes. This is a realistic way of seeing whether the candidate can choose safe and suitable routes for groups.
It was becoming apparant though, that the Low Pressure was winning the Battle of the Pressure systems as the cloud was building up and it was already quite windy. Not a good sign for things to come!
We summited Sgor Gaoith and then dropped down to the Allt Sgairnich to find deep banked snow for snow holes. The next three hours or so were spent digging until we all had snow holes to call our homes.
The construction was made more difficult as the snow had not banked out as much as expected and we kept hitting turf bank at the back. As a result our snowholes elongated sideways and I had to build my sleeping platform by taking snow from the sides and stamping it out.
We had two hours from 8 pm to sort out food and get organised and then at 10 pm we set out on our night navigation over to Meall Dubhag and Fionna Choire. Visibility was still good and so loving navigation, I was able to relax into timings and pacings.

We finally returned to our snow holes at 2.30 am and after brewing up it was time for kip. Unfortunately my brain would not switch off. I also had cold feet and was worried about frost bite and spent most of the night wiggling my toes to keep the circulation going.