Friday, 30 January 2015

Cairngorm Mini-break WML Assessment Snowholing

I've been out for the last 3 days and 2 nights working on an MTS WML Assessment for Glenmore Lodge. We battled in in poor weather on wednesday morning and spent most of the rest of the day digging in. Derek and I had a capacious snow hole with plenty of head room and a door sized just right to not let too much warm air out but not so small in would drift in. Yesterday we journeyed from near Cairngorm to Ben Macdui and back again returning to the snow hole site after dark. The weather was better than expected but gave us enough poor visibility to allow an assessment of the candidates navigation and leadership. After 10 hours of almost constant travel (they didn't seem to want a break- must have wanted to get it over!) we were back at the holes after a glimpse of stunning clarity of Orion and the moon overhead. I crawled in to find Derek safely tucked in bed deciding it was time for dinner and made a quick video tour for my son who was fascinated by the idea of me being in a cave in the snow.
This morning it just remained to pack cup and undertake a last few legs and, like all good assessments, a little further training on the way out. Well done to those who passed, I hope those who didn't have a clear idea of what is required of Award holders.
 The walk in
 A very Scottish experience (I've climbed in most of the major mountain ranges of the world- except the Alps, saving them for retirement- on all seven continents, but only Scotland does this to me!)
 A bed for the night
 Ready for a big day out!
 Game on!
 This weather is too good for an Assessment...
 That's a bit better….
 Now we're talking!
The last legs (in more way than one!)

Feels like I've been well exfoliated!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Winter ML Assessment

Not many people know but the Scottish Qualifications Authority mapped the MTS Winter ML a few years ago and declared it at the same level as an Ordinary Degree. This week I'm assessing candidates for the Award at Glenmore Lodge. Over the last 2 days we have been looking at snow craft, the demonstration of good basic winter skills in appropriate venues, some leadership scenarios and personal movement on steep ground. Off tomorrow for a 2 night Cairngorm mini break (aka a snowholing expedition).
Plenty of climbers out today though things were a little black in Coire an t Sneachda thy looked whiter at first in Lochan.

Monday, 26 January 2015

MTA Winter Weekend

I've just spent the weekend working at Glenmore Lodge on the Mountain Training Association Winter Weekend. 45 members attended to learn and refresh skills based around the Scottish winter environment.
On saturday I was out looking at how we can teach winter skills and the cold conditions firmed up the snow pack nicely for that. My team varied from those who did their WML some time ago to folks with Assessment in the future and we had a fun time looking at how we can help students pick up basic skills for travelling in the winter.
On saturday night Matt and his team in the kitchens treated us to a particularly fine Burns supper and Phil's 'Ode to a haggis' raised some suitable confused English eyebrows!
Sunday was Wetter and soggier but I was working with Sam and another varied group of 8 (9 if you include the SARDA hound) looking at the security on steep ground aspects of the WML syllabus. The snow was damp but the banter was great!
Staying at The Lodge this week working on a WML Assessment. Snowholing nights beckon!
Finally I don't know who left the bottle of whiskey for me at the front desk but thanks very much!
 George Intro's saturday
 Peer coaching step cutting
 Sara hits the deck
 'How do I get up?'
 Crampon games
 Silly walks
 Heading for home
 Tying knots with gloves
 Preparing a short steep step
 Helen looking for her dog
 Confidence roping
 Sam takes a seat
 Building a better bucket
 The Ciste Gully
Aw shucks
 Phil, his dirk and a haggis
Brun's supper

Thursday, 22 January 2015

One Mor time to the west face

Well it looks like I've missed out on the steep ice that's been being enjoyed for the last few days but today was a work day again so it was all about my students. Ruairidh and Jen both needed some time on the sharp end on straightforwards climbing ground with good gear. I decided to take them to the easy route I soloed back just before new year on the west face of Aonach  Mor. The ridge definitely fit the bill today (think Dorsal Arete but twice as long and without the crowds) although the wind was a little stronger than expected (even with the beard I'm not going to need any exfoliation for a while).
Looks like I've missed the boat on that ice for a while as tomorrow will be a well earned leg rest day before a week in the east as the weather goes unsettled.
 Ice Screw
 V thread
Ruairidh gives it a test
Off we go
 R on the sharp end
 A belay sheltering from the wind
 Jen following
Non stop smiles
 A belay in the wind

 Jen topping out
The final belay