Saturday 18 February 2012

A WINTER weekend

Digging in
Home is a hole in the snow
Night nav in wild weather
Buried..... again....
Help from without
Winter returns!
Exploring the snowpack
Just spent the last 2 days on the Winter Mountain Leader Training minibreak in the Cairngorms. We had a good dusting of snow and a cold wind yesterday as we headed up the west ridge of Coire nan Lochain then toured the rim of the coires to finish by popping around the back of Cairngorm to Ciste Mhearaidh.
Here the team dug snowholes whilst Karl and I, ahem, adopted a nice in situ one. Digging, dinner and then time to go out for some poor vis nav. Cairngorm weather station recorded a gust of 102mph around the time we were staggering around in the rain. Its all done to good purpose as the team picked up a lot of tips on what does and doesn't work trying to navigate in foul weather and poor visibility.
Karl grunted at some point early this morning and then let his language slip. The doorway was gone. The temperature had dropped and the rain turned to snow which had buried us completely. We dressed and dug ourselves out before following the rope we had left leading into each (now invisible) doorway to excavate the 3 group snowholes. After that we all took it in turns to keep entrances clear- they were filling in every 30-40 minutes.
Up and packed we decided to make use of the fresh snow to compare a number of different practical tests to use (or maybe not use) when assessing snow conditions for safe travel. There were at least 3 clear layers in the snowpack and shears were easily observed on hand shear tests, trenching and tap testing. I approached the top of a walking rutschblock and the slope around it failed before I got anywhere near it.
Then a final bit of navigation to get out before the weather went ballistic on cue and as forecast. We reviewed our experience and the course and said farewell to our students as the snow fell heavily at Glenmore Lodge this afternoon.

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