Monday 27 January 2014

Change of pace for a day CWA

A day off the hill but not off work. Providing a CWA Training for ACOL Students for West Highland College at the Ice Factor.
 Happy climber
 "I've just taken reeeeeally big fall and I'm feeling a little over excited… can you tell?"
Warming up!

Sunday 26 January 2014

MTA Coaching winter skills day 2

Just like yesterday only a lot windier, a lot snowier and… later… a lot sunnier!
60 keen beans learning in the snow at the MTA Winter Weekend at Glenmore Lodge.
 MTA Buff- never have too many buffs!
 Heading out...
 Heading up...
George taking questions on the WML

Saturday 25 January 2014

MTA Coaching winter skills Day 1

 Not so nice
Ideas discussed during the day
Mark Diggins 
Nicest day of the week by far! Today I was working at Glenmore Lodge for the Mountain Training Association. George and I were tasked with working with 12 people to look at different ideas around the teaching/coaching of winter skills at a Winter Mountain Leader level. The WML is not an instructional Award but, crucially, holders do have to give their students enough skills to accompany them on an appropriate journey. This means WMLs will be introducing people to the skills needed and perhaps enthusing them to do more in the future. Most of the WMLs work comes down to good demonstrations and route choice. 
Today we didn't journey far but we did stay mobile looking at simple core winter skills and a good methodology for introducing them.
The day ended with a lecture from Mark Diggins of the SAIS on the avalanche avoidance in Scotland. Big thanks to the Chris Walker Memorial Trust for supporting Mark's presence and the training he is delivering at the Winter Weekend.

Friday 24 January 2014

Last day of the MIC Training

And surprise surprise it was a wild one!
After a discussion on the team's homework we headed up the hill but with the bus rocking back and forwards in the Ciste Carpark we made a decision that none of our hill based plans would work.
Back at Glenmore Lodge we created a number of workshops based around what we had planned to do on the hill today (looking at the mechanics of teaching climbing) involving practicals and table top exercises and also opened things up to what else the team wanted to practise/revisit. This saw me running a short workshop looking at coaching dry tooling as a means to improving winter climbing (as opposed to just cranking harder). The course finished with a chat on what to do between training and assessment, the assessment itself and personal debriefs.
This weekend i'm staying at The Lodge to work on the Mountain Training Association Winter weekend. I'm down to be looking at how we coach winter skills- looks like another wild one!!

Thursday 23 January 2014

MIC Training Day 4 It looks like climbing….

Finally a day with a couple of tools in my hands! Day 4 in the Cairngorms working for Glenmore Lodge and today the focus was on personal climbing and parallel ropework. We found a scoured spot observing the copious amounts of debris beneath 40 Thieves, Aladdin's Couloir and the Trident Gullies- probably from yesterday's mild temperatures and the enormous cornices running along the top of much of the Crag. Teams looked to be active in the area of Original Summer Route, Doctor's Choice and Damnation (the first pitch of which looked like a I/II solo). 
Whilst the climbing may be a little easier than at some times the protection is very hard won and the threat of avalanches and collapsing cornices is considerable here at the moment. If you are thinking of going out this weekend read the SAIS forecast 2 or 3 times. Try noting down the key phrases or points. Now hold this up against your route planned for the day (the whole of the route, including approach and exit slopes). Do you really want to go 'just for a look' that much?
 Phil's team
 'Must be a runner in here somewhere?!'
 Leaving the belay
 Its not in any guidebook but it looks like climbing, feels like climbing and its safer than most of the Coire!
 Ali heading down for more
 Jon, Bill and Simon
Spot the debris and spot the cornices still to go!

Wednesday 22 January 2014

MIC Training Day 3

Today was windy, wet and stormy. We headed up to the plateau and dropped down to Cnap Coire Na Spreidhe to look at mountaineering rope work with students. On the way we purposely released an avalanche in the shallow notch on the ridge running up the side of the Ciste Gully. This is the second time i've been part of a group doing this and its generated an interesting conversation this evening with colleagues. I'm showing you an image of this but to give it a little context its been released above a small terrain trap with no-one beneath. The person triggering it has done so with some thought and care BUT the size of the blocks of snow here are seriously large. To be trapped between or under these blocks would potentially result in serious injury. So, in short this all looks like a bit of fun and a good game but its actually a serious undertaking that needs careful risk assessment and possibly the use of a rope and belay to protect the person releasing it. Take care.
More storms tomorrow!!
The purposefully triggered avalanche in 'the notch'
Potentially a very serious game to play
The crown wall
Kitting up in a hoolie
 Very big bits of snow

Tuesday 21 January 2014

MIC Training day 2

Windy today. We had hopes of making it to an ice bulge we had spotted to look at ice pro/belays/etc but with winds of 60+mph it was always going to be a struggle. Our other tick for the day was to look at crampon work and that was possible as we gained height from the car park despite the gales. Again today overarching everything we did was the avalanche assessment and it reached the point today where there were enough red flags to turn us around. Back at The Lodge we put some of the FUNdamentals of Climbing into practise in a winter climbing context, revisited today's decision making process and did a primer for tomorrow's mountaineering day. We did see a couple of teams heading towards Coire an t Sneachda with climbing kit… desperate people… and someone did get a route in at Creagan Cha No.
 Hysteria at the Car Park
 Phil and Bill sheltering behind the smallest sapling anywhere...
 'Run away…. run away'
 Looks familiar...
 Pointy things

Monday 20 January 2014

MIC Training day 1

This week I'm back at Glenmore Lodge working on an MIC Training Course. After arriving at the Lodge to see most people looking like half drowned rats yesterday it was a pleasure to have sun, light winds and dry snow today. We headed towards Coire Laogh Mor discussing structuring winter skills instruction and the technical aspects of the techniques involved before moving on to look at snow anchors and there use in climbing contexts and how to teach this. As well as all this there was an overarching picture of the snow conditions and how we can communicate that effectively to students.
The climbers from The Lodge climbed Original Summer Route and Pateys (the latter doesn't just sound in 'mint' condition) and others were spotted on Invernookie and in Fiacaill Couloir (sounds very full but not of the best snow perhaps at the top).
On another note my mate Rich has just had an article published on UKClimbing on our trip to Afghanistan last summer.
 Discussing underfoot conditions
 Pete Hill on a Winter ML Training course
 Bill Strachan probing knowledge
 Al Gilmour on snow anchors
Phil Sanderson on the snowpack

Saturday 18 January 2014

Tough times on Tower Ridge

I knew the weather wasn't perfect. I knew the Ridge was going to be buried. But Tony and Mike were up for an adventure so we went for it anyway.
I'm pretty weary now.
Deep snow from the word go. I know where most of the usual anchors are on the Ridge and many of them are buried. I've never had to use snow anchors so often on the ridge before.
Up to and on the Little Tower the rime has been through freeze thaw cycles and is firm and helpful. Even though I know teams have been on the Ridge each of the last 2 days there was almost no evidence of their passing other than when I fell into the odd old track buried in fresh snow.
Around the Great Tower the rime is softer, airy and pretty useless at anything other than hiding holds and gear! By the time we crossed the gap it was gusting strong enough to batter me around and we were all grateful for a little respite from the wind on topping out. It seemed obligatory to take in the summit as Tony hadn't been before and as we turned the corner at Tower Gully the wind rose again and began trying to exfoliate any exposed skin. About turn from the summit cairn to put the breeze behind us and it was a dog leg bearing to take us perfectly to the top of the zig zags where we hopped across into the Red Burn to head down.
Rarely has a pint at the Lochy Bar tasted so good… the hot bath and the leftover steak and black pudding stew were pretty awesome too!
Not many pics today- I was busy digging and kicking.
 Getting onto the Ridge
 After the first traverse… what rock?
 Waiting to start the Eastern Traverse
 Coming over
The last belay before the top…. phew!

Thursday 16 January 2014

2 more days mountaineering in the Cairngorms

 Wet digging
 Soggy snowmen
 Sloppy shovelups
 Careful footwork
 Perfect pacing
 Nifty Nav
'Hang on… he's about to do what?'
A damper first of 2 days with another team of students from West Highland College yesterday. We were a bit soggy walking to the moraines, pretty soaked after digging an extension to my shovel up there (the original was occupied by some other students from the College intent on making a huge snowman). As the winds eased however we left Coire an t Sneachda behind to the sound of avalanches from collapsing cornices from Jacobs Ladder right round to the Trident Gullys and the group walked themselves up to windy col. They took me to 1141 and then on the side of the Cas ridge we dug bucket seats (as we could really get no wetter) and looked at holding sliding falls dynamically.

 Brighter but breezy 
 remote supervision from me
 Mountaineering on the Twin Ribs
 Squally weather 
 Nathan bringing them up
 Fiacaill Ridge 
 Matt repeating our route of Tuesday
 The team working
Which way now?

Today I was happier for the group to do some more work for themselves. So I arranged to meet them at the base of the Twin Ribs. They turned up there in one piece and Nathan and Cameron led the others up using some simple mountaineering rope work. Then the followed me up Fiacaill Ridge taking the easiest route. We finished off the week by having them navigate safely round the rim of Coire an T Sneachda to 1141 and down to the Cas whilst I observed.
Cooler today and breezy but the freeze was only partial leaving some variable snow around.