Friday 15 January 2016

Gnarly graduation day for my climbers

The end of a tough week for the 2 Kierans on their Glenmore Lodge Learn to Lead in Winter Course. With acres of snow around and another serious avalanche forecast we waded in to the Twin Ribs. The heavy snow and limited daylight have made be a hard task master this week and today it was really satisfying to see the guys totally 'on it'. They picked a safe line around the slabby snow to the base and led themselves up the crest of the rib by a nice interesting 3 pitch route in cold, moderate winds and snow as karabiners froze and I got my first rime beard of the year. And I was largely superfluous I'm pleased to say. 3 abseils down and my colleague Mark and his pair let us use their already rigged ropes for a last ab down the apron. Then it was a long walk in the white room to get home. Well done the Kierans and thanks for putting up with my whip cracking this week. Today you were looking good.
Its been a struggle to balance teaching goals, safety, time and painting a good picture of how to react to the current conditions. The avalanche hazard has been serious and despite what folk say Cairngorms conditions on many low and mid grade routes are far from friendly owing to the sheer amount of snow (many seem to confuse having a "great day" with "great conditions"). Numerous people seem to be 'going for a look' despite the avalanche forecast... hoping that they will find conditions that their judgment makes them happy enough to climb. Therein lies the start of a perilous path. "I'll just go in for a look anyway"..."I'm here now I'll give it a try"..."The snow seems ok I'll go a little further"..."I'm half way up now I should be ok"..."Oh dear, I'm being avalanched".
Or not. But that's no better in a way. They will have no idea at all how close they came to getting hurt or killed. A metre to the left or right could have triggered a slide but all they know is that they made it. This will only make them more sure of their powers of judgement next time. The avalanche doesn't know how good you think your judgment is or care. Be careful folks.
 Spot the person
 Pitch 1
 Interesting bit
 Almost at the belay
 Following on
 Kieran getting amongst it
 Pitch 2
 A cheval?
 A windy thread
 Pitch 3
 Run away!
Abseiling into the 'white room'
 Mark and I looking a tad rimey

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