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Heat to Cold, Scottish winter begins....

Games for gaining confidence in crampons, Ben Nevis

We landed back into a very cold Edinburgh airport last week after finishing up in Kenya. We had a busy few weeks delivering some staff training and also some rock foundation courses. A great way to end the year with a particularly special trip to the far North of Kenya to less explored Ndoto mountains, keep an eye out for special blog on that. It was also especially great to find we had arrived back to full winter conditions in the mountains. We didn’t waste too much time getting out to take a look on the East with a drive down to Cairngorm for a ski tour. Wide spread snow to ground level on the East which gave great skiing. We enjoyed a loop on Cairngorms to the top and a nice run back down. It seemed as we arrived that the East had large amounts of snow and the West was yet to catch up but has had some consistent freezing temperatures bringing some of the lower level ice into condition. Since then it remained sub zero across the Highlands and more snow and the west starting to get good cover before the last couple of days where a thaw seems to be passing through.

Off the plane and onto planks, Cairngorm with great cover

We had our first day with clients on the hill with a Mountain Training Association workshop delivering a day looking at delivering winter skills and a focus on movement skills. We headed to the West and Ben Nevis in search of good conditions for the day and certainly found them. Heading up from the sheet ice of the car park we headed to the CIC hut and onto the Gulch area and surrounding ice to look at various tips and tricks for getting novices some confidence in crampons. We discussed a variety of things as we toured around. Strangely we where the only people on the mountain which given the conditions seemed strange on Saturday. Ice was forming in all the right places with a good smear visible on the Curtain, Gardh Gully and in other spots. The cloud was down but things looked very good. The forecast over the coming days looks a little like a good recipe for Nevis ice.

Short pitching on the Buchaille Glen Coe, the thaw begins

From there we headed West again for a couple of days with mentor Andy Spink for some training in Glen Coe. Although we hit the area just as a bump in the temperature road hit, we where able to get out and do a few things though. We had a good session on the lower areas of the Buchaille looking at short pitching and short roping. We did this in some rapidly melting conditions but there was enough for what we where doing and plenty of things covered with Andy on different techniques and newer thinking which was really good to cover. The following day though the wind, rain and clag did make for us venturing no further than the cafe, having done many winter seasons and Andy many more than me there are days where you just know that it will be to unpleasant.

As for now there was a thaw which certainly stripped the snow back considerably but the ground is still frozen and cooler air is returning so I don’t see any reason to worry about the season ahead. Scotlands snow packs relies on a series of freeze thaw actions on the snow. Scotland usually gets perhaps three or four major snow dumps a season which then needs a good soak and freeze to develop a hard layer that’s more resilient to the temperature fluctuations through the season. The issue these days seems to be less about the amount of snow arriving in the mountains but more the extreme fluctuations in temperature. Fingers crossed though that its a good one ahead.

Be Nevis skills with an MTA workshop

We are now back for the winter and looking forward to a busy one. We are available for winter skills and guided mountain journeys. Have look here for our winter courses and just get in touch with any enquiries or bookings.

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