Expeditions, Navigation, Guided Walks and Trekking

Winter Mountaineering in Cairngorms

Its been such a long time (and I mean 30 + years) since I had been out mountaineering in a Scottish winter and Mike needed some skills training, so we decided to enrol onto the Introduction to Winter Mountaineering course at Glenmore Lodge.  We were joined by Kevin, making a quick return after his Intro to Winter Skills course, just the weekend before before meeting Monty our instructor.

Bucket Seat Belay

Bucket Seat Belay

Day one had gales up to 60mph along with high avalanche warnings all over, so we found a sheltered snow slope above the Coire na Ciste car park and spent the day making belays; sliding around the snow practicing arrests; looking into the palatial snow holes and understanding the snow structure. Slab avalanche theory and location were covered in some detail and we all felt reasonably confident to avoid the danger.

Its a bit sharp in this snow hole

Its a bit sharp in this snow hole

The customary evening lectures on Avalanches and Winter navigation were enjoyed before and after and excellent dinner.

Lovely Morning in Coire an t-Sneachda

Lovely Morning in Coire an t-Sneachda

Sunday dawned with a clear blue sky, but temperatures down to -5c meant it wasn’t going to be a day without the extra layers.

Sound Belay on Twin Ribs

Sound Belay on Twin Ribs

Soon the four of us were on the way into Coire  an t-Sneachda, as the weather started to close in. We headed up to the bottom of Twin Ribs, aiming to belay a couple of times up the edge of the rib, using new found skills. Anyway, by the time we were on the second stance, Kevin twigged to the exposure and could go no further. We put in place a good lower – excellent use of the Italian hitch. After a bite to eat we wandered across to the inner coire, placed a couple of practice deadman snow anchors and looked inside the oddly shaped igloo.

We had time to explore the bottom of the coire so walked across to below Aladdin’s buttress. Over at the bottom of the slope there was a group putting up a group shelter but Monty spotted it was something serious and ran over pulling out his walky-talky. A climber had fallen from the top of Trident crag and slid down the lower slopes landing in front of a small group who were walking across the coire floor, not far from the Rescue box. He was badly injured, conscious but with broken limbs and internal injuries.

Soon the other Glenmore Lodge instructors arrived, followed by the ML winter trainees. James took control and we brought across the stretcher and Vac kit from the Rescue box. James had the climber quickly strapped into the stretcher just as the RAF arrived, perhaps 20minutes from getting the call. The casualty was too close to the crag wall, so he was moved into the middle of the coire where he was hoisted up and taken to hospital.

This was a very professional rescue and the casualty, apparently Mario from Slovenia, was fortunate to land close to so many experienced mountaineers and instructors.

After that excitement, we made a hasty descent so Kevin could get to the station and airport home.

Descending Coire an t'Sneachda

Descending Coire an t’Sneachda

Mike and I had booked in for another night so we could grab a short walk before the drive home.Another cold, fine morning dawned so we cleared the room, made the most of a Glenmore Lodge breakfast, then enjoyed a quick ascent of Meall a’Bhuchaille. We were first up the track and tested our knowledge of the many animal and bird tracks. We easily spotted the Mountain Hare tracks, along with Deer in the forest. A complicated one could be Squirrel, as well as the large prints of the  Capercallie.

Northern Coires from a'Bhuachaille

Northern Coires from a’Bhuachaille

Amusement was had on the drive home listening to the radio reports of snow and ice across the south west of England, as the Highlands enjoyed lovely sunshine.

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2013 by in Blog, Mountain Leader and tagged , , , .
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