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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

December - Scottish Winter Mountains!

 The onset of winter may not be most peoples favorite time of the year but with the right set of conditions and on the right peaks a normally walking or hiking route becomes a mountaineering route, requiring additional equipment, skills & awareness.

 December saw me take the opportunity to head to Scotland to take advantage of a drop in temperatures and some recent snow fall. I would also be helping my mountain buddy Brett Savage to gain some log book days as he moves towards his Mountain Leader Award in the Spring.
 We planned to spend a few days around Crianlarich, North of Loch Lomond, where we had a number of Munro's (Scottish summits above 3000ft/914m above sea level) available to us whist keeping the journey North (nearly) bearable!

 After meeting up around 5pm Sunday afternoon and setting ourselves up at the campsite (part of the ML prerequisite is a number of valley & wild overnight camps) we decided to make use of the facilities at the local public house where we would plan Mondays trip. We could connect to the internet at the pub to check the latest weather reports, otherwise we would have simply enjoyed the stillness of the empty campsite.

 Important considerations for our route selection would include the weather forecast, the previous weather forecasts and any ground condition information, terrain and the predicted time to complete the route. After careful deliberation (over a couple of accidental Guinness for me and a WKD for Brett) it was decided we would head for 'Beinn Challum' 1025m the following day.
Laying snow and low cloud can be problematic on ridges or above crags!
Brett strikes a pose on the summit of his 1st Munro.
Rime ice is formed when water droplets in fog freeze to the surface of an object on the windward surface.
 Our route to the summit of 'Beinn Challum' rose steadily over grassy terrain before the ground became frozen and we reached the snow line at around 750m where low cloud and snow showers made visibility difficult. As we made our way across the corniced 'col' on the approach to the summit we were exposed to strong NE winds and care had to be taken to stay on track. After a quick photo to record the moment we retraced our steps back and out of the wind.

 With a much improved forecast and full of confidence from our first days outing we agreed to take a trip up 'Ben More' 1174m and onward to 'Stob Binnein' 1165m for our second days outing.

Ice axe & crampons essential on the approach to Ben More summit.
Brett shelters from the icy winds on Ben More summit.
Descending from Ben More to ascend Stob Binnein
A very cold Stob Binnein summit.
Brett goes head to head with the wind!
  The ascent of 'Ben More' was described as 'the kind of route a sadistic Sergeant Major could only dream of when looking to beast his troops', it didn't disappoint! With an incline from the stuff of nightmares we made our way (steadily) into the snow line where the going only increased the demands on the already struggling lungs and burning leg muscles. As we continued up we were joined by a fellow walker Mick and his canine friend, as it turned out Mick had been part of the RAF Search & Rescue team and his canine friend 'Corrie' was search and rescue trained. We were more than happy to have them join us!
  Crampons and ice axe's became essential as we approached the summit over a large area of wind slab and at the summit we greeted by knee high drifts and strong winds. After a quick bite to eat we made our way carefully south to 'Stob Binnein' past hanging cornice. A descent of 350m followed by an ascent of  300m had the thigh muscles burning deeply after the first ascent of Ben More!

 After an exhausting day we again headed to the pub for some nourishment and to plan Wednesday trip. Looking at a worrying forecast of gale to storm forcw winds we decided on a lower summit of 'Beinn a'Chleibh'.
Making foot holds on the snow slope.
Brett practices ice axe arrest.
A river crossing thrown in for adventure!
Brett on the frozen, wind blown summit.

 Starting before dawn we made our way through the wooded approach to the 'Beinn a'Chleibh', as we way left the wood behind the full force of the wind became apparent andas we made our way closer the ascent gusts knocked us both off our feet.
 With the wind out main concern we decided to head to the 'col' between 'Ben Lui' & 'Beinn a'Chleibh' where we would then decide if it was safe to go on. With our ice axes in hand we kicked steps in the snow up the 'col' where we made the decision to go thru the winds and low visibility to the summit. At times we were holding onto each other until we made it the summit where, as was becoming customary, we paused only time enough to take a couple of photo's before making our way back down and out of the wind.

 All in all it was a very good few days. It had been the first chance for either of us to get out and use our winter skills as well as gain logbook days for our respective Mountain Leading awards.



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