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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.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

January & Winter Returns to the Scottish Highlands - Winter Mountaineering.

 As I mentioned in my previous blog (http://wearyourboots.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/december-scottish-winter-mountains.html) the hills & mountains become a new and much more serious proposition under winter conditions requiring an additional level of pre planning, awareness, equipment & skills. So it was with some disappointment that I set off on my journey to the West Highlands for my long planned 10 days of Scottish winter routes & Winter Mountaineering course (http://www.expeditionguide.com/snowandice.php) after a Christmas & New Year period that had seen mild temperatures and very little snow fall! As fate would have it it took me 36hrs or so to complete the journey to Fort William due my long suffering work horse vehicle suffering a couple of mechanical breakdowns (unbelievable - only has enough miles on the clock to have circled the globe 8 times!).

 Arriving in Fort William on Tuesday after my much prolonged journey I set to work researching routes that would be under winter conditions for the upcoming days using guide books, maps, mountain area weather forecasts (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/loutdoor/mountainsafety/), avalanche forecasts (http://www.sais.gov.uk/) & information taken from blogs reporting which areas instructors had been using recently (http://www.expeditionguide.com/blog.php).
 After considering all this information and provisionally deciding on a suitable route I then went over all the information again at least once. I would in no way suggest this was due to my meticulous preparation but very much down to the 'more than slightly twitchy arse sphincter factor' involved when planning solo winter mountaineering routes. Though looking to increase and build on previously gained experience and skills, the knowledge that a simple mistake involving an unsafe snow pack or a slip thru not fitting crampons at the right time could prove somewhat 'problomatic' was a constant thought - especially as I'd paid for a hotel and wouldn't want to spend a night on the mountain with no refund!

 I started with a solo route on Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe followed by a day shadowing Rob Johnson to look at teaching skills before a solo trip up Ben Nevis via 3 Gully. The weekend brought fresh snow and I took the chance to cross the Carn Mor Dearg Arete to again reach Ben Nevis summit. Sunday saw heavy snow falling and I took a trip to Aonach Mor via Easy Gully which in retrospect was a bit 'dodgy'!
 Monday I again joined Rob Johnson for a Winter Mountaineering Course to look at movement over snow terrain, avalanche risk assessment & winter rope work. My week of Winter Mountaineering culminated in an outstanding day when we traversed the Aonach Eagach ridge where we enjoyed exceptional winter conditions!

  Overall I managed to complete 4 quality Winter Mountaineering log book routes, reach 5 new Munro tops for myself , complete 4 Grade I winter climbs + be on Ben Nevis summit in a clear spell which is rarer than rocking horse sh*t!
Wind blown col across before the climb to Bidean nam Bian summit.
Approach to Ben Nevis from CIC Hut. Number 3 Gully right of center.
View down from top of Number 3 Gully.

Looking back from the route up to Carn Mor Dearg
Clouds break around Ben Nevis (Rare!)
Towards the Mamores from Ben Nevis summit.
Aonach Mor East Face - Coire An Lochan
A snow filled 'Easy Gully' on Aonach Mor.
Aonach Nid
Making our way down after a days Winter Skills.
 The Aonach Eagach Ridge - Outstanding!!

Video from Rob Johnson/ expeditionguide.com

 After returning from Scotland I met up with AL & James who had been on a 5 Day Winter Skills course in Scotland, we took advantage of the winter conditions in the Lake District with a crossing of Striding Edge to Helvellyn.
 An air temperature of around -5C added to a 30-35mph wind gave us a wind chill of around -17C which added to the days adventure!

AL & James make their way towards Striding Edge.
On Striding Edge.


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