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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.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

White Out and Dig Out in Lochnagar - A Tale Of Motion Sickness And Rough Accomodation!

 With the rare opportunity of a few days available to spend on the hills I joined up with Matt Dawson of Trekking Skills to grab some precious Winter Mountain Leader & International Mountain Leader Award log book days.
 Following on from our recent IML Winter training week spent on snow shoes in France we headed to the Lochnagar region of Scotlands Cairngorm mountains where we could again put the snowshoes to use.
 After a much later than planned arrival in the Lochangar region due to a mechanical breakdown we headed to the bothy at Callater Lodge where we arrived at approx 4am!

Beginning our walk to the bothy in the early hours!
 With a full moon in a partially cloudy sky we walked without head torches until we reached the bothy at approx 4am.
Matt gets ready for a spot of well needed shut eye!

 After a few hours sleep we had breakfast and packed up our kit, the rucksacks were heavier than we would have liked but we had to carry food and cooking equipment, plus sleeping bags and bivi's as well as all the usual extra kit that should be carried for winter conditions. The weather hadn't lived up to the bright forecast and cloud hung around 700m on the sides of the Glen and as we made our way up 'Carn an t-Sagairt Mor' we were soon hit by strong winds, driven snow and low visibility. From here on it was snow goggles on and head down looking at the compass, visibility was now minimal and it was impossible to see the difference between the white of the low cloud and the snow laying on the ground - white out conditions!
Matt navigates through continuous white out.
 Discussing our options we opted to alter our original plan of walking to the summit of Lochnagar as there would nothing to see but the inside of a cloud and our time would be better spent navigating our way to the 'Lunkard Bothy'. Previously planned objectives often have to change as conditions on the ground develop in my opinion.
 Using features in the terrain along with compass bearings and pacing we walked on to 'Broad Cairn' before deciding to head in a southerly direction to intersect with 'Jock's Road' which we would then follow to the bothy, of course 'Jock's Road' would be under the snow pack so we would be relying on our navigational skills.
 It was during this leg that I experienced a sense of complete disorientation! Whilst following only the compass bearing and with no visible reference points I began to think I was walking in a circle and began to feel dizzy and sick, I would liken it the feeling of the room spinning when drunk (so i'm told). I had to ignore what my senses were telling me and believe in what my compass was showing me, though I could also have followed the sound of Matt's stifled laughter at my confusion!!
 We continued as darkness descended, though this made little difference as we had seen nothing but a few metre's in front of us all day, until we found the 'Lunkard Bothy'.

 We could of easily missed the bothy as it is dug into the hillside and not the tallest of structures, it was also fairly well covered in snow.
That'll be the bothy under there!

 Not exactly what we were hoping for when we found the bothy with only the top 8inch of the door showing above the snow, we broke out the shovels unaware that worse was to come!
It seems there a 'bit' of snow may have got in!
 After digging away the snow that was blocking the door we opened it to be greeted by a wall of snow inside! We had to tunnel nearly 2metres until we broke through into the bothy, which was grim to say the least!
Matt tunneling into the bothy!

 After eventually getting into the bothy we quickly got the stoves going to make some well needed nourishment before setting up our sleeping bags and bivi's for the night in our 'basic' accommodation.
I didn't see this in the brochure.
 Getting out of a warm sleeping bag into the cold interior of a winter shelter is not the most enjoyable experience but we were keen to get out of the cold, damp bothy/snow shelter and get moving. Quickly making breakfast whilst packing up our kit we were soon ready for the off and decided make our way back towards 'Glen Clunie' around the hills to the South of  'Loch Callater'.
A second day of navigation without visual references, bonus!
The view we had for the best part of 2 full days.
  As we ascended from the bothy we were soon in familiar 'white out' conditions and again had to rely on our compass bearings and contour interpretation as we made our way to 'Carn an Tuirc' before descending down to Lochcallater Lodge.
Matt pleased to be back at Loch Callater.
 Summary - We had an idea of what we wanted to do over the couple of days before we set out but were both happy to change the plan as we assessed the changing conditions and I believe we made the best of it by using the 'white out' to our advantage to practice our navigation skills in challenging conditions that we could easily encounter at any time whilst out on the hills in winter.

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