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Published: March 5th 2009
For a while now I have been in contact with Ian who is a mountain guide who lives on the Isle of Skye, so when a chance offer of a winter skills course came about I jumped at the chance. Joining me on this weekend was Paddy and Gill.
After setting off from Hartlepool around 1:30 I arrived at Incree outdoor centre and we found Ian waiting for us in the bar, which is normally a good place to find me actually.
We had a few drinks and headed off to the accommodation for some of Leanne's homemade soup and Gill's vegetarian Sheppard’s pie. We discussed the plan for the following day and decided to meet up at 9am to set off into the mountains.
Day 1 Buachaille Etive Beag
Waking up on Saturday with a slightly fuzzy head, Ian arrived at the chalet and we started talking about the day he had planned, it soon became apparent that we were going to learn a lot from this fella. After checking our packs and kit we headed off out. The weather was typical for this time of year, overcast rain and drizzle with moderate winds, luckily there was plenty
of snow about from the previous weekends to give us something to play with.
A 15 minute drive led us to the car park off the A3434 were our day would begin. We headed up Buachaille Etive Beag to gain some height and to find the snow line, this didn’t take too long as in Scotland you always seem to be rapidly gaining height. On reaching the snowline we put on the helmets and practiced kicking steps, arresting, ice axe arrest and general mountaineering skills. This is what I had been waiting for the chance to throw myself down some steep snow banks. Much better fun than your usual hill walking experience. We then headed up to the top of the Buachaille Etive Beag ridge to practice building a snow hole. Even though the snow was very slushy we managed to build a suitable snow hole although it was rather drippy inside. These skills will stay fresh in the mind for a long time thanks to Ian. We were soon heading back to the car to end a great day in the moutains of Scotland.
Day 2 Stob Coire nan Lochan
Awoke early to pack the cars ready
to leave to the Incree centre, todays destination was Stob Coire nan Lochan were Ian planned to let us put our new found skills to the test. After a very nice drive to the carpark passing the 3 sisters and the hidden Valley (note I will be checking this out at a later date) we parked up the cars and kitted up.
We headed off following a good footpath up into hills, we kept a good pace having no ill effects of alcohol to contend with today and were soon stopping for a warm brew. I was given a wide berth while I fired up the new Mk.3 jetboil and to my amazement it didn’t blow up in my face for a 3rd time.
Soon we had reached the top of the gully and an area opened up in front of us showing the horseshoe ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan. We talked about the different types of snow and things to look for when assessing an avalanche risk. Ian decided to lead Gill up an easier ridge while myself and Paddy decided to make our way up a gully before heading over to the ridge. Ian kindly pointed out
to us we could not get up the gullies because of a cornice collapse risk, I looked up and could not see anything from my viewpoint due to cloud cover, Ian had picked it out about half an hour ago while we were walking the footpath. Lesson learned - always be aware of your surroundings and continually assess the situation !!!
Myself and Paddy headed off up the gully zigzagging and taking turns to kick the steps, all good preparation for Toubkal in a few weeks. When we reached about 50ft from the top we spotted the cornice Ian had mentioned and it was about 10 meters high, we quickly moved across and out of any danger. We were soon on the ridge and met up with Ian and Gill to take in the views over the back of Stob Coire nan Lochan. Time was now against us so we headed off back down this time creating a massive snow slide to make the journey a bit quicker, I think Gill enjoyed this more than most.
Once back at the cars we said our goodbyes and all set off on our journeys home.
Cheers Paddy&Gill for booking some nice
Cheers IanS for showing us all loads of useful and practical skills that we will use time and time again. A great skills course by a very knowledgeable mountain leader and a top all round bloke !!!
Anyone wondering if these mountain course are worth the money, well wonder no more. A brilliant weekend 10/10.
For more info of IanS and his activites see his website http://www.mountainfreedom.co.uk/
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