Winter Skills Course 27-28 February 2016

Winter Skills Course - cutting steps Saturday morning started very well with glorious sunshine and no wind. We met up in Aviemore and after introduction got into sorting out the equipment. Crampons set up for the boots and off we drove up to the Cairngorm car park.

Winter Skills Course  The avalanche conditions were quite favourable to. Considerable at Northeast to Southeast slopes and everything else lower. Since we were going to spend all day on westerly slope we shouldn’t have any problems with that aspect.

First we had a look at pacing. Counted out a 100m and then set off on the east side of Coire na Ciste. We broke down the legs to more manageable lengths from 180m to 400m. This meant we could talk a bit more about navigation and snow condition. We also had a look at features which are hidden on maps, missing contour lines and detailed map reading. After a wee break we headed over to easy gully and started working first on kicking steps, how to walk uphill and downhill with using the ice axe just for support. Then we moved on to cutting steps. First we shaved little steps into the snow to cut little steps and then we made bigger ones by pre-cutting the steps with the pick of the ice axes. Afterwards we stuck on our crampons and walked down easy gully, John Wayne style.

5On the way we also had a look at avalanche risks and dug a few snow pits to see if there are some weak layers. Most of it was pretty stable. After that we walked out and went for a coffee at the mountain café with a chat about avalanche risks, navigation and planning.

Winter Skills Course - avalanche awareness On the Sunday we met up in the morning again and headed up to Coire na Ciste car park. Near the car park we worked on ice axe arrests, self-arrest without ice axes and later dug a snow shelter to see how you could survive a night in a blizzard.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend with stunning weather. I would say the best weather we had so far this year.