Winter Skills Course 26-27 March 2016

Winter skills course - summit of Cairn GormThe weather for the weekend didn't look very promising with a lot of (up to 100mph on Cairngorm summit forecast for the evening) and heavy rain. After we met at in Aviemore and sorted out the equipment we headed up to the Cairngorm car park. There it became very quickly clear that we would get pretty wet. And so we did!

First we worked a little on kicking steps just to get ourselves around on the snow and then moved on to ice axe arrests. We worked on all ways of ice axe arresting (legs first on front, bum sliding, head first on front and the infamous head first on back). After that we had a look on how to self-arrest without ice axes and point out the limitations and dangers. Since it was such a wet day of we decided to dry out quickly and head to a cafe in Aviemore to work on the theory of avalanche awareness, planning and a little navigation. As it turned out, Saturday was with 24.4mm rain at Cairngorm the wettest day of the year so far.

Winter skills course - ice axe arrest Ice axe arrest[/caption]On the Sunday the prospects of having a good day out was much better. We cheated and headed straight up Cairngorm with the Funicular. Since the snow was proper névé we had a look how far we can go with just kicking steps with our boots and found quickly that it was a bit too hard for comfort. We then had a look at cutting steps with our ice axes and found it much easier. But having a look at how far we could actually do this and how much we would have to go we decided very quickly to put on crampons.

While we were on the slopes between the Ptarmigan station and Cairngorm summit we encountered several groups attempting and struggling up the icy slope towards the summit. I had to talk to most of them and ask them to turn around as they are ill equipped and will put themselves into harm if they attempted to continue. None of these groups had any ice axes, crampons or even stiff boots and would have no way to stop, if they would start sliding down the hill.

We then went up to the summit and then, after a wee break navigated towards Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais and to the Wall for some more steep ground skills, avalanche awareness and ice axe arresting. It started getting late and we headed down the hill.