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Winter Skills trip report


posted by Sam Harrison on 2012-12-10
Destination: Aviemore
More information about the Winter Skills course trip

A very snowy campsite!
The weekend before last, the club went up to Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park for a Winter Skills course, which was run by Paddy Cave from Mountain Circles. Paddy has written a blog article on the trip here. Sarah and Fran were both on the course, and so they've each written a bit about it.

Sarah: Setting off from the campsite Saturday morning we headed for Cairngorm Mountain car park where we met up with our instructors Paddy and Tom from Mountain Circles. We walked up to Coire Cas where we were shown how to assess the snow conditions on the mountain by cutting out a block of snow, and testing it to see how much pressure it took for the block to break apart. The instructors taught us some basic winter skills including how to use an ice axe, kicking steps and cutting steps in the snow. After this, we went on to what I thought was the most fun bit - practicing ice axe arrests. We started off with an easy feet-first forward slide down the slope, and after a bit of practice, moved on to head-first-on-your-front sliding and head-first on-your-back sliding, both of which involved a face full of snow!

Winter Skills course.
On the Sunday we set off from the Cairngorm Mountain car park again and headed to Coire an t-Sneachda to learn some rope work and put into practice some of the skills we learnt yesterday. Our instructors first demonstrated how to make a bucket seat in the snow for belaying, and how to use an ice axe as a back-up should the bucket seat not hold the individual belaying in place. They then taught us how to make a snow bollard for abseiling off and we each got a chance to have a go abseiling using the South African technique. After this we donned our crampons and ascended Stob Coire an t-Sneachda on to the Cairn Gorm plateau, where we were lucky enough to have spectacular views of the snowy Fiacaill ridge, Ben Macdui and Aviemore as the sun was setting. A great course and really fun weekend!

Fran: The course was absolutely brilliant. On Saturday, we learnt all about avalanches, and how to test the snow's stability by digging out a big block of snow. We practiced kicking steps in the snow with boots, and had fantastic fun launching ourselves down the hillside to practice ice-axe arrests - some nutty people even went down headfirst... backwards... at 'max 10'! It was a great day, with lots of really useful tips that I'm itching try out again, and all the standing around in the cold has hopefully made us a bit tougher too.
Fantastic views over the Cairngorms on our Saturday walk.
Those of us not on the course went a-bagging on the Saturday - down Glen Feshie and up Sgor Gaoith. The walk was long and strenous, especially with all the wading through snow. We were rewarded with some stunning views out over the Cairngorms though, and it was well worth it. On the Sunday, some headed off to do Fiacaill Ridge, whilst we had a peaceful stroll to Locn an' Eiliean. There are some of my photos as well as Sarah's photos here, and a video of our walk on Saturday below.