The week preceding my course I had my first taste of Winter Climbing with some friends, (see previous blog post), however it was nice to consolidate what I had picked up from them into a set of skills that would allow me to move around the hills effectively and safely. Making dynamic risk assessments and reading the conditions as they changed throughout the day.
The following morning we met our instructors Johnathon Preston and Diane. The Group was split on half 6 going with Johnathon, and 6 with Diane. We had a quick talk about weather forecasts and how they correlate to conditions actually experienced, before heading out up to the Ski Centre Car Park.
The conditions weren't brilliant on the first day, but we made the most of it. Walking up the snow under the ski lifts we talked about navigation, using your boots as tools and the importance of constantly making decisions as the conditions change, be it the snow/ice, the weather or the group.
Heading over to some older snow we got out the axe, going through how to cut steps, edge our boots, ascend, descend and traverse an icy slope.
With the following day looking even more miserable we took the opportunity to head up onto the Cairngorm plateau to go bag Cairn Gorm via the Fiacaill a Choire Chais. Up on the plateau we did some poor vis. navigation, walking on bearings and pacing. With the wind around 40mph and sleety rain we did not say on the top for long. Heading into a Corrie on the North aspect of Cairn Gorm, we had our lunch in a snow hole, before heading back out into the sleet to practice ice axe arrests, which aren't as hard as they look!
That evening we had a slideshow presentation from Johnathon, the course director, showing some of his wide wintery travels over the years, with the pictures all still film, it required a slide projector and screen.
After an interesting trip back down the ski road in the snow we headed back to the bunkhouse for our final meal. The food throughout the course was brilliant, lots of carbs and 3 courses in an evening. Looking back on the two days the instructors where excellent, really knowledgable in what they where delivering and I now feel I have the basic skills I need to walk around in winter conditions in the mountains.
The Conville Trust helps make this course affordable with it costing only £85 its very good value for money. Anyone under the age of 30 that is looking to get out in the winter mountains should defiantly look at doing it!
Follow my progress on Instagram: @climbing_weldon
Conville Trust Website: http://www.jcmt.org.uk
Thanks to Alice Ormrod for supplying the pictures!