As part of the process to become British Mountain Guides as well as Mountaineering Instructors, it is essential that we know about avalanche awareness and stay on top on current thinking and techniques from the experts. So this is one course I never get tired of going to. I tend to participate in an avalanche course every year and each one is different. Unfortunately there was no interesting snow too look at but the class room session was useful and has armed me with some new methods in teaching and information sharing. The course was funded by the Chris Walker Memorial Trust.
|Alan on Left Twin|
The forecast was very benign, low winds with a little cloud cover and cold enough temperatures. Alan has been suffering from a chest infection for the last 3 weeks so a short walk in was best suited.
|Despite having a chest infection I still made him coil the ropes|
|Alan emerging from the crux|
|Abseiling back down Left Twin|
|In Right Twin|
|The snow could have come from anywhere! ;)|
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|Heading for the corner (photo: Steve)|
|I think I had a knee bar in there (Photo: Steve)|
|A few more moves to go (Photo: Steve)|
We started off on Sterling Bridge (VI,7) which was a great pitch of climbing. Short but very entertaining and a nice route to get things going this winter. We made it to the top at 11.30am so with plenty of time left we opted for another route. Given that Steve hadn't done a route on the crag I showed him the abb points and he led us up Left Twin (III,4).
|Steve approaching the belay on SB|
Unfortunately the idiot in the group (me) left the ice screws in the back at the top so Steve was faced with a lonely lead with a head of useless metal work as everything was choked with ice. He did sling a couple of pretty useless ice columns but it was not a problem as the route was well within Steve's climbing grade, there was a good ice pillar right at the crux more fortunately. So all in all, a great day out to blow away the skiing legs, a mixed route, an ice route and a nice finish back to the van at 2.30pm. Happy days. Back to work tomorrow...I think I will go back up there, great conditions.
|Steve leading to the top of SB|
|Steve setting off without ice screws|
|Ice screw would be useful here...|
|A sneaky view of the moor|
|Love this route!|
|Looking at what we have done|
|Orchids bring light to a gloomy day|
|Descending into An Cul Choire, axe and cramoons!|
I suppose I was a little apprehensive as I have never climbed the North East ridge of Aonach Beag but it was on Grahames to do list and the weather was to improve at midday, somewhere near the crux. Views, sunshine and no rian! Cant wait. Well it did clear at about 6pm! On the whole route we endured constant rain, thick low cloud and incredibly greasy rock. I would strongly suggest to any folk off to try this route that they save it for a dry day with good views. I would say it turned into the hardest days work this summer.
|Abseiling off the crux section to bypass it|
We were both very relieved to get past the crux section which involved quite a bit of rope trickery and an assisted hoist. Grahame did incredible well as every footstep was like soap and most handholds were the same. We had thought about bailing earlier but we were holding onto the forecast that it would clear...it never did. I suspect it is a great route in the dry in a fantastic setting, I am really keen to get back in more suitable conditions. In winter, I suspect it will be amazing.
|Greahame relieved to be at the top|
|Me tired and relieved.|
|Great winter environment on Aonach Mor|
|Interesting terrain to blow away some cobwebs|
|Prepared to head into the 'Ping Pong ball'|
|In the ball|
|Steve sporting equipment older than me.|
|Steve's wooden Stubai axe. Lovely piece of equipment.|
|The team in Coire na Tulaich|
Chris Walker Memorial Trust. This charity provides funding for expeditions to greater ranges and also helps mountaineering instructors to attend courses to further their knowledge and understanding, helping avoid further incidents and pass on crucial information to clients. The day was split into two, we had a classroom morning looking at the theory of avalanche awareness and how we can teach this to our clients, followed by a hill based afternoon showing how we can utilise the mountains and teach clients exactly what they need to know. As a member of the Association Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) it is important that we attend these CPD courses to make sure we stay current and in-line with modern ideas and thinking. A fantastic day ran by Graham Moss from the SAIS.
|Blair looking for a snow patch. Aonach Beag behind.|
|Looking very snowy on the North Face of Ben Nevis|
|Spot the crown wall...released under its own weight|
|Only me and this chap at the col|
|WE need a wee thaw and a good freeze and then conditions will be amazing!|
|Smoking the White Owl - Yuk!|
|Alan swinging to glory|
|Me at the top of the steep pitch|
|A deserted ski area|
Rich and his team at the bottom who were planning Right Twin. That was good so we still had plan A all to ourselves We were psyched for Left Twin (III,4). Then, out of nowhere like some stealth giraffe, Mike strolled past us with sharp elbows and went for our chosen route! All in good humour though. Mike decided to abseil down the route so we decided to zip down Easy Gully and check out the rest of the routes. This would give Mike a chance to get up a pitch. So John and I built a snow bollard and abseiled in to find plenty of snow which was stable where we walked/waded. There was plenty of ice forming on the Ribbed walls, nothing steep was quite there such as White Shark and Aquafresh but the mixed routes looked good. Left Twin was in great condition with Siamese Twin nearly there. There was a team on Stirling Bridge and I think that was it. John led the last pitch up to the cornice via a nice little mixed step which Mike and his client put tracks through. A fantastic day followed by some great soup and coffee in the cafe.