So as I went to sleep last night I prayed to the snow gods that we could have some proper snow to play in, and my prayers were answered. Overnight we had a massive storm that dumped a lot of snow to the mountain tops, which was more than enough for us to play in.
We started the day checking the weather and avalanche reports to see what the storm had done. Luckily for us the avalanche risk was considerate so as long as we managed our routes, and made sure our navigation was up to scratch then we should be alright in these areas.
The biggest risk to our day would mainly be the wind. On summit tops the forecast said about 35-40 mph winds which is manageable, but it would be getting strong in the evening. With this information we decided to summit two mountain tops then head down before the stronger winds came in.
The two summits we headed for were Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag. The greatest thing about these summits is that there is a gondola which takes you to around 600 metres(which saves a lot of time and your legs). You can hike straight from the car park but due to the wind that was coming we decided to take the gondola up (even though at one point they weren’t going to open it due to the wind).
Once we had reached to the top of the gondola Rob made us navigate to the summit of Aonach Mor. We all took turns in navigating. I was the first person to lead the team up (which was great because the navving was easy as all I had to do was follow a ski chair lift). Because we all took turns in navigating it made us really think about our own pacing and how some people move a lot quicker than they should and some a lot slower, I think that this really helped us as a group to lead each other and also to see how far we could push ourselves.
When we had reached Aonach Mor it was very clear that the winds had picked up quicker than what was on the weather report. As we stood on the summit, winds were gusting down between 50-60 miles an hour. Although this is manageable, if we were to hit the second summit, Aonach Beag, the likelihood of us getting back safely would be slim.
We then hiked down the mountain to a more secure section, hardly any wind and lots of deep snow; it was snow shelter building time! Before we started digging ourselves in the snow we had to make sure that the ground was stable enough for us to dig in. With the rope skills we learnt yesterday muggings here was lowered down to the side of the slope to “test” the snow. Once I got into position I had to jump up and down to test the snow to see if it would avalanche, of course if it did I was safely roped up with two other people acting as dead weights.
The snow was fine so we all pulled out our ice axes and commenced digging. Rob tested our skills and only gave us half an hour to “build” our snow shelter. Within 15 minutes I had reached the ground and couldn't dig any further so I had to dig inwards, basically I built an ice coffin rather than a snow shelter, I did have room for a flat screen TV and a mini bar though!
After the shelter building we ended the day testing and tuning our ice axe arrest skills, then headed to the café. A bunch of men round a table talking about what an epic day we had and there was me with my hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows!
The weather isn’t looking great tomorrow, 100mph winds just in the valleys so summits are out of the question. We have three possibilities of what we will be doing so make sure you check back for my final Winter Skills diary blog
to find out what happens!