So here I am, I've got all my gear on, I'm walking down the halls of a Premier Inn, crampons in my pack, ice axe strapped to my back and wearing layer upon layer, ready for the mountains. Let's just say I got a lot of interesting looks.
No I haven’t gone crazy (although some might dispute). I’m on a Winter Skills course all week in the Fort Bill and Ben Nevis region in Scotland with five other guys and the one and only Rob Johnson. The week is really about building confidence when it comes to winter walking, how to handle the snow and what to do in emergency situations.
Now I only know three people on this course so the first day is always a get-to-know-you one. Also it’s all about getting used to the equipment which is strapped to you.
We started the day in Rob’s front room looking at the weather and what it was going to do in the day. Using the results we got from the Met Office we then compared it to a Scottish mountain weather site to see if there was any difference (which there was not). We then looked at an avalanche website, searched the mountain we were looking to hike up, and checked to see what the risks were.
Once we were happy we set off. Because it was the first day we travelled to the closest ski centre which was Sgurr Finniogaig I do believe. This means we could get to the snowy peaks quicker and it gave us longer to get to used to our winter gear. After about a 15 to 20 minute trek we ended up in the snow, and when I mean snow I really mean snow, the depth measured around 1.5 metres deep, that’s nearly as big as me!!
The first skill Rob showed us was how to use an ice axe properly; he showed us the different techniques you can use depending on the type of snow you are walking on. Once we had mastered that we then moved on to crampons. We had to put the crampons on standing up and kneeling down with our gloves on……… yeah it took a while but we got there! (When I say we I really mean me). We then spent a good couple of hours moving through the snow using different techniques with our crampons and ice axes, and learning new ways of how to approach different types of snow, rock and ice.
Before we headed back down the mountain we started our first stage of learning how to self arrest! I was a bit nervous of this before hand but once you get into the swing of it it’s such a vital and important thing to know. We covered sliding down on your front and on your back, at the time it felt pretty epic but I’ve just looked at the video and yeah I didn’t slide down as much or as fast as I thought!
The day ended with talking about what we had done throughout the day, what everybody thought and drinking a nice cuppa with some cake. Roll on day two