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Winter Skills Diary: Day Three

After an amazing day yesterday I was well and truly pumped for what was next, I couldn’t wait to hit the mountains again, that’s probably why I didn’t get much sleep! So first things first; the weather update. All last night it had rained. I know what you are thinking, that means more snow. Normally that is the case on higher ground, but the night was also a mild one. This means two things; yes the snow melts, but it also means that the snow that doesn’t melt can be unsafe. So we all snuggled up into Rob's front room again and looked at the weather…rain all day! Next we decided to take a look at the avalanche report, where we had planned on going had a high risk of natural and man-made avalanches. Clearly we wouldn't be going there then! As we now needed a fall-back plan we started looking to see where there was a considerable (but manageable) and low risk place to explore, luckily we found it at the Cairngorms. Rob decided that this would be a perfect day to do our avalanche training. Before we headed off we had a short lecture (with lots of videos of skiers setting off avalanches) about the different types of snow, avalanches and the equipment that is used in finding a person in an avalanche and also equipment that could save your life if you ever find yourself in one. With what we learnt in the lecture we headed off, but after seeing Rob's avalanche videos I was more keen to stay in the car! When we parked up we were at 600 metres, at 600 metres yesterday we were in knee deep snow. We then hiked for about 20 to 30 minutes to the top of some ski slopes to finally get some good snow, from this you could tell how wet and warm it was over night! Once we reached the top, Charlie (who is working on his Winter Mountain Leader), took my rucksack and Ali’s rucksack and buried them in the snow. While he was doing that Rob showed us how to use the avalanche equipment that is used to find people. He then split us up into teams. One team played the avalanche victims and the other team had to help find them, the two rucksacks that had been buried somewhere in the side of the mountain were also classed as people. daythree2small The team I was in had to find the victims first, working on what Rob had taught us we started from the last point that a person had been seen and worked our way down, talking to any of the victims that could speak (they all had roles to play that Rob had given them) and find out as much information about what had happened. Time wasn't on our side though because we only had 15 minutes to save the person (and my green Exped rucksack, which was later called Rob) from dying. Luckily we got all the info, saved Rob (the rucksack) and the others from dying, all within 12 minutes! Then it was our team's turn to play the victims. One chap was pretty much buried alive in the snow and was unconscious, and I had broken my ankle or something, but also I wasn’t allowed to give out any info! The other team did a great job and finally got some answers out of me! It was a real eye opener for me about what these guys do, and also go through when it comes to avalanches. daythree1small Rob then showed us how to rope up in winter conditions; I was at the top end of the rope and had to act as a guide for the others who were attached to the rope. I then had to fall to test the other guy’s reactions, luckily they were fast and saved my life!! The day ended with us working on our self arrest skills to help us fine tune them. Finally we headed off to a café, and debriefed over a flat white, and a slice of humming bird cake, what a great way to end the day. Time to catch a bit of rest before heading out on day four!