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Winter Skills Diary: Day Two

As I sit here and think about what I’m going to write about today's adventure, too much is coming to mind! So I think the best thing to do is to start from the beginning. Once we all arrived at Rob’s place it was straight to the weather talk, we checked the Met Office forecast against the Scottish mountain forecast and they seemed to match which was a good sign! We then looked at the avalanche report which we used as a guide to find the safest route to the summit. We headed off to Munro Bagging in Glencoe, parked up at the bottom and started hiking. The first thing that you noticed was the snowline, the mountain tops were covered in freshly dumped snow, and as you looked down you would see the rich earth tones at the foot of the mountains. It was truly stunning. shaundaytwo11small Once we had reached about 600 metres we started to hike with our ice axes as the ground began to be covered in deeper snow. We then headed towards Stob Dubh hiking along Buachaille Etive Beag to reach the summit. Because of the fresh snowfall the avalanche risk was rated “considerable” so that was always in the back of my mind, looking at where I was treading. Because of this risk Rob used it as a great training aid, after we put our crampons on he split us up into two groups. Everyone would take turns in leading the group up to the summit; this was a brilliant learning tool because it made us think about not just our own safety but the safety of the others. The route along the ridge was great, the wind was really blowing into your face (I pretty much lost the feeling in the right side of my face). The wind also brought with it snow which just hammered us, but you we couldn’t have asked for better conditions. shaundaytwo5small The wind got so harsh that on the way back we had to put on our goggles (mine have a nice rose tint to them; let’s just say I looked pretty cool on the mountain). This also proved a testing time with our crampons because we were going over uneven and very rocky terrain so we really had to watch our step or as Rob would put it “walk like John Wayne as he just comes off his horse”. I did nick one of my crampons against my gaiters and for the split micro second you just think “whoa holy (insert swear word here)”. Just something as little as that can really put you off balance when winter walking. Once we made it out of the wind we sat down to have some lunch which was the most beautiful place I think I have ever had lunch, just surrounded by mountains with their tops covered in snow is just a thing of beauty. After we had stuffed our faces and taken lots of pictures we headed over to Stob Coire Raineach. shaundaytwo2small The approach was great, nice deep snow to tread on (oh I forgot to mention we didn’t have crampons on) and a nice and steady route to take to the top. Well that was only the start! It really was a workout on the calf muscles, I couldn’t believe the burn I was getting by hiking up this beast! When we finally got to the top I could have just laid at the summit for ten hours to rest my calves, but as soon as we got up, it was time to come down again as Rob wanted us to work on our self arrest. Once we finally got down from Stob Coire Raineach we found a nice steep section on the mountain and started fine tuning our self arrest skills that we had learnt the other day. After a couple of runs Rob showed us two new self arrest skills, slide down the mountain facing forward then move into self arrest position, and then slide down the mountain head first but lying on your back. When you are sliding down the side of a mountain on your back head first it can be a little bit scary, so I’m not going to lie the first time I did it I bricked it a little. But after a couple of attempts you got used to it and you soon realise what a vital tool self arrest is. After an hour or so of sliding down a mountain we headed over to a climbers pub, sat in front of a nice warm fire, got a round in (mines a coke) and debriefed. Another amazing day in the mountains and we have ticked off three summits! What more could you want! I was excited to see what day three had in store! shaundaytwo1small