Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Day 5: Stob Ban, Mullach nan Coirean & the bushwhacker trials

Sore back arrived quickly after I got out of bed so two painkillers, a few stretches and some tiger balm was this mornings routine before breakfast. I definitely feel like I have aged a few years since the start of this week began.

Today's weather and avalanche forecast report revealed that there was to be nothing major enough to keep us from venturing out into the great outdoors. Just cloud, mist and patchy rain on the horizon. Wouldn't be Scotland without that report really.

We were told that we would be heading to Stob Ban today and since we would be starting at near sea level, we would be ascending almost the full 999m with a lovely rocky start and most likely no views from the summit. No problem, bring it on I thought.

About 40mins into the walk in and my back was seriously protesting with each step. So much so that I had the feeling that I would have to give up and go back. Alex (one of our guides) offered to distribute some of the weight from my backpack around the team to see if that would help me out. For about 30 minutes it definitely did help but a sore back is tricky thing.

After another hour as we began to climb steeper, my back was beginning to protest again but determination would not allow me to give up especially since some of the others were going to all the effort to carry some of my things. I refused to be the girl who gave up. So I just tried to keep my spirits up and keep focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Stob Ban summit came soon after and all of us (Peter, Graham, Kevin, Lukas) rejoiced to reach the top and not only that, but to also have been given such unexpected gorgeous weather and stunning panoramic views. Whilst the rest of us were munching on various items from our lunch pack, Alex and Sandy decided to come up with a new plan. Instead of heading straight back down from the summit, since it was such a lovely day, we would just traverse down to the col at 817m and then across the ridge and then back up to the summit of Mullach nan Coirean which stands at 939m to claim our 2nd Munro of the day and then head on down from that summit having then completed a circular walk instead. I'm sure this seemed like a good idea at the time when we were all on a high but halfway there, a little bout of tiredness kicked in and I began to find some of the guys gigantic footsteps difficult to follow and then cutting my own steps became a chore that resulted in the odd stumble and sidestep but after approximately 45minutes of trudging, we finally stopped at the summit of Mullach Nan Coirean for our much needed staple diet of juice, jelly babies, chocolate and energy gels. (Which are the most disgusting things ever. I imagine it's kind of like eating hand gel... Yuck!)

Once we had topped up the necessary sugars we headed off the summit and back down towards the van. Everything seemed to be going well with the descent and just when we thought we were home free, we hit a forest and darkness closed in. We then became the jagged globe bushwhackers. After 30-40 minutes fighting our way downhill through trees by head torch light we finally emerged victorious with the odd branch peeking out of our backpacks.

We eventually made it back to the hotel just minutes before dinner, dehydrated and a little delirious. Wind down time in the bar became necessary. Good company, good chat and a top up of water and sugars and the night ends well.

A massive thanks to all those who made the whole day a happy memory even after all the aches and pains.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Day 4: Meall a' Bhuiridh

Midweek tiredness has arrived this morning but up and at it again no matter what is my motto today.
The daily weather and avalanche check revealed some interesting things on the immediate horizon. For the past 2 days, the weather has been glorious but today was to be a different kettle of fish. The warnings for the mountains were clear: High winds from midday and a high avalanche risk in Glencoe and Lochaber. With all of that in mind, we had 2 options; Ice factor or Meall a' Bhuiridh but getting the chair lift up to 600m to get a head start of the weather and hopefully get as much as possible done before having to turn back. So we chose to get out and onto the mountain and off we set.

The chair lift was definitely interesting. I somehow imagined that it would stop for you to get on and off but no, it just keeps on going. First challenge of the day, complete. The rest of today was going to be a low impact day on the mountain which I was a little thankful for because it meant having more technical stuff thrown at us and learning some stuff that would assist us in an emergency on a mountain journey.

Some walking and trudging uphill was followed by a hasty pit production line where we all checked the snow layers to see what we could find. We then walked a little more before having a more indepth look at navigation. I actually began to feel like I was getting it but not sure how long that will last without daily practise. We then did some more uphill walking before stopping again to get our harnesses on and get some rope work done.

Firstly we began by creating our very own bucket seat, no easy feat really but all the digging certainly keeps you warm and if it's done right, it's relatively comfortable, well as comfortable as a hole in the snow can be. Then we got taught how to do different knots and techniques and learned other things such as a buried axe belay. Overall a brilliant, fun, yet informative time in the snow. By the time we had finished the wind was beginning to pick up and our bucket seats were filling with snow so we decided to pack up and head off to a different part of the mountain where we dug ourselves another hasty pit to check the snow layers on a different part of the mountain to check if they were consistent with the first. We also got to do some light abseilling down a gentle angled slope before making our way back down the mountain without the aid of the chair lift this time, trying to avoid slipping on the ice as much as possible.

Overall today was a fun packed and information filled day which ended with dinner, a few glasses of wine and a game or two of bamboozle in the bar. Not a bad way to spend the day/night at all in my opinion

S xx

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Day 3: Buachille Etive Beag & Stob Dubh

Tuesday arrives and I must admit it was a little more difficult to get out of bed this morning. I definitely feel a little stiffer and less agile. Not to panic though as breakfast is a hearty one of fresh orange juice, porridge oats (kinda), sugary tea and then a little bit of eggs and bacon. Now, that's what I am talking about. Raring to go...

So today is another gorgeous winters days. Chilly but nothing major and some nice gentle sunshine to add a little rosy flavour to the cheeks. Heading off to Buachille Etive Beag, for a walk along the ridge and then on to the summit of Stob Dubh today. I can already feel the weight of my legs on the first few hundred metres then add to that the weight of crampons and you will understand why I needed a strawberry and cranberry (yummy btw) powerbar to get me going again after lunch.

A few meters after the col, we got taught how to look for and understand avalanches and by digging a hasty pit to check for unstable layers, we discovered there actually was a pretty unstable layer underneath a well bonded top layer thankfully which was supporting our weight. Needless to say, we did not continue on that path. We then headed on to the ridge line and followed it climbing up on to the summit of Stob Dubh and what a sight we were rewarded with. Absolutely gorgeous and the best possible advert you will ever see for Visit Scotland

With views like that, it doesnt matter how long or hard it was to get there. It all melts away when you see that.

Scotland: Oh how I love you sometimes


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Day 2: Aonach Mor

What a beautiful day in Scotland. We couldn't have asked for better weather for our first day in the mountains: Clear skies, sunny rays coming from a bizare object in the sky and pleasant temperatures ranging from 1C to -4C... Perfect!

Today we headed for Aonach Mor where we got the gondola up to approx 600m. We then began our leisurely day with some walking and footwork practise on some fairly light terrain. We then had some educational fun in the snow practising our ice axe arrest technique before a much needed lunch and then getting the crampons on and heading further up the mountain on much steeper terrain at approx 30degrees.

We had a full day of fun, education and exercise, just what you need on a sunny, crisp Scottish day... so get out there folks but be safe if you do so.

Heading back to the hotel, time for a much needed relaxing shower, a feast and blether with the others and then sleep because lets face it; I have to go through it all again tomorrow


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Mountaineering, Day 1: Let the games begin

10 months of waiting has finally come to an end. My plans have finally officially been kick started and it is such a great feeling.

Drove up to the Ballachulish hotel this afternoon, passing through places like Kilmahog (Love that name) and Callander and as I noticed the hills becoming more and more snow covered, the excitement grew into a really girly scream. I had no way to prepare for that, it just happened and im sure if you had seen me, it would have been hilarious.

The course kicked off with a short introduction, meeting the instructors and each other before we got all of our kit ready and then after a lovely dinner, we then had a presentation so that we knew roughly what to expect in the coming week and; as the presentation was titled; 'how to cope' haha
There are actually 3 courses running at the one time this week, so there are a few folk in the hotel but on my specific course there are only 6 people so it's a lovely small number which should hopefully make it a lot more intense and focused.

Now, just lazing in my very comfy hotel room, I am hoping that I can beat my usual 'unsleepiness' and perhaps sleep soon so that I am well rested for the big day ahead. So on that note, buzzing with excitement, off I go to attempt that which manages to evade me on such a regular occasion.

Bring on the winter games!!!

S xx