The Moray Mountaineering Club Bus yesterday meet to the Cairngorms was interesting and despite the early start 24 were picked up from Elgin to Inverness and then down a snowy A9 to the Cairngorms. It is the weekend of the annual winter skills for members and myself and Ray Harron were going to take a few who wanted a re – fresher or new member’s to winter who wanted a bit of advice. Buying the ice axe and crampons is the easy bit learning how to use them safely takes time. In my days in Mountain Rescue we had a winter skills weekend every year to remind the old and bold and the new your never to old to learn! It was a mixed group that went from their 20’s to 70! As we arrived it grew from 6 to 16 ! A big group but we split up once we arrived at the place we decided to use into 2 groups!
The bus got to Glenmore and we had a wait till the snow – gates opened, the weather was not bad now. On of the group was walking back to Forres (honestly)and set off from Glenmore another 3 went from Glenmore to Aviemore deciding to keep low. Our group was now 16 strong and we off loaded at the lower Ciste Car Park and set of to see what we could achieve in the weather. It was not bad but the slopes were scoured by the winds and we chose the ridge line a bit exposed but easy walking. It was a big group to handle but we stopped a bit on the way up explaining the weather and having a chat about conditions, cornices and avalanches. We net our first Mountain Rescue Team from Northumberland who were up training in Coire Loigh and we had a chat with an ex RAF Leeming troop.
We found some small bits of hard snow (neve) on the ridge and did some kicking steps and walking on hard snow and then wandered on into the weather. We were on our own a big group but found some shelter at about 800 metres and did various techniques by splitting into two groups. Use of the ice axe , step cutting,ice axe breaking , use of crampons for walking, front pointing and on mixed ground. In all we spent about 3 hours and most I hope maybe even enjoyed it? It was long enough in the conditions and only a start but we can add every time we go out. It was pretty cold at times but all seemed happy and we had no mishaps.
We had another break and spoke about various things what to do in an emergency : looking after each other,walking with poles, ice axes the use of crampons and wearing helmets. We tried to reminded everyone this was just a taster and that to enjoy the mountains you need simple skills and a short day does not make you an expert! A few realised that the place to put on your crampons for the first time is not in an inhospitable environment, practice at home! Then the basic skills of walking on snow and on different terrain in crampons it all comes with practice.
In all it was fun and a bit of a batter in the gusty wind on the way off again taking care and advising how you can prepare for bad weather and wind and a few hints how to stay on your feet. It was then a wee hike up to the bus at the top Car Park where we saw the Cairngorm Team Training and then the Aberdeen MRT and RAF Lossiemouth MRT as well, they were all training. They had just been up to Lochaber to help on a call – out for two lucky climbers stuck on the summit shelter and Lochaber had brought them down safely. We are so lucky to have so many teams about and all looking after us!
The missing climbers from last weekend on Ben Nevis have still not been found and that is a tragedy. The families must be suffering and I have been there many times in the past. One winter we were looking for 7 people the last was located in the summer. This country is a harsh place and to enjoy it in winter we must be safe. The Lossiemouth troops had a chat and they have had a busy week but were looking great and great to see them again, it brought back memories. We had a hot chocolate at the Glenmore Cafe whilst we waited for another group who were walking back from Cairngorm via Ryvoan and had a great day in wild conditions and the navigation was interesting! It was then to the Cairngorm Hotel for a quick drink then home, war stories and then home. The three that had walked from Glenmore to the Hotel were well ensconced in the pub!
So not a bad day in typical Cairngorm Weather it was fun and I a few got a taster others a reminder for the winter and hopefully they will go one to learn more. We have a few plan of a snow hole trip near the end of winter, a night walk round the Corries and maybe some climbs once the snow settles.
I hope there was lots learned and it helps us all to enjoy the mountains and be safe!
Thanks to Ray for his great help all that took part and John the Bus Monitor for looking after us all. If your interested in joining the Moray Mountaineering Club have a look at their website a bunch of good people.
Top Tip 1. The map with the Avalanche Rosette added a good reminder of where the danger areas are!
Top Tip 2. Get that gear out check it dry the crampons and check for damage your life may depend on them?