Category Archives: Scotland

Managing yourself on the hill for Scotland winter mountaineering

Managing yourself on the hill for Scotland winter mountaineering - The Mountain People
 
How well do you manage yourself on the hill – like a wolf?
 

Managing yourself on the hill for Scotland winter mountaineering

 

Introduction

 
Managing yourself on the hill sounds a nice idea but for many of us the more urgent issue of getting ourselves to the hill takes the limelight. Especially after the first few blogs where we now realise not only have we got to get ourselves to Glen Coe but we also need to make sure we’ve got the right kit and that we are in reasonable physical condition.
 
When we get there we need to be slick in the way we put things together on the hill, the way we look after and manage our self. If we’re not, our hopes of adventure, friendship and fun in the Scottish mountains can easily be replaced with disappointment and frustration.
 
With this in mind, four tips to help us to be ready for “managing ourselves on the hill”:
 

Expensive time, cheap time

 

As an adult, I don’t often get told off. To my great surprise, I found myself being told off on an Alps trip for being late at the start of the day. The guide explained, “There is expensive time and cheap time. Cheap time is the evening before, expensive time is the morning before. Make sure you get ready in cheap time”.
 
Preparation is the key to success in mountaineering. Use the cheap time wisely – try out any new kit before you arrive, check your existing kit is fit for use, make sure you can get everything in your bag, know how to fit an ice axe to your bag, that sort of thing. Then, when you are on the trip, pack your bag as far as you can the evening before. Get up early enough to have breakfast and make lunch and sort out last minute things.
 

Saunas and ice baths

 
A single day Scottish winter mountaineering usually involves moving between sweating like you are in the desert to freezing like you are in the arctic. Kit and layers need to be taken on and off regularly. Similarly, conditions underfoot can move from wet soggy mud to gun-metal neve. Crampons get taken on and off more times than you’d wish for. And then, those super expensive guaranteed waterproof gloves get wet and cold. Time to change them for a dry pair from your bag.
 
All this means it is going to be helpful to have your kit well organised in your bag. Make sure you can get to your crampons easily and are ready to put them on and off. Think carefully about what “spares” you are going to take. I like to take three pairs of gloves or mitts, one pair to wear and two spare pairs in my bag. It can be very windy, have your map tied to something (if you hear a rumour that my map was whisked out of my hand in strong winds on my winter ML assessment it is not true).

 

Mental triggers

 
During the day, things happen, like a boot lace becoming loose. We consider the situation, realise to tighten the lace we’d need to take our gloves off, decide that would be cold and that the lace is not too loose and will be fine until we next stop. Essentially, we come to the comfortable conclusion that we, “Can’t be bothered”. If you find yourself having this thought, or similar, it is a mental trigger to say we need to address the situation now – shoelace, getting something to drink or eat, changing gloves, putting something warm on, getting goggles on etc. Good discipline is important.

 

Singing with the team

 
Some of us are probably already concerned a bit about our fitness. The increased speed with which we now walk up the stairs at home we know is not quite the preparation we originally had in mind. We fear that when we get out on the hill the pace may be a little more than we feel comfortable with.
 
Whether or not the pace is too quick it is good to recognise that manging yourself includes talking to others about how you are, the pace – too fast or slow, your comfort, your feet and those sorts of things. Set out each day ready to communicate how things are going for you.
 
And finally, looking after your attitude and morale are key to having great days in the mountain. Demanding conditions can easily take it out of a group leading to the team trudging along, in silence, for long periods of time. You don’t have to lead us in a song but choosing to be cheerful and friendly will bring big rewards for you and your group.
 

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Quick Update from us at The Mountain People

Quick Update from us at The Mountain People

 

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Buachaille Etive Mor – Iconic mountain in Glencoe

 

 

You may have been wondering why there haven’t been any Toubkal Winter Conditions Reports recently! This is because I, James, have headed up to Scotland and have been working towards my Mountaineering Instructor Certificate – a qualification that will allow me to teach and guide on more technical ice and mixed routes. So the conditions reports will resume towards the middle of March when I’m back!

 


In the meantime, here is what I’ve been up to over the last week in Scotland: routes such as Dinnertime Buttress I/II, Curved Ridge II/III, Golden Oldy II , Faulty Towers III, Dorsal Arete II have been hard earned with the wild conditions that are predominant in the western highlands. Slightly different to Morocco!

 

 

 

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Chris and Sam on the approach slope to the Douglas boulder and Fawlty Towers III

 

 

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At a belay on Fawlty Towers III

 

 

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Chris leading through on Curved Ridge II/III

 

 

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Taking coils before Golden Oldy I/II

 

 

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Rob and Andrew on Dorsal Arete II

 

 

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Me and the boys at the belay before the crux on Dorsal Arete

 

 

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The boys stoked after the crux on Dorsal Arete

 

 

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At the finish line!

 

 

 

Categories: Blog, James, Mountaineering, Scotland, Winter
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Scotland Winter Trip Day 5 & Wrap-up

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Rachel and Sam enjoying the North Ridge of Stob Bàn

 

Our annual Scotland Winter Community Event is now over for 2014, but we had a satisfying day out on the west coast in the Mamores. This was the fifth and last day of the trip, the aims of which have been to build relationships and have adventurous experiences, and we feel we have certainly met those objectives.

 

As the week progressed, and tiredness set in, we wanted a shorter day with some variety away from the Northern Corries. We felt that the North Ridge of Stob Bàn would fit the bill and offset the longer drive with a shorter day. This was the plan, at least, but the weather forecast did not live up to expectations and an accident on the A86 meant that it was the longest day of the week!

 

We steadily ascended the North Ridge, which was deeply covered in unconsolidated snow, although our progress was good. The difficulties increased towards the top of the ridge, at which point there were some mild expletives from one of the group – apparently Nick had not quite been transparent in his description of the day, which had swayed the particular member for one last blast! Nevertheless, the group enjoyed the exposure, which was short-lived.

 

Overall, it has been an excellent week. All have enjoyed the comforts and surroundings of a lovely, modern Scottish lodge, which have facilitated a great atmosphere. There have been many opportunities to catch up with old friends and get to know new acquaintances. And, of course, the hills have never disappointed, although the forecast has kept us on our toes and emphasised the need to be flexible.

 

We have pencilled in next year’s dates for Sunday 15 to Saturday 21 February, so if you have enjoyed reading about our exploits and the photos, do get in touch to be part of the community.

 

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Enjoying the views on Stob Bàn

 

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Marc, Sam and Rachel enjoying the scrambling on Stob Bàn

 

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James keeps a beady eye on the group

 

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The team in our lovely lodge for the week

Categories: Blog, Community, Mountaineering, Scotland, Simon, Winter
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Scotland Winter Trip Day 4

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Chris and Maggie on Invernookie III,4, Coire an t-Sneachda

 

Today we had a nice mixture of activities happening on the fourth day of our Scotland Winter Community Event, the aims of which are to build relationships and have adventurous experiences. One team was mountaineering in the western part of the Northern Cairngorms and the second mixed climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda.

 

Nick and Simon led the first group on an ascent of Sgòr Gaoith, a fine Munro, the name of which translates as ‘peak of the winds’. The initial part of the climb was a wonderful walk through pine woods, and alongside Allt Ruadh, before breaking onto open hillside to gain the shoulder of Sgòr Gaoith (roughly pronounced ‘skoor gui’). By this point the visibility had closed in, so there were no views, and the team quickly regrouped before descending via Meall Buidhe. Despite the lack of any panoramas, it was an excellent day and very sociable with all in good spirits.

 

Meanwhile, in the Northern Corries, Chris and Maggie were out with James, who is working towards his MIC, and agreed to climb with them on an informal basis. After their abortive effort at Invernookie III, 4 the other day, Chris and Maggie joined forces with James, who led them smoothly and confidently through this well-known and -travelled Grade III in Coire an t-Sneachda. As has been widely reported, the crag is buried under good névé, but with few (obvious) placements for gear.

 

Tomorrow looks to hold the best forecast of the week, so everyone is hoping to travel a little further to Creag Meagaidh for more of a remote experience, which rewards a visit on every occasion.

 

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Sam hits his stride

 

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The team in the lovely Scots pine forest

4

 

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Good views today at lower elevations to the Monadhliath

 

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Sam and Rachel enjoying some quality time

 

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Discussing the finer points of a topic of conversation

 

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The whiteroom – again!

 

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Nick, contemplating a banana

 

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Chris and Maggie enjoying the lower portion of Invernookie III,4

 

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The ever familiar walk-in to Coire an t-Sneachda

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Scotland Winter Trip Day 3

 

marc and sam enjoying a whiteout on the cairngorm plateau

Whiteout conditions are fun

 

Today we had two teams out in the Northern Cairngorms on the third day of our Scotland winter Community Event, the aims of which are to build relationships and have adventurous experiences.

 

The first team, led by Nick and James, led a large party from Glenmore Lodge out through the Pass of Ryvoan and onto Bynack More. This gave the group a wonderful stroll through Scot’s pine forests as a warm-up before the long pull up to the summit. The weather and views were magnificent all day, with the worse of the weather lingering over the higher peaks to the West. A lucky break!

 

The second team took on a day of navigation on the plateau with Simon under the shadow of a challenging forecast, culminating with the mighty Ben Macdui. Initially, the westerly winds were very challenging on the Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais, but once on the plateau, there were brief breaks of sun and views, which was a great bonus. Sam and Marc did very well with their first taste of full-on navigation in whiteout conditions.

 

Tomorrow, the forecast is again challenging, but the aim is to keep some energy back for Friday, which promises to be a great day – cold, calm and sunny.

 

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Suitably suited and booted for a day on the plateau

 

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Somewhere on the way to Ben Macdui

 

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A finer end to the day

 

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Good snow cover on the Cairngorm plateau

 

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Looking forward to a good day out on Bynack More

 

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Bynack More looms with an impressive summit plume

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