Tag Archives: Glencoe

Scotland winter mountaineering trip 2017: Day 3, Coire nan Lochan

Scotland winter mountaineering trip 2017: Day 3, Stob Coire nan Lochan - The Mountain People
 
Decent conditions in Broad Gully, Stob Coire nan Lochan
 

Scotland winter mountaineering trip 2017: Day 3, Stob Coire nan Lochan

 
This is part of our annual Scotland winter mountaineering trip, and you can find the previous days here:
 
Day 1, Aonach Mor
Day 2, Ben Nevis
 
A good day out indeed today, especially as we pass the halfway point and the big day out take their toll on the feet and legs.
 
The winter skills and summits and ridges teams both walked into Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe, up Broad Gully, took in Stob Coire nan Lochan and then split ways.
 
The cool overnight conditions had firmed up the snow pack and put down some snow, which made things feel more wintery.
 
There were snow showers for the first part of the day, but these passed through to leave wonderfully clear views and bursts of sunshine and lifted people’s spirits.
 
Things are still very lean, especially in Glencoe, but the old snow provided good travel and options for looking at different mountain skills.
 
The climbing team made a return trip to Ben Nevis, and took on No. 3 Gully Buttress on Ben Nevis – a snowed up rock route, given the lack of in condition routes.
 
Friday still looks to be the best day of this week, so the challenge now is to sake people’s legs and save the best route or journey until last!
 

Check out our ‘Getting ready for Scotland winter mountaineering series’:

 
Training and fitness for Scotland winter mountaineering
Choosing kit & gear for Scotland winter mountaineering
Winter Climbing Part I – Getting started
Winter Climbing Part II – Training
Managing yourself on the hill for Scotland winter mountaineering
The Headgame: Scotland winter mountaineering
 

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Highland Hobo #4

On the Lancet Ridge

On the Lancet Ridge

Intense was the feeling that I came away with after a week in the Ben Alder region.

 

Intense situations: a knife edge ridge, snow covered mountains to the horizons, night navigation to leave the area, crossing frozen burns

 

Intense cold: -2 to -7 degrees average outdoor temperatures; 0 to 2 degrees average indoor; breaking ice to draw water; the lingering feeling of cold in the bones

 

Intense emotionally: taking responsibility for another person in a real wilderness situation; assessing avalanche hazards; and the long, interminable nights

 

I would be lying if I did not admit that I am weary from the cumulative experience of the last three weeks. Perhaps it was the lack of a rest day for over a week. Really, it is being apart from family and having a lot of comforts and norms stripped away. Yet something in me keeps me to the task of seeing this Winter Mountain Leader award through to completion.

 

There were many moments of sublime consciousness, seeing things in nature and the landscape that evoked deep thoughts. I will not share these at this point, not to multiply those from last time. I simply share one from the extraction walk.

 

We left the bothy at 4:00am to commence the five hour trudge to the road, walking by the light of headtorches with wind-driven snow falling around us. In the beam of my torch snowflakes scudded past, too fast for the eye to recognise an individual form. Instead, the flakes took on the appearance of acetate film strips, the white of the flakes forming the perforations of the 35mm film. Multiple layers of strips, white on black, carved across my field of vision. I walked onwards, engrossed in the small cinematic world of one; a banal, yet strangely involved activity of night walking, finally, and thankfully, broken by the watery winter dawn.

 

Torridon was supposed to be next up on the list, but has been postponed because of high winds. We head into the back of Glencoe tomorrow, mindful of those who lost their lives recently, but eager for what our adventure will bring us.

 

Ben Alder Forest

Ben Alder Forest

 

Simon is the Morocco Director and an instructor with The Mountain People. He is currently preparing for his Winter Mountain Leader assessment, as chronicled by the ‘Highland Hobo’ series.

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Scotland, Skyfall & Ulysses

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone

My next six weeks will be spent in Scotland preparing for my Winter Mountain Leader (WML) assessment. The WML award validates the individual to lead parties on hill walks within the UK under winter conditions. I will spend the time undertaking a number of short expeditions to various areas, to gain winter experience, practise the relevant skills (such as ropework) and, of course, do plenty of navigation, which is key in tougher, wilder, winter weather.

 

It seems hubristic announcing this so openly, with the obvious expectation that I will pass (the WML is widely considered to be the hardest of the UK outdoor qualifications physically and mentally). However, I want to share the experience, as I am able, partly because of my sheer enjoyment of the outdoors and partly out of a love of writing about my experiences and the thoughts and feelings that they prompt.

 

With this in mind, I was inspired recently, having watched the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, which borrowed several locations from Scotland: Glencoe and Glen Etive. It included the wonderful shot of Buachaille Etive Mor from the Kingshouse-Rannoch Moor direction.  The current weather forecasts are rather depressing with massive low pressure depressions battering the country. However, it was impossible not to catch the sense of wild and adventure from the film and project it forward for my yet undocumented adventure.

 

Skyfall also drew my attention to the poetry of the great Lord Tennyson, quoting the final lines from Ulysses:

 

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

 

What a joy, then, to hear poetry evoking the Classical era coupled with the fine landscapes of Scotland!

 

The speaker in the poem is, of course, Ulysses, probably known better by his Greek title, Odysseus, the hero who masterminded the downfall of Troy – well deserving of his heroic epithet, Sacker of Cities. He speaks of the end of his rule, the transfer of power to his son Telemachus. The tones are melancholic and mindful of the former glories, Odysseus all too aware that his strength is waning. However, the strength of his spirit remains powerful and resilient, and the call of his speech is clear: there is still much to be done!

 

Skyfall drew parallels with Odysseus and Telemachus (as well as Turner’s magnificent The Fighting Temaraire) to illustrate the dwindling influence of Great Britain – a nation with a great heritage, but facing an uncertain future – and the natural cycle of manpower within its constituent institutions. I particularly liked the appearances of the Union Jack bulldog – with its unmissable references to Churchill and British national spirit – precisely because, if you looked closely, it had been shattered, but put together again.

 

We often feel unprepared in life, unready for the works and challenges that lie ahead. This might be as a result of family circumstances, busyness, stress or fear. However, I think we should all draw from the example of Odysseus, as related through Tennyson: keep moving, don’t make an end, savour shared experiences with friends.

 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

 

I am on the brink of what I consider a great personal endeavour, and cannot help but feel small. I take heart from Odysseus and encourage you to do so too. As I tackle each of my expeditions, I hope to share with you a small part of what I have endured, and hope that you will similarly be inspired.

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