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Next Meet

"Wild Camping"

1st - 3rd March 2013

Next Social

AGM. Portland D136.
map

Thursday 14th March
8.00 pm

If you don't want this for a time, please comment it-Fabian !Next Ice Climb

Manchester Indoor Ice Wall
Friday 1st December at 8:30am

If you don't want this for a time, please comment it-Fabian !Next Climb

Winter Skills Trip: Glencoe 27th - 30th January 2005


There were 24 of us booked for Winter Skills, which meant two minibuses. Despite twice the number going on this trip from the last one in Torridon, the now legendary MPS Faffa Bility did not rear it’s ugly head and we were on the road just before 6pm. That said it took ages to get out of Nottingham due to a crash on the A52, but past that the journey up was pretty smooth. Of the two buses, one had a ‘super’ engine, and the passengers were even entertained with a DVD player. Somehow though we managed to arrive at our various stopping points at around the same time. The ‘Little Chippy’ in Penrith (our normal dinner stop) alarmingly was closed when we arrived, but the kebab/pizza/burger joint a few doors up the road served our needs before panic hit in – though it did add a considerable time delay on our progress. The ‘slow’ bus had to make a call at Stirling to pick up Franco (who had been waiting at the station for 2 hours in the cold) and we made it to the Red Squirrel barn in Glencoe at about 3am. With the prospect of a maximum of 2.5 hours sleep available, pretty much everyone dived straight into their sleeping bags. Nick Stevens apparently got no sleep at all – though I doubt that it was due to others snoring!

Day 1 – Aonach Mor, Fort William

At 6am, a symphony of mobile phone alarms got a groggy crew up and we were all in the buses again by seven. After a few wrong turns trying to navigate the maze of identical bungalow-ridden streets of suburban Fort William, we arrived at the place where our mountain guides for the next two days were meeting us. We divided into four groups: two for the advanced climbing course, and two for the basic course.

Chris and Franco however were just up to go bagging (Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach). Frano spent ages pfaffing and packing his bags after everyone else had left: He and Chris eventually set off sometime around 8.30am. It was a brilliant clear day , with crampons making satisfyingly light work of the ocassional bit of ice. After a careful descent down a grade one snow slope, we walked out down the lost valley and then a trudge of 5km along the road, with no-one stopping for our thumbs. It later transpired that this gorge in this valley was more dangeous than I noticed at the time. (Franco)

All four groups then underwent a ‘kit inspection’ and by about 9.30 we were all in the buses again heading for Aonach Mor, with a bit of new-found energy and enthusiasm as the sun was now up and the weather promising to be glorious. Only Fabian seemed unhappy as we were going to be taking the Gondola up to the top and the last time he had been in a Gondola he had ended up humiliating himself in front of other bemused travellers at the Matlock Bath gondola by quivering on the floor in abject terror. Ahem. Anyway, each in our group, we made it to the top using the Gondola (in one piece and without me hurling myself onto the floor – but only as there wasn’t room).

At the top, we all headed off in our groups to begin the days training: I was in one of the basic training courses with Ste, Jana, Alistair M, Jim M, Joanna and Claire Williams. Our guide was Cliff and very soon we had arrived at the bottom of a steep snow bank where we would be spending the rest of the day. We initially learnt how to do ‘hasty pits’ to check the snow for potential avalanches and also more intricate snow pits, and how to properly walk on snow. Then after some lunch, we began ice-axe self-arrests (though we had to create a slightly more slippery practice run by bum-sliding and here Jim ripped the seat of Nicks expensive waterproofs which he had been borrowing). Initially cautious, we gradually built up confidence over the afternoon and started to really enjoy ourselves, eventually hurling ourselves head-first, on our backs down our now greatly lengthened slide. Jana took to the ice-axe arrests as if she had been brought up doing them, and Ste earned himself a ‘kamakazie’ nickname for Olympic dives to get himself enough speed down the slope! Cliff eventually had to stop us as we were really having too much fun, and we started some crampon training, and how to use them in conjunction with ice-axes to walk up near-vertical snow. By now, we realised that we would probably have to call it a day as the last (dreaded) gondola down was imminent. After another terrifying descent in the potential death contraption with a jolly discussion from my fellow passengers about which bones one would likely break should the gondola cable snap, we arrived back at the bottom and waited for the other groups to assemble. Poor Dave C was gasping for a cigarette as he had been told off for smoking on the mountain by his guide!

There were two advanced groups of four off to do some steeper gully and mixed climbing, and to learn some important ropework techniques. One group was Damien, Ed, Nick and Paul and the other was Adam, Al, Ben and Jim. Nick's group went off with their guide (whose name we never did know for sure! Danny maybe?!) up off the back of Aonach Mor. The day was spent learning belay techniques such as snow bollards, bucket seats and burried axe belays. Then shortly after Nick relieved himself in a practice bucket seat we set off after our guide to climb to steepening slope and over an interesting double cornice - which was overcome by performing an interesting belly flop manoeuvre - all very elegant though I'm sure! Then it was back down to practice some mixed ground climbing - involving a bit of rock, a bit of ice and a bit of snow - classic Scottish conditions! Then it was time to leg it down to catch the last gondola! We made it with 5 minutes to spare!

(Second advanced group goes here)

A quick stop at the Safeway and we were back in our barn preparing a bolognase for dinner and Nick and Dave C delighted a group of listeners to their guitar playing. After being well fed (well, nobody got ill did they?) we went in dribs and drabs to the Clachaig Inn for copious amounts of beer and to await the arrival of Matt Hilton who was driving up from Nottingham (he did two Crianlarich Murnos on the waly, half in the dark). In the pub there was a lot of excited chat about the day’s training and all were eager for the next day. By about 11 however, most had retired back to bed - the lack of sleep the previous night and a strenuous day taking their toll. There were a couple of snorers, though everyone I think got a good night’s sleep. Let me just point out that hitting Fabian and throwing shoes at his head does not stop him snoring! Just for future reference OK?

Day 2 – Stob Coire Nan Lochan, Glencoe

At 6am, Damian’s mobile went off and woke everyone up and someone had to get up and walk across to the other side of the barn to turn it off. However, most were able to get back to sleep for another hour as today, our guides would be meeting us in Glencoe and we were going just up the Glencoe road to practice our new-found skills on Stob Coire Nan Lochan. The weather was again spectacular and barely a cloud in sight as we started off up the steep path following the small burn. At the top, we again split up into our four separate groups. Franco was off bagging and Hilton and Chris were separately bagging.

Our group started off learning about pacing when used in navigation. We then practiced our skills in snow-walking as we started ascending a steep snow-gulley which we later learnt had no name. We then appropriately named it ‘the Unnamed Snow Gulley on Stob Coire Nan Lochan’. Original huh? After we had all put our crampons we started up the ‘really steep bit’ in order to do the traverse of Stob Coire Nan Lochan. The route up gave us spectacular views to the Mamores and Ben Nevis to the north. The clouds were starting to drift in from the west, but quite far below us and when we got to the top of the ridge, we were rewarded by an incredible cloud-inverted panorama which took in the Crianlarich hills, the Ben and even the Cairngorms. Cliff even told us the names of individual tops in the distance. From here, it was a short clamber up to the summit and we stopped for various photo-shoots and for some lunch. The weather could not have been more perfect as there was very little wind. As we were preparing to descend the other side, the other ‘basic training’ group arrived. They were doing the traverse in the reverse direction to us, and we stopped a bit longer for a chat and more photo-shoots though the wind was starting to build up. We briefly passed one of the climbing groups before we decided to descend a similar steep gulley to the one we had climbed up. From the top however, the view down was rather more off-putting, and only Ste, Jim and Jana descended this route. The others took a slightly less vertical gulley. Cliff was thoroughly unimpressed with the lack of really deep snow as he wanted to show us how to build snow shelters. We had to make do with a small-scale demonstration before we had to start the rather difficult descent (for me and Jo at least who could not stand upright on the steep snow without our crampons on). Most of the groups intercepted on the way down and Adam gleefully told us that Stob Coire Nan Lochan was not in fact a Munro, but only a top so our bagging tally remained at nil. Dave C at least got his cigarette, but had to hide behind a rock to smoke it!

Franco went out on his own to do the lone Munro of Glencoe, Sgor na h-Ulaidh, seeing some nice cloud inversions nicely highlighting next door Bidean. Matt and Chris went up twisting gully on Stob Coire nan Lochan, with Matt going on to bag the two munros, and descenting the lost valley at the same time as the above news story.

Nick's group also headed up to Stob Coire Nan Lochan, where we were to do Boomerang gully, a grade II climb. We tried to do the right fork but were beaten back by shit conditions and tons of loose rock so settled for the left fork which was straighforward steep snow. However that would have been too easy so our guide took us on a slight detour over a steep rocky bit which was a lot of fun - one hand hanging on for dear life to a rock spike and the other hanging on the the axe burried into ice! Brilliant! However things nearly turned ugly when our guide led the next pitch, poked his head round the corner only to see an avalanche wipe out our intended route up the gully! So after our guide regained the safety of our belay stance he decided that going back down would be a good idea. This turned out to be a good thing because we got a chance to practice abseiling techniques. Then it was back down the path to the minibus.

(Other advanced group to go here!}

Back at the buses, we had a final summary from our guides before we said farewell and thanks. Then off back to the hut with the prospect of food and some serious drinking (for some) to celebrate the end of the course and the fact that the day had been the best in many’s memory of Scotland thanks largely to the weather. The food was again cooked by Fabian and his team of merry helpers and ended up being quite a hot curry – not ‘burn your ass off’, but it did have a kick to it. Damian and Jim M were not too happy about the prospect, but with all said and done they both went up for seconds! That evening, most went off to the pub but Ben, Fabian and Franco stayed at the hut.

Day 3 – To Bag or Not To Bag? That Is The Question

After a night of several competing nasal orchestrations in D minor, another fine day dawned and the usual symphony of alarm clocks woke everyone up at about 7am. (Let me also just point out that hitting Fabian when he is still awake in his sleeping-bag, will not stop him from snoring later on!!) There were two main bagging events: Franco and Nick leading a small group up Meall a' Bhuiridh, and Fabian and Al trying to get a fairly tired and (in some cases) hungover party of 11 up Sgorr Dhonuill and Sgorr Dhearg. A third party who had got up first, went climbing. For our group, led by Al and Fabian, the initial trek took us through some incredibly thick forest and we had to leap over quite a few streams. A few wrong turns and we found our path again and also that the Forestry Commission had felled a large number of trees right across it. After a group discussion, it was agreed to head back to the van defeated. Only Matt Hilton who came separately managed the double bag. Back at our van we heard that the other one’s window had just ‘dropped out’. It appears that it was the same van that we had in Torridon which suffered a window-related injury and that the window had not been fixed properly. Ed and Jo then spent the rest of the day trying to get a quick-fix repair done while Fabian, Al, Lisa and Matt decided to save face after their defeat and climb up the Pap of Glencoe after dropping the others off back at the barn. The Pap proved an enjoyable walk and we were back at the barn in just over three hours.

Nick, Jim, Chris, Jana, Franco, Alistair and Clare Walsh went up to do Meall a' Bhuiridh ("a day playing in the mountains without the focus on the Munro, with the munro as a bonus") and (the possibility of) Creise but only got 2ft before Chris told me that the bus window appeared to have just fallen out!! Not my driving honestly!! So after getting away a bit late and having a drafty lift to the Glen Coe ski centre we started up the hill. However we spent most of the day playing in the snow with Nick and Chris teaching the others some ropework techniques. In the end we only 'bagged' Meall a' Bhuiridh but for me (Nick) it was the best day in the mountains so far! Just a lot of fun and a lot of messing around! And the weather was favourable too! Highlights include a skier shouting "you could kill someone with that!" to Chris and Jana how were bumsliding together right across the ski slopes! Jim, Nick's and Clare's human pyramid on the 30 degree snow slope was also a lot of fun! The day was ended in the ski cafe waiting for our lift with only enough money for one drink between us! The upside though was the pack of Tangfastics! The greatest of all the Haribo's! (Nick)

(INSERT CLIMBING REPORT HERE).

We then packed and tidied as best as we could and then started loading the vans. We were still waiting for the climbing group to arrive and some were starting to get a bit concerned as they were well overdue. Ed decided to drive off to see whether he could find them (which thankfully he did), but we were all very late setting off back to Nottingham. The drive was as per usual pretty uneventful, and we got back to Stores at a reasonable time (about 1am).

Thanks to all who came on the trip and also to our guides and the weather. It really was a truly spectacular and awesome weekend! Fabian & Nick


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