We've had two days of dealing with emergencies on our summer mountain leader training course. Yesterday we spent most of the day looking at emergency rope work on steep ground. Mountain leaders never plan to use a rope and it very rarely happens in an emergency. However, if it does happen, leaders need to know how to use it efficiently and safely. We practised safeguarding people with a rope in descent and in ascent in various situations before safeguarding the leader with a rope as well. This was a wet day in Glen a'Chaolais with the mist down on the tops giving us a bit of poor visibility navigation practice as well.
Today we looked at other emergencies such as injuries and medical conditions, hypothermia and heat stress. We considered our duty of care and to whom it extends to, self-rescue and improvised stretchers. We also looked at water hazards, stream crossings and environmental hazards. All this was done in Steall with great views up to the metamorphic sedimentary rocks of the Mamores and their recumbent folds standing out clearly.
After heavy rain last night there were lots of paddlers out on the river Nevis enjoying the high water. We also used the high water to practice techniques to aid stream crossings. It does not need much depth to sweep your feet away when the water is flowing fast. When it goes above your knees there is a good chance of being carried away in the water but you can make yourself much more secure with some mutual support. The last two days will form the over night expedition so we went back to prepare for this with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
Day two of the Summer Mountain Leader Training Course was all about leadership. We practised different styles of leadership suitable for different situations and many different techniques for looking after people on easy paths, steep grass slopes and broken rocky terrain. We explored the scope of the award, what are the limits of terrain we can safeguard and many ways to motivate and challenge individuals and groups.
We went up the SW Rib of Meall an t'Suidhe above Glen Nevis. It stayed dry and breezy with great lenticular clouds (flying saucers) in the sky and the view up Glen Nevis was superb. After lunch at the top we went straight back down the rib to practice the same skills on the way down. Back at base we did more navigation coaching using compasses and pacing to direction and distance. Finally, we got the ropes out and practised a few knots ready for the emergency rope work tomorrow. Another packed day.
Autumn colours are coming out in the landscape around the Outdoor Capital of the UK but summer walking conditions are still with us and it's a great time for a Summer Mountain Leader Training Course. Today was the first day so we set up the course with discussions on the role of a leader and scope of the qualification, what equipment to carry, an introduction to navigation and back in for a chat on the weather. We were next to Glen Finnan looking down onto the viaduct and down the length of Loch Shiel. Ben Nevis was clear of cloud for much of the day and we even got some sunshine.
The weather in Scotland makes up a big part of the challenge of climbing here, especially in winter. We continue to hear continental visitors saying it is crazy to go out climbing in such conditions but to us it's just what you do. The enjoyment is not in getting wet and cold though. The enjoyment comes from understanding the weather is extreme and in having the tools to be able to continue to operate in an extreme environment. Staying dry and warm despite the weather is what gives you satisfaction and Jottnar has allowed me to do this very well for two years.
Never before have I had clothing that performs as well as the Jottnar gear I have worn for the last two winters and summer Alpine seasons. It's hard to know what can be better until you try it out. We can all get by with what we have. But when you go out climbing every day of the week, all winter long, getting the best gear makes a huge difference.
For my birthday recently, my sister gave me some waterproof socks. Now, to most people being given socks for your birthday might be a bit of a let down but for me they are perfect. They are more than socks, they are warm, dry feet all winter! In the same way, Jottnar gear is more than jackets and trousers, it is being warm and dry all winter.
So the new range of Jottnar gear will be launched tomorrow and I recommend you have a look. The colours are ace too!
What a fantastic day I just had at the No Fuss Events Camp Enduro in Dunoon. The Camp Enduro weekend is for mountain bikers with beginner to intermediate skills. I was riding with a brilliant group of ladies from Dirt Vixens, coaching their riding skills and getting them ready for the race tomorrow. They all pushed themselves out of their comfort zones, enjoyed plenty of laughs with lots of support for fellow riders embracing the enduro love. There was certainly no place for Macho behaviour but there was plenty of commitment on the trails.
Martin Williams went up Ben Nevis today with the help of his son Richard and a few of his friends. Nothing unusual in that but Martin has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. He found a very tough wheelchair for today and lots of very strong and motivated friends to help push, pull and carry him to the top. Thankfully the weather was on our side, staying dry all day and clear so we had great views. It was cold on top in the breeze so we didn't hang around long and going down took just as long as going up
The wheel chair was adapted with long poles running front to back as carry handles and a shorter one across the back under the normal handles. This worked with a huge effort on the way up and on the way down we managed more rolling on the wheels with anchor ropes and picking up over the rocks and steps. It took us six hours in ascent and the same in descent which I think was exceptional. The team of helpers are exceptionally fit and strong. I only did a little to help and my back, shoulders and forearms are wrecked! The team has a long drive on a coach back to Wales tomorrow and I think they will sleep all the way home! Well done to all of them and mostly to Martin. It's not easy being carried for twelve hours and Martin smiled all the way.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.