This week has been really interesting for me, delivering training days on a wide variety of things. I love these kind of days because they get me thinking about the best ways of doing things and how I can pass on the experience I have to other people.
Monday was a day of navigation training for Lochaber and Lorn Ramblers with Craig Mills from Cotswold Outdoor in Fort William doing some GPS training and me doing the map and compass stuff. We got the GPS units set up and went on to the High Street in Fort William to learn the basics of putting in way points and following a route before going up the back of Cow Hill to use the GPS's alongside map and compass navigation using a 3D system (Direction - Distance - Description). We all agreed that a GPS is an excellent tool in your navigation tool box but not one to be relied on by itself.
On Tuesday Jim and I did another wee session at Poldubh, training for our climb of Inaccessible Pinnacle in a few weeks. We climbed The Gutter, a four pitch grade Difficult rock climb and did a few abseils down SW Buttress. The climb is harder than what you find on Inaccessible Pinnacle and the abseiling went very smoothly and confidently so I think we will have not problem at all on Skye.
I was out with the ramblers again on Wednesday with their team of walk leaders. Ramblers walks re different to most similar groups in that the walks have a leader who is responsible for the group members. We went through the responsibilities and role of the leader, the support given by the national organisation and techniques for leading a group on a walk to keep everyone together, comfortable and motivated to come back for more walks. Much of the chat was similar to what we cover on a Summer Mountain Leader training course but most of what we were doing was sharing the great experience already in the group with all the leaders.
Yesterday and today were training days with students on the Adventure Tourism Management degree course at West Highland College. Kate, Magnus and Brodie are competent rock climbers but they need to learn a few tricks to sort out problems they might come across and rescues they might need to do on the crag. Yesterday we spent a lot of time getting used to prussic knots, their characteristics, strengths and weaknesses before prussicing up and down a rope, up past a knot and abseiling down over a knot. We went on to looking after a partner, lowering them down past a knot, hoisting and lowering while using a belay plate in guide mode Today we continued with hoists in the system, escaping from the system with anchors within and out of reach, and rescuing a stuck abseiler. We all have sore hands from pulling on ropes and sore brains from so much problem solving but we're all much better in a crisis on a rope now!
Up on Ben Nevis today it was very wintry for Scott and Tomas climbing The White Line and for Jamie and Leanne in Number Two Gully. We had fresh snow down to 400m or so this morning and a biting wind on top made it feel more like February than April. The snow cover is still extensive and showing little sign of going anywhere.
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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.