Do you know your French from your classic from your Klemheist? Do you know how to abseil down ropes after they have been damaged by rockfall or escape your belay system to go and get help for your climbing partner? Climbing in pairs as we normally do presents us with a difficult situation to sort out if one of the two people gets hurt during a climb. Thankfully it rarely happens but this was what we were training for with 3rd year degree students at West Highland College UHI last week; how to meal with accidents and situations on a crag and escape to safety as part of their Risk and Incident Management module.
We based ourselves in Glen Nevis, amongst the crags at Poldubh. First up we looked at the characteristics of the three main prussic knots and how we could use these to our advantage in various situations. We prussiced up and down a rope, prussiced up and transferred to abseil and abseiled down and transferred to prussic. All of this gave us a clear understanding of how prussic knots work! If you damage a rope by rock fall you can isolate the damaged bit of rope with an overhand knot. This presents a problem of course when you come to abseil down the rope. There is a pretty simple solution using a french prussic but it is certainly worth practising before you need to do it for real.
In amongst all our rescue training we also looked at how to make things run super smoothly as well. Stance management and how not to get your ropes twisted, especially when climbing as a three, requires a bit of thought but is actually simpler than is described in some articles. Abseiling is also a simple thing that often goes wrong so we looked at several ways of making sure it runs as smoothly as you'd like it to. We also went through some other situations such as lowering past a know and escaping a belay system leaving your climbing dangling so you can go and have a cup of tea while you consider what to do next.
We've had pretty good weather for the last few days and rock climbing in Glen Nevis has been a treat with warm sunshine, no vegetation making it simple to find the crag and no midges. Up on Ben Nevis the temperature dropped yesterday and we had a little fresh snow and sub-zero temperatures. There is old snow cover from 1200m to the summit and if you are walking up you will need to know how to follow a compass bearing to find the right direction especially in descent from the summit. Three guys did not quite manage this yesterday and required some help from Lochaber MRT to get out of steep and dangerous ground at the top of Coire Eoghainn. More cold weather with snow showers is forecast this week so the old snowpack will be hard frozen. Spring is here but winter conditions remain on the summits.
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.