With the winter snow cover being so slight it was fortunate that we scheduled in a Summer Mountain Leader Assessment in the last week of March. This is really quite early for a course like this that requires summer conditions under foot on hills of a reasonable height, and also summer weather conditions. This group of candidates tried to do the assessment back in November but we had a week of freezing weather and snow cover down to sea level so it was very clear we could not run the course. This time we got another fall of snow just before the start of the course but warm weather melted it all away very quickly and we had a week of very summery conditions.
Our first day was on Doire Ban above Lundavra. I was assessing with Stuart Lade and we covered all sorts of leadership scenarios and emergencies as well as improvised rescue and dealing with water hazards in a nice day walk. Doire Ban is a lovely hill that requires a couple of stream crossings and we navigated to some small features which was tricky even with 100 mile visibility! The view to the islands was breathtaking and with snow on the high tops still it was a brilliant day to be out in the hills.
We went to Meall an t'Suidhe for the steep ground day which includes lots of group management and leadership as well as safeguarding people on broken terrain with and without a rope. In the context of a Summer ML Award, the rope is only used in emergencies. You never plan on using it. This results in using it in quite a different way to how we do in climbing.
The main event of the assessment is a three day expedition, camping in a remote and wild location for the two nights. It started out dry but turned wet and stayed wet at lunchtime on the first day and stayed wet for the rest of the expedition. We went over Froach Bheinn, a brilliant and rocky peak just west of Glen Finnan before camping and night navigating in the col to the south of the peak.
With the snow cover retreating still further we went up to the Munro Sgurr an Coireachan. This is one of the two Munros on the Glen Finnan horseshoe but approaching from the west and returning around this way meant we stayed off the beaten path all the way. In fact it was a wild and rugged expedition route which was full of the most amazing mica I have ever seen. The biggest bit was 15cm across and stuck out of a rock full of clean white quartz.
It was a strong team of candidates and I'm delighted to say they all passed. Well done to Rob, Ian, Rachel, Susie and Mark, you all did a brilliant job and worked hard all week. It's brilliant to see another crop of mountain leaders ready to go out and inspire and lead more people in the mountains.
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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.