The latest bunch of Summer Mountain Leader candidates should feel thoroughly tested after the last week of assessment. Not only did we o through everything in the syllabus but the weather gave us some very challenging conditions to endure as well. These assessments require five days with 60 hours contact time and test everything from leadership and navigation to camp craft and emergency ropework. They are intense, demanding days at the best of times and we did not get the best of weather this week.
The first two day was nice enough but with a bitter wind. We covered dealing with emergencies and accidents, improvised rescue and ended up in the River Nevis doing some stream crossings. So even though it was a dry enough day we ended up getting wet anyway. The second day we went to Glen Coe to look at security on steep ground and emergency rope work. Just to make it feel realistic we had rain for much of the day.
Our three day expedition started on Wednesday with incessent rain and 70mph winds forecast for the summits. Very careful route planning was required to find somewhere to camp that would give us some shelter and involve no stream crossings. With lots of stalking going on right now the options were severely limited! We ended up starting in Kinlochleven and walking up over the low hills on the south side of Loch Eilde Mor to a camp at the far end of the loch next to the ruin of a two storey house. We were soaked but at least the tents would not blow down.
Thursday did clear up after a wet start. We spoke witrh the stalker and checked that we would not disrupt their work that day before heading up to Glas Bheinne. This is a Graham I think and has brilliant views in all directions. The mountains are turning red as the autumn progresses with the deer grass and bracken going first. In amongst the heather some of the blaeberries have turned red as well as some ladies mantle. In another month all the hills will be a deep vibrant red.
We went over the next two lower hills as well before going down to Ciaran Bothy. It looks like the MBA has put some work into this bothy recently because it is very clean and tidy, and nearly all painted white. We were grateful to be able to use the bothy to cook in but we camped in the tents outside. It was a cold, starlit night and we woke to a frost and ice on the tents this morning!
So today it was just a case of walking 14km along the nice little trail all the way back to Kinlochleven. The candidates planned the whole day including the route, what time to set off, the pace we needed to maintain walking and the navigation. They all did very well and we got a great result with five passes; five new summer mountain leaders who will go out and inspire many more people to a life of adventure in the mountains. Well done!
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.