In 2007 I went on a course that gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to start exploring mountains in winter conditions. Years later, I decided I wanted to advance my skills and learn how to move over more difficult winter terrain. That’s why, last week, I went back to Glenmore Lodge, the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre, to do a winter mountaineering course.
This course gave me an improved understanding of how to read the mountain environment and so make better judgments on the safest route. I’ve looked at avalanche and weather forecasts in the past before going out in winter, but the instructors gave these more depth and meaning by teaching how they related to the landscape I was going through. They emphasised being attentive and pointed out how to spot clues in the snow conditions under foot and in how the snow changed with the terrain.
The course also included a refresher of winter movement skills (e.g. cutting steps with your boot or an axe) that I probably really needed. However, the most interesting sections of the course, and the ones that pushed me the most, were those in which I learned how to protect myself and others using a rope, bucket seats and snow anchors. Practicing dynamic belaying from a bucket seat I had dug in the snow and abseiling down a snow-covered, rocky rib were fantastic experiences that will really stick with me.
It was a fun, brilliant and physically challenging five days.