I recently spent a week on a residential Winter Climbing course at Glenmore Lodge in The Cairngorms. As the weather was getting warmer I was slightly apprehensive as to what conditions I would be facing, especially driving up the A9 looking at lots of green/brown mountains! This was my first visit to a Scottish mountain range, and my second go at this Winter stuff. My only route previously was Central Trinity on Snowdon so I had a lot to learn.
Arriving at the lodge it was apparent that there was still snow left up in the Corries and after being assigned an instructor they too reassured me that there was still plenty left.
Walking in to Coire an t-sneachda I was firmly told about rule number one, which was under any circumstances, DO NOT FALL OFF! This stuck with me all week and will probably stick with me for the rest of my climbing life.
Day One involved classic spin drift and zero visibility conditions, and after learning to walk in crampons set off on a route called Spiral Gully. We made it to the top in one piece and made our way back for well deserved cake & beer.
On Day two, eager to fathom pointy bits of metal on something I’m used to sticking to with rubber, we set off on a more rocky mixed route, known as Jacobs Edge Left Hand. This was surprisingly easy and after a couple of footholds seemed as natural as rock shoes.
Day Three was a little more spicy! Meeting my first vertical ice section on Red Route. At the foot of the ice section I was unsure if I’d have the strength to pull on those axes, but after a couple of moves up it all flowed well (not the ice that is).
On Day Four I was finally allowed on the sharp end of the rope and took the lead up Central Gully. This was my first experience of a 25m run-out and running out of rope before reaching the belay, but in good hands made it to the top. My first proper adrenaline rush all week, and a small lesson in look at how much rope you have before committing to the next run-out!
The fifth and final day was spent learning how to build snow anchors—taking lead falls while sitting in a surprisingly comfortable bucket seat dug in the snow, a small amount of self arrest, and abseiling over cornices using nothing but water molecules as anchors. And in a flash that was the week over! And I hadn't broken rule number one!
The enthusiasm and professionalism of the instructors was second to none, the food and accommodation was superb, and I would recommend this course to anyone wanting to learn the ropes (and how long or short they are!) .