Monday, 29 October 2007

Summer Mountain Leader Assesment

Well, what an eventful week the assessment was. I did pass all areas of the criteria and the hardest part of the assessment were the few hours waiting for the results! There were 8 hopefuls on the course, with a respectable 5 passes and 3 deferrals, 2 on security on steep ground and 1 on navigation. I feel I was well prepared for the course, however most of the guys there, were just about twice my age and have spent alot of their time in the hills walking and studying the flora and fauna which was my only weak area. I've been using a map and a compass for many years and been in very poor weather condition, so I dealt with the navigation very well especially as we had cracking weather, even the night navigation wasn't too challenging. Being a climber, my rope work and knots on the 'security on steep ground' day was solid and the assessors didn't have any issues with me.

The course was very inspiring for me and also I learnt a whole load of new skills. It was tough, but if you are going for assessment make sure you are prepared and fairly confident. Try and remember the things you did right, instead of stressing about the things you did wrong and enjoy it. It exactly what I did.

North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor

Whilst at work I bumped into a friend of mine called Al. I have worked with him in the past rock climbing in Glen Nevis, but this time we had a different agenda. He was up for a long weekend and was really keen to climb Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis but due to bad weather we abandoned that idea and went for a shorter day on North Buttress. This is a great scrambling route. The chimney sections are quite steep and exposed so we agreed to rope up and pitch through the difficulties. I have soloed the route before in the summer but never climbed it in winter, where as Al had never climbed it in the summer but attempted it in the winter. Unfortunately he did not finish the route as his partner fell, was badly injured and had to be helicoptered off (has made a full recovery now). So climbing this route again brought back memories for Al but also made it easier for him to regain his confidence. The weather held off most of the day, no blue sky unfortunately, so we descended quickly and went for a pint in the Clachaig Inn!

Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis

This route on Ben Nevis is by far one of my favourite in Scotland. I enjoy the feeling of remoteness, exposure and the definite alpine feel about this route. This was the first time I climbed this route in the summer but I have made an accent in the winter of 2004. The terrain was very different this time compared to when it was covered in a substantial snow build up so route finding was not as slick as I had hoped but we still made good progress. My climbing partner was Tom, a new trainee at the Ice Factor. This was his 2nd scramble since moving to Scotland (his first being curved ridge with me on Buachaille Etive Mor a month before), so Tom did find the experience rather scary due to the exposure and the terrain however he claims it was his best day out to date. This also was the first time he had been on Ben Nevis so we finished at the very summit where we enjoyed a celebratory shot of hot chocolate in the shelter then descended back down via the zig-zags.

Where's the summer gone?

Thats right folks, the summer of 2007 has now been left behind in our wake. I have had a very eventful summer, despite struggling to have a day off work when it was nice!! Highlights for me this summer include climbing Spartan slab and Hammer down at Etive slabs, ticking off several E1/2's down at Glen Nevis which have been on my wish list for a while, climbing the classic Yo-Yo in Glencoe with my flat mate Ed, spending time with Graham on Slime Wall in Glencoe (despite tricky route finding!) plus many more venues such as Buachaille Etive Mor and Aonach Dubh in Glencoe, Reecastle crag in the Lakes and Ben Nevis North face. Most of the wet days I have been training for my Mountain Leader assesment, so I have been out in the Glencoe hills, the Mamores, Nevis range, Cairngorms, Torridon etc ticking off a few munroes and corbetts on the way and working on my group management and navigation.