Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These 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.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

To finish the Summer Mountain Training Course we went for an over night walking expedition to a great couple of hills near Inverlair. The focus of the two days was navigation but we also explored many aspects of leadership, the environment and camp craft. With very strong winds forecast we stayed next to the bothy at Lairig Leacach in case the tents were blown down. This also gave us a great venue for practicing night navigation.

The autumn colours were vivid - whole hillsides of vibrant orange with details of rich red under the boots. It's a wonderful time to be exploring the mountains of Scotland with reed deer stags bellowing and mountain hares sprinting away. This team of trainees on the Adventure Tourism Degree course was particularly strong having had lots of input to their navigation, leadership, "Leave No Trace" and Scottish Outdoor Access Code awareness. I have every faith they will go on to be really strong mountain leaders and it's great to give them a wee step up in that direction this week.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lairig Eilde in Glen Coe was a noisy place today with several stags bellowing at each other across the glen. They were making no effort to hide themselves as they competed with each other for the hinds. The path to the lairig crosses the main stream twice so it is a good place to go to consider water hazards, stream crossings and dealing with emergencies on the Summer ML Training Course.

It was slightly warmer and a little wet but nothing like as warm and wet it will be over the weekend. Lucky for us to be going on a two day camping trip to wrap up the course. Next week though it looks like the wind will turn to the North and bring snow to the hills down to low levels. Have you sharpened your ice axes yet?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

As a summer mountain leader you should only use a rope in an emergency. This is what we were practising today, emergency rope work to safeguard group members and the leader on steep broken ground. We were on Meall Cumhainn above Steall in Glen Nevis and it was another beautiful autumn day with a cold easterly wind. The last few days have been cold enough to make some ice on the high crags of Ben Nevis and the rocks were slightly rimed as well. It's all change for the weekend though with strong warm winds coming in on Friday, just in time for our two day camping expedition!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Leadership and managing groups over hazards and difficult ground were the topics today on the West Highland College Summer ML Training Course. On a cold, dry Autumn day there is no place better for this than Coire na Ciste on the North Face of Ben Nevis. We walked up to the Castle Coire and traversed under Carn Dearg Buttress to the lochans in Coire na Ciste. From here we went over Moonlight Gully Buttress and across Number Five Gully to Ledge Route.

The summer ML is a walking award and hill walking can be enjoyed with your hands in your pockets. When you need to take your hands out of your pockets you're venturing towards the edge of the scope of the award and we were certainly doing this today. The group management was challenging and the feel of the place was huge, a great place to practice leadership skills.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Through working at West Highland College I get to share my 24 years of mountain leading experience with potential new leaders. I am directing a Summer Mountain Leader training course for six degree level students this week. It's an intense course with six days of training and 60 hours contact time. We cover all aspects of leading groups in British mountains such as leadership styles and skills, navigation, group management in hazardous terrain, water hazards, emergency rope work and improvised mountain rescue.

These students studying Adventure Tourism Management are the leaders, guides and coaches of the future. When I was their age I thought I knew everything about leading groups in the hills! I was wrong and I have learned (and continue to learn) a huge amount since. Sharing my mountain guiding experience from many places in the world will hopefully help steer these guys into a career as mountain leaders with a solid starting point.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Yesterday was a real taste of the winter storms we will surely get over the next few months. Heavy rain and very gusty strong winds battered the west coast for most of the day. Thankfully it cleared in the afternoon and last night was quite clear. Today was a calm day (but stormy again on the East coast) so I went up Tower Ridge with staff from The Ice Factor.

We were looking at guiding skills - short roping, moving together Alpine style and changing quickly from these to pitching and back. It stayed dry all day but it was quite Autumnal. The clear night let the temperature drop sufficiently for a little verglas and ice in the puddles. Not quite a winter ascent but a nice sign that winter is on its way.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Well done to Hannah and Alasdair for passing their TCL today. We went for a ride round Glen Righ near Onich and found a trail on the map is not there under the wheels. We survived a long trudge through knee deep (for my long legs) marsh after the heavy rain last night as a result. The rest of the riding flowed much better as did the leading from Hannah and Alasdair. A great performance from both of them.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

When all the weather forecasts say the same thing you can be quite sure that the weather will do what they say it will. This morning, while walking in to the CIC Hut, I was thinking that this was the day that broke the rule. It rained and the wind blew and at least one team turned around thinking it would not improve. However, the forecasts were right, the sky cleared to give a sunny afternoon and Philip and I enjoyed a great climb on Tower Ridge.

Philip completed the Munro's many years ago and has gone on to enjoy many of Scotland's classic ridges. Today was a step up in difficulty for him which did not cause any problem at all. The rock was damp and we had a hail shower but the climbing was good and we had the route to ourselves.

There are still many snow patches in the gullies and one or two lower down as well. The lochain in Coire na Ciste only emerged from the snow a few weeks ago and there is still snow at the edge (bottom left of the picture above).