Safe winter walking skills

Have a read of the article below about the skills and knowledge needed when you are first getting into the winter hills. Published on True Highlands Blog

If you want to learn more more then have a look at our Winter skills courses  or if you want to put your knowledge into practice then have a look at our guided winter peaks days. 

Thompson’s route, Ben Nevis

Great day out Thompson’s route on Ben Nevis today, dry, no wind and a view from the top with good axe placements all the way up. Other teams on corie na ciste buttress, Douglas boulder, no.3 gully buttress and a team backed off an ascent of no.4 gully.

Lots of good ice where it is high up but for the time of year there is not much snow build up and a lot of routes are pretty bare. ‪#‎scotwinter‬

A small video of how to descend a steep gully or snow slope with Dave Anderson.

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Glen Coe, Ziz Zags

With winter being described as a fluid environment, today certainly fitted the description.  With most of the winter fluid flowing down the rivers the temperature in Glen Coe today read 15 degrees.  With not much chance of winter, myself and Irwin went for the low down, sheltered route of the zig zags.

Along the way we looked at simple spotting on easier ground, consequences of position and how to minimize those consequences in various ways.  We then made the spectacular walk along the top of Gearr Aonach the middle of the 3 sisters of Glen Coe and back down the corrie.

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Day 1 Winter skills

Today was the 1st day of winter skills with Irwin.  With most of the winter flowing down the rivers the decision was made to head into Corie na Ciste on Ben Nevis, that largest north facing corrie in the area.  There should be some snow there.

With a wet walk up to the lochans we finally found the snow which covered about 80% of the corrie and none of the buttresses.  Over the day we looked at the correct and safe use of the boot for secure footwork, ice axe arrests, walking in crampons and good route choice.

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Day 5 Ben Nevis survey

So with the final day of the week here, we all walked up to the CIC hut a bit slower with tired bodies.  I was with Blair and Hugh from Midland Valley to survey an area of rock just right of the top of Ledge Route.

We descended down the gully and on the way to the rock face we found lots of Stitchwort mouse ear, Sibbaldia and a very rich environment worth going back next year, with more expert eyes.

Hugh made a good account of the breccia and andersite that were a bit more confused than previously thought.  More questions than answers at this stage of the data collection.

With new areas of rare alpine flora found throughout the week and much more geological data collected, next year is going to be an important one to get to the areas that we need to, to fill in the gaps of knowledge.

Can’t wait!

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Ben Nevis

The Team

Ledge route commute

Ledge route commute

North face of Ben Nevis

Mike making plans next year

Day 4, Observatory ridge

With the sun shining and the rock drying myself Dave A and Roddy from Midland Valley walked towards Observatory ridge, the hardest of the classic Ben Nevis ridges with continuous climbing and scrambling for the whole 450m length.

Roddy wanted to see if the joints and contacts that he had seen on the North East ridge and Tower Ridge transferred through onto this section of the mountain as well.

With readings of joints all the way up over the first 4 harder pitches we found a band of granite high up that was unexpected and added to the emerging story of the formation of the mountain.

With great views to Tower Ridge all day and other survey teams working other parts of the mountain, like Donald making the best of wet rock surveying on the Long Climb, it was a good day all round.

On other parts of the mountain Scotts’ team on Number 3 gully buttress route found another new area of Highland Saxifrage, alpine mouse-ear and stitchwort mouse-ear.

With one day left of the survey this year, there is still much to find.

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A good day at work

A good day at work

Observatory ridge

Observatory ridge


Ben Nevis survey day 3, North East Buttress

Today myself and Roddy from Midland Valley made our way to the first platform on North East Buttress.  Along the way Roddy wanted to survey the contacts of the different rock types along the way and specifically the joint that occurs just above the first platform.

In summary we found evidence that supported the theory that were was a big pool of water at the base of what is now North East buttress that then filled with rocks to make conglomerate rock and on top of that there was the Allt a Mhuilinn mudstone sedimentary rock.  Then higher up there is the breccia rock made up of ash and debris of volcanic action.  Roddy’s find of the day was a section of rock in the mudstone that had formations which indicated which were the youngest deposits, showing that the rock hadn’t been folded or moved by bigger more recent processes.

mudstone formation

The key mudstone formation, young rocks at the base

Also along the way we found Sibbaldia and Arctic mouse-ear 2 of our rare species that we are looking for on the traverse path in.  However the find for the day was Gordon from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland finding Curved Wood rush in Corrie Leis; not seen anywhere on Ben Nevis for 40 years.  And also a new area of Highland Saxifrage in the Castle gullies area.

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Arctic mouse-ear

Arctic mouse-ear