Spent the last 2 weeks in the Zinal Valley in Switzerland first practising for then undertaking my International Mountain Leader Assessment. I was doing the award more for my own continuing professional development than any other reason but I had a great couple of weeks studying the human and natural history of a lovely part of Switzerland. Along with other candidates I was roaming the hill tracks, staying in huts, learning about the flora and fauna and sampling the food and wine of the Valais. I also took a little time to have some fun with friends on some of the great sport via feratta that have been fixed in the area. The assessment (I passed) consisted of a day with an extremely knowledgeable local IML (or Accompagnateur as they say on the continent) educating us on the Swiss system and local environment, a days further training and prep with one of the PYB assessors then 2 and a half days mountain walking staying at huts dealing with snow hazards, fixed gear and whatever else the staff chose to explore whilst demonstrating our ability to provide a safe, interesting and enetertaining day in the mountains outside of the UK. As well as a little more snow than usual we were treated with a riot of wild flowers, Ibex, Chamois, Marmots and bird life all in great weather. A good break before my return to the UK summer!
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Today I wanted to give Simon and Vicki the opportunity to put some of the ropework they had seen on Curved Ridge into practise. We went to the Aonach Eagach (the 'Notched Ridge') with Fiona (http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/atom.xml) out to watch me at work as part of her ongoing prep for her MIA assessment. Again we talked a lot about route selection and only brought the rope out for a few isolated sections to look at ways for them to protect each other in ascent and descent. The weather was dry and bright all day - hot when there was no wind but it was bitter in the northerly breeze. I'm off to Switzerland for 2 weeks this weekend so I doubt I'll file reports until I return.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Today Vicki, Simon and I went to Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor to introduce them to mountaineering ropework. We talked about assessing the risks when scrambling, routefinding, footwork and movement technique, anchors, placing runners and different belaying options. We had a few showers but some good sunny spells to. It felt mighty cold compared to the last few weeks though!
Sunday, 8 June 2008
Another scorching hot day in the West of Scotland! Today I was out doing some training with a group of Leaders who are off to Svalbard with teams of young people for the British Schools Exploring Society. We scrambled up the Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach using the short rocky steps to look at mountaineering ropework. In the fine weather we then carried on over the top of Stob Coire Nan Lochan. Tomorrow the team will be looking at glacier travel and crevasse rescue.
Monday, 2 June 2008
I went for walk around Glencoe Lochan this afternoon to take a break from some paperwork. This lovely woodland area was populated by the master of Invercoe House to try to make his Newfoundlander wife feel at home. Amongst the Douglas Fir and Sequoias are more common Spruce trees. The resin from these looks like clear water droplets until you touch it or get it on your clothes. A twig dipped in the sticky resin burns quickly but be careful, when it is hot it runs like melted wax! The carpets of Scots Bluebells we've seen this spring are retreating now and other wild flowers like these Speedwells and Bugleweeds are coming through as are the yellow flowers on the Water Lillies. A cloudier day in Lochaber with the odd streamer of heavy rain bearing cloud touching the tops. It feels close and heavy like we are going to get a cloudburst to clear the air.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Today Paul, David and I went to the Buachaille. We started off by scrambling up D Gully Buttress and then crossed Curved Ridge to Rannoch Wall. We climbed Agags Groove in very hot weather. There were nose to tail queues in places on Curved Ridge below us, a pair ahead of us on Agags, a pair behind and another pair on January Jigsaw. As we climbed we saw a paraglider playing in the thermals around the mountain, swooping and turning close to us. Later, as we topped out onto Crowberry Ridge we then saw a hang glider playing the same game. We carried on up over Crowberry Tower and onto the summit making it back to the car just as the first spots of a rare rain shower landed!