Fri 27th February
A nice if lengthy journey up to Aviemore. I used a split tickets site: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/split-cheap-train-tickets/ and knocked about £80 off the cost. The drawback outgoing was this:
Taxi to station
Sowerby bridge to Hebden Bridge
Hebden to Preston long wait
Preston to Edinburgh Haymarket
Edinburgh to Aviemore
Split ticket had me changing at Burnley Manchester Road too but the ticket man and I agreed this was pointless which cut my trains from 5 to 4 and waiting at Preston was infinitely preferable to Burnley Manc Rd which has nothing to recommend it.
Great scenery and lots of snow. Almost Orient Express at times. Not the passengers though.
I stepped out of Aviemore station to a bitter wind. So quickly popped into Tesco and then bimbled around an outdoor shop while waiting for the minibus pickup to Glenmore Lodge. I chatted to Carson a young man from the USA who was going to do a winter skills weekend. Another man came and told us that he’d spent a week at the Lodge and that the food was plentiful but not haute cuisine. He went away and the minibus arrived. Hundreds of people and bags got out and Carson and I got in.
I paid a single supplement for a room to myself. My sleep is very poor these days and I would hate to be disrupting someone else as well as me.
The room was enormous and had beds from the Olympic village. So I may have slept on Bolt’s bed!
I picked up my gear from stores – shovel, ice axe, avalanche probe, avalanche transceiver, helmet, crampons.
To the bar for a veggie curry with rice and poppadoms. Not bad at all. Washed down with a half of Cairngorm brewery Trade Winds.
Sat 28th February
Got up early and walked down the road to the reindeer centre but the reindeer were not at home.
Back to breakfast. All self service so I toasted my bread and buttered it then put beans on. Orange juice. Collected lunch. More civilised than PYB where everyone throws themselves at the packed lunches before getting their breakfasts.
To lecture theatre for welcome from Nigel.
To Ryvoan room to meet others on course and our instructor Kirsty. Billy, Steve, John, Mary, Pat. Mary and Pat are both experts in Gaelic, pronounced Gallic, so I may have learnt a couple of words.
3 of us have summer ML and 3 are beginners. Kirsty did a fantastic job of managing a mixed group.
Spent the morning doing all the basics. We measured our paces along the flat and uphill on the same stretches I used on my very first nav course back in 2008.
We practised using the avalanche transceivers and probes, impressive bit of kit.
We used a 1:5,000 map which was surprisingly hard when so used to bigger scale. Looked at aspect of slope. Very useful.
Back to Lodge for late lunch.
Out in minibus to lower ski car park with the 1:50,000 map. We went past the reindeer and back through the forest. Felt much more comfortable with this map.
Back to the Lodge quite late so we missed tea and cake.
Wet kit in driying room. Shower and yet another rucksack repack. Dinner of lentils and pasta. Choc meringue pudding. All very good and tasty. Maybe not quite haute cuisine but very nice. I sat with Billy and Steve.
We were joined by another man called Neil who is a guide and instructor etc. out of Chamonix. Mentioned my trip up Mont Blanc and the Gouter hut. Also our guide then Stephane Benoist. Turns out they are pals. Steph has since lost many fingers and toes on Annapurna and had to move to different activities. I asked Neil to remember me to Steph and tell him I now have ML! Saw Neil later and he had just received message from Steph after not actually hearing from him for some time. How strange. Steph did remember me and sent me nice wishes. Am impressed that he did remember. He is a holder of the Piolet d’Or for climbing a not previously done face of Nuptse. I was sorry to hear about his injuries as he is a very nice man with young children, he does look like he’s really been through it on this site: http://www.altissima.org/en/stephane-benoist-ampute-apres-son-ascension-en-face-sud-de-lannapurna-6269.html My account of our Mont Blanc trip is also on this blog – entries for October 2009.
To the lecture room where Nigel gave us a most amusing talk on winter nav. I may be inspired to do some orienteering especially as I know where there is some near us.
2 halves of beer with Billy and Steve and Pat’s husband Ian who had been out ice climbing.
Sun 1st March
Slept well. Packed up to vacate room. Suitcase to luggage room (great idea that PYB could do).
Breakfast of beans on toast and coffee and juice.
Ryvoan room for recap. We all decided to use the 1:40,000 map. K went through route planning taking account of avalanche risk.
Nigel drove us up to car park and we set off. We used timing and pacing according to what we wanted to practice.
We had a go at directing someone on a bearing testing how far they could hear as well.
Made a journey to Utsi’s hut during which it started to snow. Utsi brought the reindeer over here 50 years ago and the reindeer herdsman had to sleep near his flock. Neat little hut where we lunched. It’s in the bottom picture on this page: http://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk/History.aspx?nid=8b35281c-d64f-4548-93cc-4814c175b692
Back out and up and around hill. Crossed some snow in which I got my foot stuck. Kirsty came and helped me out. Had I been on my own I would have got my pole off the rucksack and put it across the hole to lever myself out as well as scrape the snow out. (I had to think like this as mostly I don’t have anyone to come and do what Kirsty did) I was stuck surprisingly fast. Up around hill to a lochan where the wind was quite fierce. Then followed the deer fence to the path. This took us down across a bridge and back up to the Sugar Bowl car park where Nigel picked us up.
Back to the Lodge. Kit back to stores. Collect suitcase. Collect hot choc and cake. Debrief. Farewell.
Nice young man took me to Aviemore in the minibus I was the only passenger so had no worry about getting him to take me to door of Ravenscraig Guest House.
Jonathan welcomed me. Room was fine. Put wet kit in drying room. Shower. Out to the Winking Owl to eat. Had butternut squash and lentils. Only ok. Cairngorm Highland IPA. Music quite depressing so didn’t feel like staying.
Mon 2nd March
Pitlochry, the next stop of the train. I loved this. The trains home all went really easily. It was snowing as I left Aviemore and on my way home I got messages to say it was snowing there too. It was great that the travelling was all painless. I enjoyed my weekend but actually I’d paid to be stretched a bit more and expected to be out on the snow straightaway, but have fed this back to Glenmore Lodge. I’ve said they need to be very clear about what the pre-requisites are for courses. I’ll be back with Paul Poole Mountaineering for next time round if he and I are both free at the same time. The dates just didn’t quite match up for me this year.
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.