Saturday, 23 June 2012

23rd June 2012 - The Ben Challenge Video

A nice little video clip put together by Mark who took part in the challenge detailed in the post below - Thanks Mark!

23rd June 2012 - Soggy on the Ben

The cloud shrouding the hills from the car park

Beginning the walk from Achintee
Visibility getting worse from the Red Burn and above

The team on the summit - cold, wet but exhilarated - Well done Helen, Dave, Mark, Tania, Jenny and Sally!

Dropping below the heaviest rain well below Half Way Lochan

Today I was guiding a group of 6 from the Liverpool/Southport area for Nugent Care, a charity from the North of England who help a range of people, up the Ben. We have been arranging this trip for quite some time, so it was great to finally meet the team and get cracking up the mountain. We set off at 9am, with a weather forecast that could really be a bit of a hit or miss. As it turned out, it was a huge miss! From the Red Burn upwards, and almost all of the way back down it rained and drizzled, drizzled then rained. It didn't matter how waterproof your gear was, or what fabric you were showcasing, you were wet! Nonetheless the guys plodded on, determined to reach their goal of the summit, and their spirits were high the whole way up. The craic was top notch and it was great sharing the experience with such a lovely group of individuals taking time out to raise money and awareness for the needs of others.

We reached the summit at about 2pm, and qued up for a summit photo (I still haven't seen anything like this on any other mountain!). Visibility was only a few meters, but even still there was not a single moment of the day when I couldn't see another individual that was not in my group...

As always, the hoards of individuals trudging up, looking somewhat forlorn in their trainers, shorts and cagouls made for some interesting debates on mountain safety and equipment. The topics of conversation ranged far and wide, so no one was bored and it helped the trudge pass by all the quicker! Food, of course, was a prominent subject!

A few others from LMRT were on the Ben guiding or marshalling groups, as were Guy and Graham. I felt a bit sorry for poor Guy marshalling on the summit for hours on end - at least by moving we were pretending it wasn't so bad...

We got back down to the car park at around 6pm - a good time considering the poor conditions and the varied group members. Most importantly the team learned something, either about the environment, the local area or about themselves, and as we kept saying - its not about the destination, its about the journey!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

17th June 2012 - A little catching up...

So it has been a few weeks since I last updated this blog, and it has been pretty busy! Since my little jaunt up Ledge Route on the 25th, I have completed my Level 1 Rigging course for the MRC of S (25th-27th May). This training was provided by the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and was held in the Lochaber area. It comprised of evening lectures, practical sessions and two days on the crags at Poll Dubh putting into practice the multitude of skills which I picked up along the way. The additional equipment required for the varying types of stretcher rescue is astounding, and it was particularly interesting learning more about load bearing, shock loading and equipment ratings in a rescue context.

The course was excellently led by Stu Johnston, and aided by Bill Strachan alongside a team of experienced mountain rescue team members from across Scotland. It was a tough weekend with so much information to take on board, and the heat certainly didn't help, but by close of play on the Sunday things were beginning to make more sense in my head and I feel a bit more confident with my mountain rescue rigging abilities! Hopefully it is a long time until they are put to the test!

I also covered a day at the Ice Factor the following week, running an Intro to Rock climbing session with a couple from Cumbernauld - such a small world, they live just round the corner from my family home! They were excellent craic and really enjoyed getting to grips with the basics; tying in, belaying and movement on rock. They were keen to learn a bit more about the equipment we were using and so I spent a bit of time going over this with them. We were then joined after lunch by a group of lads for a Hit the Ice! session. The 5 in the group were keen to get hands on, so I kept the brief short and set them a few challenges to allow them to adjust to moving in crampons, trusting their front points and finding their balance. Then I introduced ice axes and got the guys hammering away judging good placements from bad, before teaming them up (with a work experience lad who was shadowing me) and getting them to put the skills together on the ice. Everyone did really well, as I drip fed more techniques and strategic considerations to the session. We even had a pop at placing ice screws to give them a chance at feeling like they were leading! It was a great session, and I think (hope) everyone enjoyed themselves and learnt something new about themselves in the process! I will be doing quite a bit of work for the Ice Factor over July and August, I am looking forward to it!

This weekend (16th-17th June) I was assessing a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Qualifying expedition in the Arrochar area for the Lochgilphead Group. The weather on Saturday was pretty grim but the 5 candidates bore up to it well and after a bit of a chat and a look at some kit theyheaded off into the wilds. The downside of assessing is the sitting about, and given the horrific midge condition I certainly didn't want to do much of that! I wanted to drop in to the camp once they were set up comfortably, so went for a nice meal in the Drovers. Then I took my kit up from Inveruglas towards Ben Vane and set up a camp some 2km away from the team. I then dropped in to quiz them about their camp site choice, cooking considerations and see how their day had went. After a brief chat I left them to the midge, and headed back to the drovers to dry off (poor effort, I know...). It rained all night, but the tent was absolutely fine. What wasn't fine, however, was the amount of midgies waiting outside the tent. It was horrific, almost as bad as on Arran with Scott back in '07. Even now as the tent dries in my spare room the vents are covered in 'smudge' (midge mud). Thankfully I had a good midge net, so wrapped up and got the soaking wet tent down and packed double quick. All that was left was to kill some time and then intercept the group as they passed the Cobbler path intersection. I chose to have their debrief here, while I had their attention and could get some meaningful chat from them while there was a breeze (the car park was a midge haven, they would stay for 6 seconds then want to dash to their parents cars). All 5 candidates passed quite comfortably, and hopefully they will look into doing their Silver next year. Thanks to James, Andy, Jean-Michell, Julie and Douglas for their hospitality and craic over the weekend. Back to Fort William for a fish supper and a disappointing loss for Holland....