A week in the Cairngorms with Gertrude

A great week based out of Badaguish in the Cairngorms. The first half of the week we had a group from ELWorks, the second half a group of Hillend trained skiers from Musselburgh Grammar School. The aims for both groups was to inspire young people with an adventurous experience, help grow their confidence and develop their outdoor skills.

We kitted up with Winter skills gear and drove up to the lower Cairngorm car-park at Corrie Ciste with the intention of finding some snow to look at using ice-axe, crampon and dig a snow-hole. IMG_0579

Unfortunately the start of storm Gertrude had different ideas. Torrential rain, high winds. So we headed round rather than up and descended down to Ryvoan bothy for some rest from the weather.


A really really really really really windy day up from the Sugarbowl car-park with the intention of heading up to the Chalamaine gap …. again Gertrude had different ideas and after being blown about for less than an hour we had to retreat. A top afternoon spent back at Badaguish honing our slack-line-skills.



Between groups, and in preparation for the ski group arriving, we headed round to Glen Feshie to recce the slopes for a ski tour on the Thursday. Weather-wise probably the best day of the week – but the hills still very green and lacking in snow. We walked then skinned up onto Carn ban Mor, skinned south to the unnamed top and looked to find some decent snow for the decent.


Unfortunately the visibility dropped and the descent was ‘adventures in heather’ with only about a total of a hundred meters of quality snow.  Walked to the bus and drove back round to meet the Musselburgh Grammar group who had arrived at Badaguish. Consensus was that for a group too much walking not enough snow to return on Thursday.

Our hopes were raised with a bit of fresh snow so we kitted up with ski touring kit and drove up to the Cairngorm top car-park. Our plan was to head across the front of the corries with the hope of joining up some of the remaining old snow patches in Lurchers Gully .


We spilt into two groups and skinned at first then walked round the front of as far as the Sneachda burn … un-crossable! A detour up the river and across to the bottom of Fiacille of Sneachda got us onto some decent snow to practice uphill kick turns and even a bit of downhill!  Conditions deteriorated though , so after all of the group had been blown over at least once we headed home. Great day out though, some quality Scottish winter ski-touring experienced, and survived.

Storm Gertrude arrived in earnest. The windiest you can really function walking before you’re blown over is probably 60 or 70mph. That day the top wind-speed recorded on Cairngorm summit was 144mph  – so no way we were going anywhere on the tops in skis! Instead we headed on foot over Meall a Buachaille behind Glenmore.


Despite snow shower and ferocious high wind-speeds , with the odd ‘blow-you-over’ gusts we just managed to make it over the summit before descending to Ryvoan bothy to thaw-out by the fire.


And cook damper bread …

IMG_0681An absolutely top day’s “walk on the wild side” and a great end to the week

Thanks very much to Stevie Nelson from ELWorks and Frank Brown from MGS for getting the groups together and helping with the week.

Click here for a slide-show of all of the photos.


Our very recent Winter Skills weekend for students had us searching for snowfields on the Cairngorm plateau (which we found and managed to employ some winter mountaineering skills in blazing sunshine!)

The find of the weekend though was a newly acquired slackline . This combined with the insipration of watching a video of Sketchy Andy meant some evening slacklining practice was in order – varying results.

From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012

 Daniel (Dunbar Grammar) managed to walk the line (complete the whole length of webbing without falling off) For the rest of us merely balnacibg for more than two seconds was a victory. I sense a long hot summer of blancing coming on.

A couple of slightly wintry scenes to prove we did some winter walking.

From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012

“Winter” Skills Weekend

On Friday 24th February 11 East Lothian Staff gathered at the Outdoor Learning Service Base to get kitted up and head off to Cromdale for some CPD. The aim: to venture up into the Cairngorms for a weekend of winter skills (or as it turned out a general search of any snow!).

We were very spoilt with great accommodation and an excellent chef (in Steff) for the weekend, just not quite so lucky with the weather (or rather the needed winter conditions!). Despite the more spring like weather crampoms and ice axes were packed with gear and off we set. Even though the snow was quickly thawing spirits were not melted! We were ready for action…

From Winter Skills 2012

(Click on the photo above to view a slide show of all the pictures from the whole weekend!)

In a desperate search to find the magical white stuff difficult terrain was undertaken in order to reach the peaks (and hopefully some snow).

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

It did appear at first that it may be in vain! It certainly didn’t look (or feel) like winter weather…

From Winter Skills 2012

Steve was determined to find some snow and using some transceivers we managed to track him down along with some snow!

From Winter Skills 2012

We quickly got the ice axes out and had a go at negotiating our way across the snow (y patches).

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

There was one particular request which had been made (aside from having muffins to eat at the end of the day and not dying!). Although conditions were not ideal we managed to give Steve his wish…he was finally able to put on and use his crampons…

From Winter Skills 2012

In case you were wondering the other requests were met too with everyone returning to the centre to the sights and smell of freshly baked muffins!

Day 2 turned out to be an even milder day! This did not prevent getting back out and finding more snow to play in. We were even able to find enough to make bucket seats (just!)

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

Some great technique work was taught and was able to be put into practice (before running out of snow entirely in some situations!).

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

This is just a brief overview of the weekend. Others on the course said it was ‘thoroughly enjoyable’ and a ‘great experience.’ They also noted that they ‘really enjoyed company and getting up to date with skills and equipment.’ ‘Given the conditions (lack of snow) the course was delivered superbly’. ‘It was pitched just right’ and enabled people to feel they ‘could ask questions and that everyone’s needs were catered for’.

Despite the lack of winter like conditions there is at least one brave person who has said they ‘definitely want to come on it again if it’s run next year’. So we hope to see you all (plus more!) next year. Until then we will keep you posted about your suggestions to go to the Alps or invest in snow making machines to take up next time!