Student Winter Skills – Bookings open!

We still have places available on the student Winter Skills for the weekend of 15th – 17th March 2013. This open to 5th and 6th Year pupils.

This course will provide the next generation of aspiring mountaineers with the opportunity to aquire and practice the following winter skills …

Snow craft – building snow belays, shelter building,
Use of ice-axe and crampons
Winter navigation
Snow pack analysis

Based at Lagganlia, inclusive of transport, instruction, catered accommodation and equipment; the cost is £80 per person. If you have pupils who are seriously interested in attending please email k.christie@eastlothian.gov.uk a list of names.

Click here to see previous Winter Skills posts.

Winter-skills Report

Click here or on the image above for a full-screen slide-show

Last weekend the SOAP students were joined by three Dunbar Students for a Winter Skills weekend in the Cairngorms.

Based at Glenmore Lodge the group spent the weekend enjoying the last of this years white-stuff and learning some new winter skills. On the Saturday the group left the mini-bus at the top car-par in dismal wet conditions. After only walking for about 30 minutes up into Corrie Cas the weather improved and the group were able to practice moving (and stopping) on steep ground using their ice-axe. Next was up over the plateau for a spot of lunch in the snow-holes at Corrie Domhain.

After lunch the conditions varied between bright sunshine and complete white-out as the group navigated Cairn Lochan just on the edge of the nothern corries. Here again very poor visibility needed careful navigation with large cornices, and even larger drops! To complete the round a route west and north of the corries led back to the car-park. That evening the students were able to attend a Winter Navigation evening lecture by one of the Lodge’s instructors.

Sunday was a fairly slow start, all of the group were tired form Saturday’s fairly long day … and the hour-change. Despite this the group headed back up into the corries for a couple of hours practicing avalanche search and rescue using transceivers.

This has been the third residential weekend with the SOAP students , and it’s been great to see them becoming more confident and accomplished on the hill. Next trip away for them will be the Summer Expedition … which from general consensus the group would like to go out to explore some of mountains on the islands off the west coast.

CPD Winter Skills

Worn down to the knees? … this is Steff from MGS after Saturday’s rather long hill day.

I was just about to write up this weekend’s Winter Skills course when I received the following text from Callum, on one of the participants, he say’s it all really. (And for more pictures see the slideshow at the bottom of this post … sorry Corporate IT viewers will you’ll need to wait till you get home to see them.)

Calum MacLeod, Community Housing Officer, North Berwick: This excellent weekend began with a gentle walk into the Cairngorms from the car park about 5Km from our base at the Lagganlia Outdoor Centre. The accommodation itself came in the form of a large, warm, and clean lodge with plenty of room for our intrepid party. The lodge came ‘fully loaded’ with such luxuries as dishwasher, washing machine and most importantly, a drying room. It also had a large communal dining area. All in all a great place came to come back to after a day in the hills.

The group was from a range of backgrounds in the Council with Wildlife Rangers, a Housing Officer, a Learning Assistant and some Teachers. All in all, an interesting and very sociable mix from across the Council and one which brought a real variety of interest and experience to the course.

Needless to say, the Outdoor Learning staff were excellent. Andy I must say only just seemed to edge it on Liz based on the lunch breaks. Contact Outdoor Learning for further clarification on this point!!! [Ed: No idea what he’s on about!]

The business part of the weekend began by sub-dividing into groups best matched to each other. After a walking for a bit we stopped to practice the essential art of the ice axe arrest. This involves learning how to stop yourself sliding down a snow covered slope by using an ice axe. After we have all learned how to do the most basic version of the arrest, we upped the ante by learning how to do it head first!

We progressed through use of crampons, ice belays and lots of the other black arts of the mountains! However, at no point did anyone get out of their depth such was the quality of instruction. Add lovely sunny weather and walk on the Cairngorm Plateau and we all left tired but better for the experience.

If you’re worrying if a course like this is for you, all I would say is you only don’t need to be super fit and have just have an appreciation and desire to venture a bit further outdoors. Even if you don’t own much gear, don’t worry as of the kit you will need is available through the Outdoor Learning staff.

Watch out for the many courses like this coming up in future. I don’t doubt you will enjoy them as much as I have.

Winter Skills Staff Development Courses – places going fast


Want to learn how to use an ice-axe, assess snow conditions and navigate effectively in the winter mountains? Then this course being delivered by the Outdoor Learning Service is for you. We currently have nine people booked on our course on the weekend , 4th – 6th March. But there are still places left – a great value opportunity not to be missed. Places are available to both ELC and non-ELC staff – see here for rates. Contact us here to book your place. Last year’s adventures can be seen on this post.

This year we’re staying at on of the lodges at Lagganlia Outdoor Centre. Excellently placed for both the Northern Corries and the slightly quieter Feshie Hills.

Two levels of courses are being offered on the same weeked, First Steps and Next Steps – with the activities and journey’s being tailored to your needs and experience. All accommodation, food, transportation, instruction and safety & cold weather kit is provided … and those of us who have visited our base know we have excellent kit … most of it more up-to-date than that modelled by Mr Shackleton above.

The heroes of Telemark?

Click here for a full screen slideshow or click here to download and save any piccies.

Last week for me was a spot of personal skills development to help get me ‘in the zone’ to deliver this years Outdoor Learning Service Winter Skills courses … well sort of. I attended an Ice Climbing Course provided by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. The destination was Rjukan in Norway; a small industrial town 4 hours drive west of Oslo. First made famous as the location of heavy water manufacturing and the target of several Allied raids in WWII – the Heroes of Telemark. Since the 1980s Rjukan has become recognised as one of Europe, probably actually the World’s, most accessible quality ice climbing venues.

After a very late arrival Saturday was a schmooze day; eating and chilling. Climbing started on Sunday with a visit to a single pitch crag called Ozzimosis. Lots of variety on many lines of WI 2, 3 and 4. Plenty of opportunity to develop technique, skills and practice placing ice-screws beneath friendly tree belays.

Monday was a multi-pitch day in the Upper Gorge on a local classic called Backevien (WI 4), 3 pitches in a great setting, that tops out at the Vermork Power station. Tuesday was time to start getting on the sharp end leading some of the easier WI 2 and WI 3 grades back at Ozzimosis – after the exposure and location of Backveien a fine progression into leading.

Wednesday we wanted an adventure so set off for the local classic of Rjokanfossen (WI4). After an ab in to a spectacular setting the climb is an absolute classic. Three/four pitches of ice, the grade is WI 4, while seconding it felt technically easier than other WI4s, the situation is everything and it was just the right fun-side of scary. It was definitely the week’s highlight for me. The sting in the tail was a chest compressing subterranean squeeze to avoid some hard mixed climbing at the very top. And we didn’t even dwell too long on the potential of water release from the power-plant upstream … for that hilarity see Al’s video of Mark’s shower at Vermork bridge.

Thursday was the last day and time for me consolidate my confidence leading and placing gear on a cold but clear day at Kroken.

Thanks to the quality instructional staff; George McEwan, Al Halewood, Mark Chadwick and Di Gilbert. And of course to all the other attendees for being a laugh, especially my rope-buddy Carl.

Special big thanks to Heather Morning instructor and the MCofS’s Safety Adviser for being the organiser supremo, and for helping me progress my skills and lead confidence. All-in-all a great course delivered at an ideal coaching location that allowed you to concentrate on developing the technical climbing skills that can be applied back home in the Scottish mountains.