Glenmore Lodge is an excellent place for this sort of course, with accommodation, transport, equipment and catering all provided, as well as facilities like a drying room and bar. It also has the benefit of being a stone’s throw from the Cairngorm summits.
Day 1 was spent practising navigation in the woods around the lodge. The weather was absolutely superb and it might have been a better day if we could have gone up into the mountains proper, but it was still very useful.
Days 2 and 3 were spent learning a set of techniques known as ‘security on steep ground’. I found some of this was new to me and I had to concentrate on getting things right, particularly the ropework. We walked all over the Northern Corries area of the Cairngorms, going up and down some pretty steep slopes of difficult terrain (slippery boulders, loose moss) and giving my leg muscles a real workout (you can see a few photos I took of this on my website here). We also did some navigation above the cloudbase, taking compass bearings and using pacing techniques.
Day 4 was spent learning some emergency techniques such as creating improvised stretchers. We also practised river crossing techniques which I was initially a bit apprehensive about but which actually turned out to be fun.
Days 5 and 6 were spent on an overnight expedition. The route our group took was from Auchlean in Glen Feshie, over the summit of Carn Bàn Mòr, across the Mòine Mhòr to the summit plateau of Braeriach, and then north off the summit to a campsite in Coire Beanaidh. We did some serious navigation across featureless plateaux in low visibility cloud conditions and it was a real feeling of achievement to do this successfuly as a group. The next day we walked back to the Coire Cas Ski Centre via the Lairig Ghru and the summit of Lurcher’s Crag. Only in the last bit of this walk did it start to rain seriously, the first time it had done so all week, which was very fortunate.
It was a great week and I learned a lot. The group of people on the course and the instructors were all enthusiastic and up for a good time and made it an enjoyable (though challenging in places!) week. The next step in gaining the award is an assessment course which is going to be pretty tough!