Yesterday I went on a short 1-day winter skills course at Glenmore Lodge. The course was an avalanche and navigation awareness course.
There were a couple of classroom lectures about about planning winter routes in the mountains and about avalanches in general. The bulk of the day however was spent in a small group on the slopes of the Cairngorms above Glenmore lodge, with some micronavigation and general navigation techniques for winter walking routes and then a climb through some difficult terrain of snow-covered heather to Coire Laogh Mòr to find some deep snow.
There is not as much snow in the Cairngorms at the moment as there has been in the last 2 winters but luckily there has been just enough so far this winter to make yesterday’s course worthwhile. The weather conditions yesterday were quite favourable for the course with only light winds and no snow showers in the afternoon.
In the corrie, the group was shown how the prevailing wind and the topography of the land affects where snow lies and creates areas of potential risk. In the corrie the group practiced cutting blocks in deposited banks of snow on lee slopes to evaluate the snowpack for avalanche risk and to see visually how layers of different types of snow can cause avalanches.
This was a really good complement to the winter skills I course I went on 2 years ago (see my previous blog posting (‘Winter skills course‘), covering some things that go beyond the basics.
At Glenmore Lodge there was a grandstand view of a RAF SAR Sea King helicoper landing, refuelling and taking on a Mountain Rescue group and taking off again. The helicopter was active all day as it was taking part in the search for a missing walker in the Larig Ghru.
Whilst staying in Perth the night before the course, I caught a glimpse of a minor display of the northern lights, the first time I have seen a display in many years and a sign of the sun entering an active phase in its 11-year cycle. Other observers got a better view.