Yesterday I went on a one-day winter skills course organised by C-N-Do. This was a short introductory course and was a review of the basic skills needed to walk in the Scottish mountains in winter. The content of the course was not new to me although it was good to get some formal instruction and practice in some of the techniques, particularly the use of ice-axes and arresting slides on steep snow slopes.
Getting some supervised practice in this was the most useful part of the day for me, as you don’t get many chances to throw yourself down a snow-covered slope to prepare for when it might happen for real! I didn’t quite get the hang of the most difficult self-arrest technique (sliding on your back, head first), although hopefully I’ll get a chance to try again on a future course.
Other things that were covered were using crampons, avalanche awareness, recognising different wind, snow and ice conditions, and constructing an emergency snow-shelter.
The course was carried out in Coire Dhomhain, near the pass of Drumochter on the A9. It was not necessary to go very far up into the hills, as there are currently good snow and ice conditions down to quite a low level, and falling snow, low clouds and strong wind yesterday meant that challenging conditions were encountered right from the start on the A9!