I log roll down the 40 degree snow slope, firm, double handed grip on the ice axe head. Four, five rolls – my feet are grabbed and thrown violently up and round turning the roll into a wobbly Catherine wheel. Make star shape to stabilise. Hurtling down slope head first on my back; semi sit up and reach out to place pick tip in snow; low angle, don’t want it ripped from my grasp. Let gravity pivot my legs down hill. Now on my front; pull out pick and get it under my body then jab it into snow; force adze into shoulder; exert bruising force on ice axe, shaft under chest; spike covered by left hand, by hip, prevents possible evisceration; head turned away from axe, right ear in the snow, bum in air, legs apart, knees bent to keep feet up. And I stop.
It is the first day in the snow and I am teaching the group ice axe arrests. We have spent the last few hours in the lee of the north side of the Fiacaille ridge and the group is cold and tired. On the crest of the ridge someone is trying to make a Brocken spectre. We climb up for lunch in the sun. The 70+ mph winds have been slamming super cooled water droplets into the rocks growing fantastic crystalline structures of rime ice which capture the light and play with it. Autonomous sculpture. We eat and glory in winter’s beauty.
In the afternoon we move around the slopes in crampons. John Wayne gait avoids snagging crampons on clothing and being pitched down the slope and smashed on the rocks below. Strange new names for the various techniques; French, flat footing , American, hybrid, front pointing. We cut steps and we climb. We build snow anchors and we abseil off the edge. We glissade and we are exhilarated.
Snow holing By C. Hemingway
On the Craggers Scotland trip in the February half term 2012, we went snow holing. I and two other teens (Phin and Dan) were planning on sharing one snow hole and the three adults to shared a different.
We went up on Friday. We took a bus to the bottom of the ski run where we checked the forecast and got poo pots (a plastic container with dog poo bags in). We then started to walk; we walked the long way round because I was much nicer walk. The path was well marked so it was easy going until we got to the ptarmigan café which they boast is the highest in the UK. We had a rest there and a bit to eat.
Then we set off following a ski run. When we got the top of the ski run the visibility had taken a turn for the worst, so we had to take a bearing but there was some confusion about how to take a bearing but in the end we all agreed on a bearing and set off.
We knew we were less then 100m from the place we were going to which was called Jenny’s Grave, when all if a sudden the wind died down and the clouds lifted and the sun came out which meant we had an amazing view.
We then found a steep slope which was the beginning of Jenny’s Grave and we ran down to where all the snow holes were so we looked for the best one and me, Phin and Dan found a huge snow hole with a hole in the to and an igloo attached.
We then had a few sandwiches and got to work improving it by covering the hole in the roof and blocking off the igloo. After that we noticed the roof had started dripping so we put more of a slope so the drips would run off. Then we started to make our beds and that’s when I found out that Phin had forgotten to bring a bivvy so only one Dan had a a bivvy bag, this meant our sleeping bags got wet because of the melting snow.
We messed around and slid down the steep slope were the snow holes were, we then had dinner which was noodles and sauce for me and Phin then Dan used our water for his pot noodles.We went in to the snow holes and read for a bit before trying to get to sleep. Then in the morning we stayed in bed for as long as we could, until we were very hungry then we got up and made breakfast in the snow hole. Although some of the people were unsure about if we should cook in the snow holes but I convinced them it would be fine. So phin had noodles because he didn’t want to wash up and me and Dan had oats so simple for breakfast.
We put all our wet stuff in dry bags and packed up. We then worked out the bearing because we knew what it was on the way here. We started the walk, the wind was very strong and we had to be careful that it didn’t knock us over. We walked further down to the ptarmigan station. When some of the group wanted to go up carngorm so most of us went up and a few stayed at the station with the bags, when they got back we all walked down to the bus stop and got a bus to the youth hostel.