Well March seems a long time ago but I can still remember it very clearly. The one I’m reporting on was the training day at Halfway Lochen on Ben Nevis. It was an early Craggers style start for a mixed group of kids and adults. It was described as a short walk up the mountain to a point where we could practice walking in crampons, various ways of stopping yourself from falling off the side with the help of your ice axe and how to do a crevasse rescue.
I remember it was all cold and snowy and I was quite concerned about keeping warm and how my poor old disabled body would cope with the tasks. I didn’t heed the advice of Tony to only wear my thermals with waterproofs over the top and within 30 minutes I was sweating to death and stripping off. I then had to carry my excess layers so big lesson learned there. It was very hard going and although I had trained I was surprised how difficult walking up in crampons was, how many frequent stops I needed compared to the children who were bounding up and how exhausting the whole ordeal was.
When we finally reached Halfway Lochen I was totally worn out (this was no short walk for me!) and in quite a bit of pain. but the view was incredible. Even though we weren’t at the top it still seemed like you could see forever. The sun was shining, the sky totally blue and there was snow, snow, snow everywhere. It was like being in a different world and made every painstaking step worth the journey.
To properly practice our ice axe arrests and crevasse rescue we needed to travel further still to the side of the mountain. Tony weighed up the situation as the sun was beating down on the snow. He explained that there was a serious risk of us causing an avalanche and endangering ourselves and anyone below us so we wouldn’t be training up on the mountainside. Instead we would go over the skills we would need for the attack on Ben and have a go at digging snow shelters. HOORAY HOORAY!! I honestly had no intention of going any further anyway.
So we had an amazing day in the snow, way up high, all alone in what felt like a desolate white valley…playing! The training was great fun with the kids showing the adults how to stop a fall, dig and setup a snow belay, and do flips and somersaults off a little ledge into the soft deep snow. Then we were shown the technique of digging an emergency snow shelter and had a timed race to see how much we could accomplish in a few minutes of digging. The end results were really cool and none of us would be suffering if we were caught out unexpected in a blizzard I can tell you that.
The whole day was observed by a little snow bird whose name I have forgotten but what I won’t forget is how it followed us and played with us all day. Then it was time to head down back to the bunkhouse. The less said about that the better because it was excruciating on my poor old knees and destroyed my chances of making an attack on the Ben the following day. I’m glad I did what I did do though as it was an experience of a lifetime and one I’ll never forget!! Christine