I’ve just been back in Scotland for the final of the three induction days for entry to the British Mountain Guides followed by two days of winter skills training. All seven of us met up in Aviemore on Friday night not looking forward to the prospect of a long walk from Glenmoore Lodge up into the Corries to spend the day ‘digging’ our way up a route. I think the MWIS forecast on Thursday summed up the situation pretty well ‘by dawn there will be enormous quantities of snow’!
In the end it was decided to cancel the induction day for Saturday as with even more snow than forecast, even if we’d made it into the Corries snow conditions would have been very dangerous and climbing painstakingly slow. But not wanting to miss an opportunity for a day’s climbing and with much less snow in the North West five of us had an early morning start and drove over to the North West and walked into Beinn Bhan.
Ross and I headed round to climb most of The Cooler which was in great condition, proper continental water ice. It was a pretty busy day, with a team already on the main line soon to be followed by some visiting Italian climbers we decided to take a line up the right of the ice fall. After 3 pitches there was only one possible line up the last ice fall and with a team already about to start up the final pitch and not wanting to miss our 3 o’clock ride home we traversed right below the top pitch to find another exit. A fun turfy grove with a steep pull at the bottom lead up to the final terraces and a blustery top out.
The final easy slopes to the top
With the ski road still closed on Sunday morning we walked up into the hills behind Glenmoore Lodge for our first day of winter training. We spent the day looking at teaching methods for basic winter skills like cramponing, ice axe arrest and snow anchors as well as brief introduction to short roping.
The induction day had been rescheduled for Monday and an early start had us driving back over to Beinn Bhan and walking into Coire na Feola with Jonathan Preston, a local guide who was running our induction. The idea of the induction days is for the trainers to see that you are climbing comfortably at the required level, for mixed climbing this is Scottish grade V. Route choice was pretty limited but Bounty Hunter, IV 5, looked as white as anything so we headed up to gear up below the buttress. Not a grade V but by the time we’d finished we’d climbed 5 good pitches and with a few direct variations to the original route we’d made it around, V 5, and Jonathan was happy with it.
The winter induction was the final box to be ticked before we were official accepted onto the scheme to become trainee guides. Next up is the summer training which takes place in May, 3 days in the Lakes and 4 days in North Wales to get us ready for the assessment at the end of the summer.