North Ealing to Snowdon

Snowdonia

Blessed with glorious spring conditions, eight students from North Ealing made a successful ascent of their first ever mountain in stunning North Wales.

Snowdonia

Snowdonia

Our base camp was a farmer’s field by the foot of the mountain, where we cooked our suppers on open fires.

Snowdonia

The students performed excellently and a big thank you to teachers Andy and Chiara for their support.   

Snowdonia

Amazonia – Creepy Crawlies

With a 3-month expedition in the rainforest of Amazonia on the horizon, thoughts of bugs have been on my mind.

Spider

A potential threat we’ll face in the upper reaches of the Rio Mapuera will come from overhanging branches.

Nicholas Guppy, the last Westerner to explore the Mapuera in the 1960s, had an interesting experience:

‘The branch of a tree swept us, and a saucer-sized tarantula leapt from it on to me, scrambled about on my head and chest’ (Nicholas Guppy, Wai-Wai)

I only a saw a handful of tarantulas on my Exploration Guyana expedition 6 years ago.

Spider hunting

Spider

Hopefully my Amerindian teammates and I won’t suffer the same fate as Mr. Guppy on our upcoming source to mouth descent of the Rio Mapuera this September!

Mini Ski Adventure

Glencoe

Slogging up a munro and skiing down has to be one of my favourite things!

Our objective, the mountain on the horizon in the photo above, was looking glorious.

Glencoe

Renting skis from the Glencoe ski centre, this was a spontaneous hike up and ski down of Stob Coire Sgreamhach (1,072m).

It was my friend’s first ski descent of a Scottish munro.

Glencoe

Terrible snow conditions up top, due to the recent storms, but we had a blast!

Mountain Weekend

Glencoe

With a high pressure system passing over Scotland, we were in for a weekend of blue skies and glorious sunshine… huge stroke of luck!

A group of 8, we ascended Glencoe’s stunning Stob Coire nan Lochan (top left summit in the photo above), a baptism of fire for the team’s less experienced members!

Glencoe

An ascent of one of its gullies proved to be a challenging side objective for myself and two friends.

Glencoe

The past month has been brutal in Glencoe, with frequent storm force winds scouring the summit ridges.

The results are windslab snow on the ridges and giant cornices overhanging the North aspect slopes (due to the predominant South-Westerly winds).

Glencoe

The following day was spent walking across Aonach Mor, by Ben Nevis, enjoying massive views over all the great Highland ranges.

Aonach Mor

An inspiring and physical weekend in one of Britain’s most pristine wilderness areas!

Aonach Mor

Winter Training

Glencoe

Last week was spent in the West Highlands, undertaking an excellent Plas y Brenin training program aimed at developing winter mountain leaders.

All essential aspects of winter mountaineering were reviewed, with the incredible summits of Glencoe serving as our testing ground.

Glencoe

The 6 days of training culminated in an overnight mini-expedition, with the primary objectives being to spend the night in an emergency snow hole and practise night navigation.

4

A snow hole takes 3 to 4 hours of continuous digging.

Pairing up, we dug into the snowpack, created small caves, which we then linked to one another for safety and morale.

Snow hole

Snow hole

Snow hole

The process leaves you soaking wet, as dripping snow penetrates your sleeves, gloves and boots.

A warm drink and fresh layers are essential at this stage.

Snow hole

Having briefly rested, we set out on our night navigation exercise.

Timing, counting steps and using a bearing for direction, allowed us to locate features and journey safely round the plateau in the pitch black.

Night navigation

Having dug the entrance to our snow hole a little too wide (should be no more than shoulder width wide) we experienced significant build up of spindrift creeping in due to the blizzard conditions outside.

We thus took it in turns to get up and clear our entrance every 2 hours throughout the night to avoid being buried in. Lesson learnt!

Snow hole

I highly recommend Plas y Brenin for their professional and dedicated team, who are based in North Wales and operate out of Glencoe for 6 weeks each winter.

West Highlands