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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.