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

Amazonia – Getting Lost

Losing yourself in the forest is one of the greatest fears you have when journeying in Amazonia.

This fear keeps you close to the river, which is your lifeline to the nearest community or town.

Hardened Amazon explorer, Arkady Fiedler, wrote

Many cases have been known of explorers returning from its green labyrinth to become chronic patients of sanatoria, or even not returning at all…

They have simply disappeared in the forest like stones in the water. The jungle is jealous and voracious…

You can walk 50 meters out of camp for the toilet, lose your focus and realize you have no idea where you came from in the wall of green.

I always have a whistle on me. For a longer walk away from camp, a compass bearing is a very good idea too!

Return from the summit of Mount Ayanganna, the source of the Potaro River.

Return from the summit of Guyana’s untouched Mount Ayanganna, the source of the Potaro River.

Wild Snowdonia

Tryfan

Voted Britain’s favourite mountain, Tryfan (the iconic rugged peak across the valley in the photo above) was looking stunning last weekend.

With significant snow and ice on Tryfan’s steep faces, we opted to ascend its two neighbouring mountains.

Snowdonia

A group of 7 friends, we enjoyed an icy breeze, amazing views and big ridges.

Snowdonia

With 6 million visitors a year, Snowdonia is a popular place. January is a great time to go. The mountains are free of people and definitely have that raw wilderness vibe!

Snowdonia

Tunnel Paddle

Canal map

A 3 hour paddle on the Grand Union Canal saw us complete a West to East journey across London, from Kensal Rise to Haggerston.

Paddling Islington Tunnel was the definite highlight (the yellow line on the map above). Built in 1818, it’s the longest navigable tunnel in the South East, almost a kilometer long (878m).

Islington Tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel was a mere dot and you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. A worried face below as we reach the halfway mark!

Islington Tunnel

Escaping the darkness was a great relief. I definitely don’t recommend doing it!

Islington Tunnel

Stob Dearg

A legendary Japanese Samurai, Date Masamune, described his passion for Mount Fuji,

Each time I see Fuji

It appears changed

And I feel I view it

For the first time.

How shall I describe Fuji

To those who have not yet seen it?

It is never seen twice alike,

And I know no one way

Of describing the sight.

Stob Dearg, the stunning mountain on the left of the MONSTER MOUNTAINS logo is much the same.

It is totally mesmerizing. As you drive into Glencoe, it’s beautiful shape is revealed, a product of 40 million years of erosion and glaciation.

Stob Dearg

Then as you drive by, it takes on a whole new form. Now you can see a way up it, a classic grade 1 winter gully climb up the middle groove, leading you to the saddle and on to the top.

Stob Dearg

Mountains bring about a change of perspective. The solitude, the air, the dangers, the views… these all trigger a response within you that is primeval, hugely powerful and exciting.

Scottish highlands in the winter are a must to go and explore!