LAST WEEKEND was my ninth weekend of 13 working with the Scottish University Clubs for this winter season. It has certainly been a challenging season.
The challenge has been finding good winter conditions. There has often been white-outs to navigate in and deep snow drifts to wade through but very little hard frozen névé (hard packed icy snow).
The lack of early winter storms meant that there is very little in the way of large areas of hard old re-frozen snow. This has meant that teaching some skills like kicking and cutting steps, ice axe arrest and crampon work has challenged me to 'make it work' with what is available.
Fortunately from the feedback I've had so far it seems that the students have still been able to gain much from their days out with me.
My main areas of work so far this winter have been Glencoe in the West and North and South Cairngorms in the East. The majority of skills that I've worked on have been basic winter skills with beginners; 63 students in all. With others I worked on more advanced mountaineering techniques where I introduced the use of a rope. Sometimes this was using snow anchors and on the less snowy weekends I taught the use of rock anchor belays too. I was out with 20 students teaching these more advanced skills.
The weekends have all run smoothly and there has certainly been an improvement with club organisation since I did this job for the first time last year. It has been good to have a new club in the form of the Edinburgh College Climbing Club and to see lots of familiar faces from last year.
All the clubs this year have managed to organise a proper weekend away so I have not had to resort to teaching on separate day trips. The original idea for my role was to join clubs on their weekend meets, so it has been good to see this happening across the board. So far I have managed to show my evening safety talk/slideshow to 155 people.
Nick Carter, St John Scotland Mountaineering Instructor