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Winter - how did you learn?
by weedavie » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:16 am
What they did was irresponsible or ill-informed, but they nearly got away with it. Leaving the summit, if they'd located the path instead of drifting into the corrie, they'd have probably made it down and we'd never have heard of them. Mind you if they'd drifted off to the other side, they'd have plummetted down a gully and the search would still be on. I'm amazed at what they did achieve, a winter Nevis in gutties.
The Walkhighlands website emphasises you should be equipped for winter. "Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly." The knowledge is the critical bit and mostly we acquire by doing.
I'll not go into my early screw-ups but I never quite needed MR and I learned from stupidity. Then two of us went on a winter skills course. The next weekend we were on Achallader and Chreachain. What possessed us to go up a side gully from Coire Daingean I don't know but it wasn't safe. Then we decided to test our new ice-axe arrests on the descent from Chreachain and crashed down 100 mtres into a snowdrift. I've never tried an ice-axe arrest since, just used axe and crampons so's I don't need to.
Getting an idea of avalanches takes years. Being sensible on an avalanche slope is one thing, estimating the risk from a slope you're passing under is another. I knew someone nearly got hit just walking up Coire Adair and people were killed in the Chalamain Gap a few years ago. Once going up to the Bealach-eadar-Dha-Bheinn we crossed the debris of an avalanche 500 metres wide which had gone to the bottom of the corrie and about 50 metres up the other side. The snow was now stable but you should have seen us move when we got above the fault line.
I feel a lot of the criticism of the Nevis party was from people who'd not experienced or forgotten what extreme weather on a hill is like. You don't always see goggles on the list of must have equipment but in mad snow or spindrift they can make sense of an otherwise unwatchable world. I first experienced white out on Dun Rig, so no fear of falling off things but totally disorienting. I remember three of us on An Socach in quite extreme conditions, goggles on, all equipment to hand, the toughest things on the hill. A couple of ptarmigan appeared out of the snow, kind of nodded "Nice day." Now that's fully equipped and experienced.
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by DavidShepherd » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:57 am
I feel a lot of the criticism of the Nevis party was from people who'd not experienced or forgotten what extreme weather on a hill is like
Or potentially from a lot of people that know that going on to a hill when it's extreme weather without the proper gear is probably not a good idea weather they've experienced it or not.
I've done a winter skills course in the cairngorms and also with the army but at the moment I would just prefer not to go out in extreme conditions.
by Caberfeidh » Mon Feb 17, 2020 11:11 am
Practicing ice-axe arrests is fun, all the more so when in earshot and sight of a fee-paying group from Glenmore Lodge or some such place. How they scowl and glare as we slide down making whooping noises and gleefully laughing for free. Just make sure you pick your spot so you don't land on rocks. I agree about the goggles, I use spitfire pilots' goggles. A helmet is also missing from most lists, cheap all-round snowsports helmets are available for about fifteen quid. Cheap and could save your life.
- Practicing climbing in Glen Coe
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by Fractral » Mon Feb 17, 2020 12:18 pm
It's not easy if you don't have a group of experienced people to latch on to, and the good courses are really expensive. For someone who wants to start hiking in winter I'd suggest joining a local mountaineering club and trying to tag along with them.
by iain_atkinson_1986 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 1:36 pm
In my book it's extremely important to match route plans to conditions and have multiple backup plans in winter.
by jmarkb » Mon Feb 17, 2020 2:42 pm
There was much less awareness of avalanche hazards in those days (prior to the publication of "A Chance in a Million?" in 1985). I got away with a few stupid things, such as going up and down the couloir under Church Door Buttress on Bidean straight after a massive dump of snow.
The only formal instruction I had was a winter climbing course with Mick Tighe. I was loaned a knackered old set of crampons that had (I was told) formerly belonged to Pete Boardman. After doing Tower Ridge on the Ben, one of the adjustment bars sheared in two, and I had to hop all the way down No. 4 Gully on one crampon.
by mynthdd2 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:31 pm
by Giant Stoneater » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:33 pm
When I look back I think that was bloody stupid but then the other side of me kicks in and says well you learned the hard way and all the better for it.
Am not one for courses and hate it when things get technical much rather have the practical.
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by Essan » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:39 pm
Then I started going into the hills in winter in good weather conditions. And learned a bit more along the way. And played around in the snow with crampons and axe ..... So that eventually, when on the hills in winter in bad conditions I had the experience and knowledge to (hopefully) get me down safely. And also I learned my limitations.
I also had the advantage that I was (usually) on the hill alone and (usually) no-one else knew where I was. So I had to be responsible for my own safety. No mobile phone or GPS back then! And I learned when to turn back.
by gaffr » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:55 pm
Lots of hitching away and the cadging of lifts to reach the hills with great amount of help from the Ferranti folks and the grand old JMCS buses from Waterloo Place once, sometimes twice a month, leaving at midday...most folks worked then on Saturday mornings in the early sixties .
by Fiona Reid » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:54 pm
That winter skills course is one of the best things we've done as it opened so many new opportunities. We were also lucky enough to be able to practice all our newly learned skills the very next weekend's when we did a traverse of the Lawers hills above a cloud inversion walking on perfect neve for most of the day.
I absolutely love being out in the hills in winter. It's where I'm happiest.
For winter climbing/mountaineering we learned most stuff ourselves (we were already summer climbers so knew all the rope work, how to place rock gear etc) plus a bit from more experienced friends and a couple of days out with a trainee MIC to learn about snow belays, winter gear etc.
by Raynor » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:14 pm
by dav2930 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:36 pm
weedavie wrote:What they did was irresponsible or ill-informed, but they nearly got away with it. Leaving the summit, if they'd located the path instead of drifting into the corrie, they'd have probably made it down and we'd never have heard of them. Mind you if they'd drifted off to the other side, they'd have plummetted down a gully and the search would still be on. I'm amazed at what they did achieve, a winter Nevis in gutties.
Glad you said "nearly" got away with it, because being forced to call out the MR and surviving only due to the MRT's prompt and expert response, is certainly not "getting away with it". In fact it's not even nearly getting away with it, is it? Locating a path buried in snow in blizzard conditions is difficult, don't you think? Without being able to take an accurate bearing I'd say it was more likely than not that they'd miss the path. So, saying that they'd have probably made it down if they'd located the path is a bit like saying I could probably retire if I won the lottery.
by Border Reiver » Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:55 am
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