Friday, December 12, 2014

American Avalanche Association Level 2 Course in Tignes

I have had a great week of learning and ski touring in Tignes in the French Alps this week. I have spent the week on an American Avalanche Association Level 2 course that has been run by Bruce Woodland and Mike Austin of Avalanche Geeks. The course is designed for professionals who operate in the winter environment and built nicely on existing knowledge to explode some myths, give some structure to avalanche avoidance and examine leadership in avalanche terrain. It has been a great mixture of classroom theory and practical application whilst touring off piste and has seen some pretty long days! I am now off to the Aosta Valley in Italy for a weeks course on ski leadership.





Tuesday, December 09, 2014

American Avalanche Association Level 2 Course

I am in Tignes this week enjoying 4 days of CPD on a Level 2 American Avalanche Association course. It's pretty damn cold, -15c whilst digging pits but stunning blue skies! Getting properly geeky with snow and sharing knowledge with BMG tutors, great fun! 



Friday, December 05, 2014

Atlas Mountains of Morocco

LThis week has been spent in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Three days before we were due to leave the UK I had an email from my operator to say there was 3metres of snow at the high mountain hut we were stopping at, did I want porters rather than mules? Long armed porters were duly hired and the weather forecast checked, another 1.5 metres of snow was forecast for the day we arrived! 

All this weather meant that the road into the mountains was closed and so our first night was spent in Marrakech with the main aim of avoiding getting people ill before the trip began. On Sunday we were able to forge a path to Imlil where we decided an extra day of letting the snow calm down was in order before our walk in to the hut at 3200m. 

Our walk up to the hut on Monday gave plenty of opportunity to discuss the Avalanche hazard, I have never seen so much snow here and the mountains were absolutely plastered. We had a lovely day of light snow showers and sunny spells giving some fantastic light and atmosphere. 



Having seen the forecast and conditions I had arranged for each of my clients to bring snowshoes and so Tuesday was spent acclimatising, practising snowshoe use and teaching Avalanche avoidance. The reports had not been exaggerated and we found a consistent depth of 3-4 metres of snow, with 2 metres of wind slab on all aspects and lots of natural Avalanche activity.  





Wednesday dawned another stunning bluebird day. Parties were attempting Toubkal but were floundering in the deep snow. I have had fellow instructor and friend Bryn working for me this week and we took the team towards Ras and Times Guida in the hope that the ridge leading up would provide a safe haven from the avalanche conditions. Unfortunately we weren't able to get that far, stopped by the huge amounts of windslab that were visible on the approach to the col. Nevertheless we enjoyed a beautiful snowshoe journey, managing the avalanche risk by travelling over rolling terrain and being very aware of what was above us. 

Thursday was a similar day, blues skies and sunshine and massive amounts of snow! By this time we had all relaxed into the trip and the cards we had been dealt and spent the day looking at winter skills and shelter building whilst topping up the tan and then Friday back to the bright lights of Marrakech. 






This was one of the most challenging trips I have run in terms of the conditions we faced and it's testament to the clients open minded and relaxed approach that a great time was had by all, safely. 








Friday, November 28, 2014

Off to Morocco and the Alps

I am flying to Morocco tomorrow for our Toubkal expedition. This is a 7 day trip in the Atlas Mountains and with 4 metres of fresh snow on the ground it will be interesting and very beautiful. I fly from there to Geneva and have a week in Tignes on an American Avalanche Association Level 2 course to boost and refresh my knowledge of Avalanche avoidance. From Tignes I then head to Aosta for a weeks Alpine Ski Leader course before flying home for Christmas on the 20th December. 3 weeks of white stuff, superb! 

NEW Avalanche Avoidance Training Day


I have added a new course to the winter program for 2015. This is a one day workshop based from Fort William focusing on avalanche avoidance.

This course is suitable for walkers, climbers, mountaineers and off piste skiers and snowboarders who would like to develop an awareness of avalanche avoidance.

We spend the day looking at practical tips to avoid being avalanched. The course is based upon my practical experience as a full time Mountaineering Instructor (MIC), off piste skier, alpiniste and Mountain Rescue Team member. The day will include both theory and practical application on the mountain and is structured to give you a greater understanding of what an avalanche is, where they are most likely to occur and how to avoid them.

You can get full details here: http://www.expeditionguide.com/avalancheavoidance.php

Winter Cancellations



I have had a few cancellations for the coming winter season which means that I can now offer spaces on the following courses:

Winter Mountaineering - 12-14 Jan in Scotland - £395 - 1 space

Winter Climbing or Mountaineering Week- 2-6 Jan in Scotland - £600 - 2 spaces

Ice Climbing in Norway - 15-20 Feb - Suitable for all ability levels - £750 - 2 spaces

Winter Skills Weekend in Scotland - 7-8 March - £195 - 5 spaces

Winter Skills Week in Scotland - 9-13 March - 1 space

NEW - Avalanche Avoidance training day - 6 spaces - 1st February

Come and join the adventure!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Beautiful Morning

I have been doing some filming this morning for this years "A Year in the Mountains" film. It has been stunning!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Climbing at Tremadog

It has been a beautiful day in Snowdonia and I have been out with regular client and friend Rob, climbing in the sunshine at Tremadog. When we put the date in the diary we could not have dared hope for warm sunshine, blue skies and warm rock - but thats what we got! Awesome.






Sunday, November 23, 2014

MRT Training

I have been out with Llanberis MRT today doing some rigging training in the sunshine. It was a beautiful morning and great to see the newly formed Llanberis Rowing club in action on Llyn Padarn too.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter is Coming...


Here is one of my short films from a past winter adventure on Aonach Eagach on our winter mountaineering course to get you in the mood for the winter thats on its way.




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ropework for Scramblers: Part 4 - BMC TV

Advanced Scrambling

I have been joined for two days by Carl and Henry on our advanced scrambling course here in Snowdonia, the last one of the year now before the winter season starts. It has been dry all day and we made the most of the friction by climbing NW Face Route into the Idwal Staircase and then up the Cneifion Arete which gives a great progression from grade 2 onto grade 3 ground and some great scrambling too!





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Airbag Testing

I have been using a Mammut Airbag system for a couple of years now when skiing off piste. At the start of each season its good practice to check the airbag over and do a deployment. In the past I have done a dummy deployment with the cartridge unscrewed but decided it was time to test it with the cartridge in place.

There is evidence that the deployment of airbags in avalanches increases the chances of survival by making the victim have a larger surface area and therefore stay on the top surface of the snow as it slides. When I bought my airbag I was convinced by Swiss Avalanche Institute (SLF) stats that had been collected over the past ten years. Their data shows that in more than 220 airbag deployments, 97 percent had a positive outcome, with the user ending up alive at or near the surface.

In 2012 The Canadian Avalanche Centre did a study that concluded that wearing an airbag will double your chances of survival in incidents involving "critical burials".

There is also evidence that people have been avalanched and killed without ever pulling the handle on the airbag to activate it. (It does not deploy automatically but requires the user to activate it).

Anything process that is required to happen instinctively in the event of emergency is one that we should practice. Other examples in climbing and mountaineering are locking off a belay plate when a partner falls or using the ice axe to arrest a slip.

With that in mind the deployment of an airbag in the event of a real avalanche is going to be more likely if its something you have practiced and conditioned yourself to do. The first step is knowing that your equipment works and being familiar with the amount of pressure required on the handle. Heres the video of me doing that in my kitchen this afternoon!

video

Monday, November 17, 2014

Off Piste Skiing in Glencoe

The new offpiste ski guide for Glencoe arrived on my doormat this morning, hot off the press. Stunning backcountry ferried terrain, steep faces, remote gullies, epic traverses and the oldest hill in Scotland! Getting psyched for winter now!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

ML Assessment Thank You's

Rob,

Just a quick note to say thanks for a great week, enjoyed your and Huws company as always.
Just had time to reflect on what was said and going into the week navigation and contour recognition was my weakness! And obviously showed.

Off to the lakes next week to do some practice.

The Ml inspires me to get into the hills, I just love being there, all be it when Iam struggling up the hill, note to self work on my fitness.

There will be the return of the Jedi, but this time using more than just the force!

See you in Jan, have a great Xmas and new year!

Regards

Ben

ML Assessment Nov 14



Hi Rob, Huw,

Thanks again for such a superb week - a massive pleasure to learn from and spend time with you both as always.

Obviously thrilled to have got the thumbs-up from you both too. Praise really matters when it comes from people you respect.

Cheers guys,

Dan
ML Assessment Nov 14


Hi Rob,
Just a short note to thank you and Huw for yet another brilliant week.
I had a great time and enjoyed every element of the assessment and was especially pleased when the time spent in the hills paid off.
Hope to see you both again sometime soon.
Cheers, 
Martin.
 
ML assessment Nov 2014. 


Friday, November 14, 2014

Wild Camping!

The last three days of the ML Assessment are spent on a mountain journey with two nights of campaign wild in the mountains. The strong winds and rain meant the camps were indeed wild! Great weather for assessing though!








Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ML Assessment - Steep Ground

For the second day of the ML Assessment we have been looking at security on steep ground, with and without the use of the rope. It was windy on the tops but we found some shelter and enjoyed the autumnal light.




Monday, November 10, 2014

ML Assessment

Today was the first day of our autumn ML Assessment and I have been joined by 8 keen trainees as well as fellow instructor Huw for the week. It has been a dry day here in Snowdonia with some useful cloud on the tops to get the guys working hard - excellent!






Saturday, November 08, 2014

The start of winter

I have been enjoying a week of ski coaching in Tinges in the French Alps this week. We had a great week of fresh powder and blue skies, a promise of things to come for the rest of winter? 

I have got 6 weeks on skis this winter and this week has been focusing on improving technique in readiness for some forthcoming assessments. Most of the other people I was teamed up with were preparing for BASI exams and so were fully psyched! We even managed a basketball match on one evening which at about 7000ft was a lung bursting experience!