A beautiful weather day. A true classic Scottish winter day! Views and excellent visibility and sadly only too rare, although the wind was biting and I wish I had been able to measure the windchill!
Sam, our Assessor had us navigate up onto Cnap Coire na Spreidhe via various spurs, knolls, stream junctions (hidden under the snow) . I was delighted to bump into a fellow dog handler from the Lakes who I haven’t seen for several years. (I have to confess like most other SARDA handlers, I recognised his dog first!)
|on the wide bealach below Cnap Coire na Spreidhe; courtesy of Danny|
We then dropped over the back onto the slopes overlooking Strath Nethy. Confidence roping and belays were the order of the day with rock solid snow bollards and ice axe belays. We were split into pairs and told that one of our group had become exhausted or injured themselves and they needed help. In this scenario, confidence roping was the better option than wasting time digging belays. So I roped Neil down the slope. It was then his turn to rope me as an exhausted client.
Wind slab was building up on these eastern slopes but at this point was not too deep and our slopes were not too steep or convex. Once again it was a case of judging the slopes by the Avalanche Triangle technique ie Snow Pack, Terrain and Weather. We were just okay!
We then were told to get our clients up a steep slope. In order to give everyone the maximum time, this time our clients were our rucksacks! (And heavy lumps they were too when it came to hauling them uphill!). With rock-solid neve under a thin layer of windslab, ice axe belays with bucket seats were perfect. Those of us with longer ropes were able to reach the top more quickly!
We had a very brief 5 minutes to stuff food down before being set another challenge; this time there was a very steep but short section that we needed to get our client down safely before abbing off ourselves. It was time to excavate a snow bollard.
Navigation was made more difficult this day; my compass decided to stick (the needle kept moving round with the housing and then sticking; a problem I have never had before.) which was a pain for the navigation but fortunately the visibility was great and so the problem could be compensated for easily enough. We walked off once more as it was going dark. Again we received feedback on the way out and mine was extremely encouraging.
Once home we had our Question and Answer paper on all sorts of different winter issues such as Avalanches, Cold related injuries, Weather.
Steve Spalding, our Director of Training returned and briefed us on the Expedition. At this point the Weather Forecasts were still mixed and undecided for the rest of the week. A battle between Low pressure to the west and High Pressure to the east was leading to confusion and no one was sure which one was going to win.
Our briefing finished at 10pm and then we headed up to pack our Expedition sacks for a two night exped.