Andrew and myself began the course at Glen Coe – Sgor Bhan 947m – ENE ridge (schoolhouse ridge) II and enjoyed strong and occasional gusts with snow and sleet showers throughout. Snow was soft and low down, but firmer further up. Quite a damp snowpack due to previous days rain at all levels – some refreezing overnight.
We moved straight on to a route to take advantage of the better forecast of the two days. Covering basic movement skills (with and without crampons) and use of the ice axe on the approach and lower parts of the ridge. We then roped up for a mountaineering approach and short roped and short pitched the steeper part of the route – looking at movement skills and techniques appropriate to steeper terrain and mixed pitches as well as discussing and looking at mountaineering rope techniques as well as a variety of techniques for safeguarding a second.
We moved to Ben Nevis – ice bulges below Douglas Boulder and first pitch Fawlty Towers III. The weather presented a few stronger gusts and intermittent rain showers but at least the temperature was very mild. Very soft and wet snowpack. Lots of thawing ice.
With some fairly miserable conditions we aimed to stay low and stick to escapable options. We headed up to the west side of the Douglas Boulder and climbed an ice bulge below the SW ridge. We then climbed the first pitch of Fawlty Towers. Both pitches were led by me with the emphasis on looking at movement techniques, stance management and belay construction. The weather had deteriorated at this point and I lowered Andrew and abseiled off.
Dave Barker is a full member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors and holds the Mountain Instructor Certificate. He has eighteen years climbing and mountaineering experience, in both summer and winter, throughout the UK and in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Peru, China and the Himalayas. He has worked in the outdoors for all his working life, instructing a wide range of groups and individuals at a variety of levels and across a wide spectrum of activities, including climbing and mountaineering.