The start of this month saw the completion of one of my long standing goals. I am not really a goal setter by nature – my main aspirations being to eat good food, drink good drink, spend time in beautiful places and not work too much but I had always had the Mountaineering Instructors Certificate in the back of my mind. Getting to this point has taken a while though for me came pretty suddenly. I decided at the end of last summer that I was just going to give all my time and focus to passing this qualification. Its hard to sum up to people not involved in the outdoor industry the time and energy that goes into all of the outdoor qualifications and in the last couple of weeks I have found myself trying to sum this up. The actual assessment for the MIC is just 4 days long but is in fact an assessment of the culmination of for me over 10 years working in the industry. I actually really enjoyed the assessment and as I had been told by many friends it did just feel like going to work every day (which is always stressful on high avalanche days). Looking back to the start of the year its been fairly intense preparing for the assessment but also a lot of fun –
- 50 routes up to grade 6 (work and play)
- approx 60 days “on the hill” (I think I only took about 7/8 rest days from the start of Jan till my assessment)
- 120 snickers eaten (based on 2 snickers a day minimum)
- Walked up the track to Ben Nevis over 20 times
- approximately 150 glucosamine tablets swallowed
- Lost 6kg while eating around 3500-4000 calories a day
Huge amounts of thanks have to go to any of my friends and colleagues who offered advice, to Hannah for putting up with kit drying everywhere around the house and my constantly knackered state and to some friends who suffered through my practising various things (short roping Alfie Tipler for a day was hilarious for me but I think his worst day in the hills ever! “it reminds me of being a child”)
Since the assessment the winter has continued to be amazing though I have started to look for dry rock!
Rather appropriately my first day of work as a full MIC was in fairly disgusting conditions where I climbed Hadrians Wall direct with one client. We were both pretty tired at the end of the day having had to pull frozen ropes through our belay devices so many times. We took a day off and the next day turned out to be a stunner. Above the view on the way down to Coire Leis
I was out with Stephan one of the Geologists who is looking at glacial periods in Scotland. Seen here after climbing one of routes on his “bucket list”, Point 5 gully. On the left of the photo is one of the areas (Coire Leis) that is believe to have had a glacier in it as recently as the 1700’s I was next out with Rob who was getting ready to add to his already impressive mountaineering CV. Seen here about to start the Eastern Traverse on Tower Ridge. Spring is here! After climbing Tower Ridge I nipped home to change ice axes for rock shoes and Hannah and I headed up Glen Nevis for some spring rock climbing. Above – Hannah in the sun at the base of “Storm” Hannah tiptoeing onto the first belay of Storm Next I headed up Observatory gully with Joe to tick off a couple of routes that I had wanted to do for years. Above – Joe on the second pitch of “Smiths Route” Two teams on Smiths route as we headed down for one more. Pretty cool to watch Alan Kimber leading up this – I hope I’m still leading grade 5 in my 60’s Graham, Donald and I left the upper car park at 645am and headed up to climb Orion face direct, We were beaten to the base by 3 teams(!) and settled on “Minus 2 gully” instead. This is now one of my favourite routes and not a bad plan C! Above – Donald leading up to the big ice pitch. One of the awesome pegs on Minus 2. I wonder if this once belonged to Jimmy Marshall? Graham making short work of the last pitch Donald on the last pitch no longer worried about making it to parents evening on time! Lastly I headed up the Ben (again!) with Mark to see what we could do on a busy Saturday. Turns out quite a lot! Climbing with Mark is always tough as he always seems to have such nice new kit! We climbed the start of Glovers Chimney into the Gutter followed by the Cascade into Experts Choice. Loads of great ice and no-one else about! Above – Mark and his shiny gear starting up the crux of “The Gutter” Mark “I’m no good at ice climbing” Chambers charging up the crux pitch with good styleAt the 11th belay of the day!
I spent a couple of days working with Scott and Jamie at UHI. After deciding not to go outside one day we were met with an amazing day the next. Above – stunning views at the CIC hut 2 Students probing for a snow hole site Scott and Jamie hard at work in tough conditions Amazing snow hole site under the Brenva face of Ben Nevis. Shame we didnt stay there!
And lastly – I was somewhat horrified to see the above photo appear in my inbox. A photo of me on the (in) famous crux pitch of point 5 gully. The gear was less than amazing and this must have been taken by my client inbetween me being pounded by spindrift avalanches!
I had thought that my winter might be over by now but there’s a storm raging outside and theres plenty of ice on the Ben still. Who wants to go ice climbing????