I climbed a lot with one friend a couple of years ago and still hear his mantra ringing through my head a lot of the time. Not the coolest of Mantras but “make good decisions” is certainly not a bad thing to hear as you leave a belay on a climb. Nowhere is this more true than in avalanche terrain. Making good decisions in Avalanche terrain has been on my mind a lot recently – high risk in the Scottish mountains, a lot of media attention on Avalanches and the memories of some of the best people I knew lost to the mountains. Success for me when the risks are high equates to coming home again and still being friends with the person you went out there with. I feel in some ways that the last few weeks have not seen much “standing on the top of things celebrating” types of success but I have still had a lot of fun.
Definitely a good descision – two of the funniest people you could ever go into the mountains with. Alfie “who needs crampons or a jacket” Tipler and Miles “legs of a horse, body of a child” McConville. Great day on the Ballachullish Horseshoe with the Schoolhouse ridge start.
Coming onto the first summit. Stunning conditions on the main ridge. Always a good day when you finish with a good glissade! Except when you hit the only tree on the slope! Next up I headed to Buachille Etive Mor with Scott. Theres lots of good ridges on the Buachille but some of the approaches are a bit avalanche prone. Above – Looking at Buachille Etive Beag on the Walk in. Avalanche debris below Great Gully. This had got as far as the main path in!Scott leading off up the first pitch of West Route, North Buttress. A great choice when the avalanche danger is high.
Scott looking pleased after the main difficulties. Just a long uphill and even longer downhill to get off. Great day!Photo from Scott – me sitting in my garden after a good day on the hill – The first sunshine I’ve seen since buying the house!
Definitely a good descision. Scott and I got pretty excited about making Haggis Chinese Dumplings. Probably the best decision of the week though disappointing when we found that its been done before Next up Scott and I headed to Garbh Bheinn, possibly my favourite Scottish Mountain. We were going for the great ridge which was low enough to be out of the high avalanche risk but it also turned out to be rather out of condition! Scott above on the first technical step which felt hard!! Scott trying to get us out of trouble – a lot of traversing happened after we realised that we were not going to be successful. Next up I spent some days with Bob to help him get ready for his Winter Mountain Leader assessment. The WML is all about making good decisions in the winter environment. The days we had were not ideal but certainly posed some challenges. Above – Bob toughing it out in a bucket seat belay We dug some emergency snowholes for practice – On assessment you classically get 20-30mins to dig one of these with just an axe and be comfortable enough tospend the night. If you have never done this its a great thing to practice in case your good decisions turn out to be not so good.
And finally – Bob and I planned to spend a night snowholing and practicing night navigation up on Creag Meagidh. We dug in for just over an hour and stopped to have a bite to eat and a drink. In this time the doorway filled with spindrift (blown snow) which took a further hour to dig out. The doorway filled again and we decided to bail. The above photo is courtesy of Bob – me taking some bearings before exiting the snowhole for the long walk back to the van. When we saw the next days avalanche forecast I was in no doubt that this was the right decision.
Its been a rather hectic few weeks, lots of work, lots of courses and lots of wading through deep powder. None of that is about to stop any time soon but I cant help but hope that the Avalanche risk drops in the next week or so to allow people to head for the winter routes they want to.