An amazing week spent working for World Extreme Medicine in arctic Norway on their Polar Medicine course. The training focused on giving medics the skills to move and operate safely in this enviroment as well as specific cold weather medical knowledge. We looked at nordic skiing, snow mobiling, dog sledding, snow shoeing, navigation, avalanche avoidance and cold water immersion. The majority of the time was spent out in the field including a 2 night snowholing expedition which corresponded with one of the best northern light shows of the year.
The final week of my Scottish winter season involved lots of different groups (and weather). Starting out east I had a day winter climbing with Russ for Cairngorm Adventure Guides. Marching up into Coire an t-Sneachda out of the cloud inversion was spectacular and Aladdins gav e a great introduction to the vertical winter world. Topping out into the sunshine the obvious descent was over the top of Cairngorm to delay our inevitable descent back into the cloud for as long as possible.
Next up was a weekend of winter mountaineering with Justin. Once again thick cloud was blanketing Fort William but up on the Ben it was blue skies and zero wind. We popped into the sunlight at the CIC hut and a full days climbing up Ledge Route and around the CMD arete was just about perfect. The next day was nearly as good and we made a quick ascent of Stob Coire Nan Lochan and Bidean nan Bam descending by the Lost Valley. It had taken Justin 4 attempts to tick this Munro but it was worth the wait.
My final couple of days were out with a team of sport scientists from Leeds Beckett University. They're undertaking high altitude research on some willing volunteers from the "British Services Dhaulagiri Medical Research Expedition 2016" We looked at winter and general expedition skills while climbing both the Ben and Buachaille with a couple of hours of heavy rain bringing my season to a traditional close!
Todays entertainment was provided by a bunch of enthusiastic medics undertaking a weeks training in the Lake District with Expedition Medicine. The company provides worldwide medical training courses for medical professionals, wilderness medics and for individuals providing advanced medical coverage in remote areas.
The focus of the day was on the technical skills required to operate safely in the mountains in support of their extensive medical knowledge and closely followed the Summer Mountain Leader syllabus. We headed up onto the slopes and small crags above Derwent Water Hostel to look at the various options available to a leader on steep ground - coaching, spotting, supporting, confidence roping, pitching and abseiling. We also spent a bit of time looking at the few practical options availablefor medivacing a casualty with limited numbers and equipment. Finally navigation focused on relating the map to the ground and the importance of scale as not all the maps they'll be using in the future are as detailed and accurate as Ordanance Survey.
This weekend I've been working with Ryoko and Anthony, the former who has big plans involving skis on Mt Vinson and Denali. Not sure I can help her much with the skiing! so it was all about giving her the mountaineering and expedition skills to enable her to get up and down the mountains safely and look after herself in an extreme enviroment. Saturday was spent in a wet Stob Coire Nan Lochan focusing on crevasse rescue, ascending and descending fixed lines and avalanche avoidance. A better forecast for sunday tempted us up on to Ben Nevis which has had a surprising amount of new snow. Arguably the best grade II on the mountain is Ledge Route which is similar in technical difficulty to Mt Vinson although it is currently in very easy condition with all the rock steps banked out. Some good navigation practice got us off the back and down into Red Burn for a quick look at cold weather survival skills and emergency snow shelters.
Not the sheep! but a bunch of enthusiastic doctors undertaking a weeks training in the Lake District with Expedition Medicine. The company provides worldwide medical training courses for medical professionals, wilderness medics and for individuals providing advanced medical coverage in remote areas.
The focus of the day was on the technical skills required to operate safely in the mountains in support of their extensive medical knowledge and closely followed the Summer Mountain Leader syllabus. We headed up onto the slopes and small crags of Bleaberry Fell above Borrowdale to look at the various options available to a leader on steep ground - coaching, spotting, supporting, confidence roping, pitching and abseiling.
Finally navigation focused on relating the map to the ground and the importance of scale as not all the maps they'll be using in the future are as detailed and accurate as Ordanance Survey.
the day concluded with a fascinating lecture by Dr Roger Alcock who has just returned from sierra leon as part of the NHS / UK Med response to the Ebola crisis
It definitely feels like spring has arrived in the Lakes. Today was a gloriously still day out in the Northern Fells. I was working with Karin who is just about to depart on a big Greenland expedition. Her team are attempting to circumnavigate the ice cap with a Windsledge as part of a bigger project. This was her final chance to look at crevasse rescue and develop a system for retrieving 1000kg of sledge from a crevasse if the unthinkable should happen. We began with jumaring and abseiling and developed these skills to include freehanging transitions. The afternoon was spent looking at a variety of hauling techniques up to a monstrous 12:1 ratio.
The Windsledge Project looks very interesting. It's already been tested on a number of expeditions but this will be the biggest challenge yet. Kite skiing is an amazing way to travel but you are limited in the amount of kit you can tow behind you in a pulk. This new concept opens up some intriguing possibilities.....
Plan A for today was the Aonach Eagach Ridge but the forecast 70mph winds put paid to that. Looking for another classic in Glencoe we headed to Curved Ridge on the Buachaille which usually provides a sheltered option in strong westerlies. The thaw has taken its toll and the route is now almost in summer condition with patches on soft snow which didn't require crampons today. We were able to look at a variety of alpine techniques of moving together on different terrain and even had a sit down lunch with a view in the sunshine!
We topped out into gale force winds which at times almost had us resorting to crawling to make progress. The head of Coire na Tulaich is still threatened by some significant sagging cornices behind which some obvious cracks are opening up. Below these is a large crown wall curving around the coire, the result of a significant avalanche but actually not the earlier huge slide which exited the coire base almost a kilometer away!