For the last few years, I’ve headed up to Scotland to enjoy a week’s winter walking with Ally – an instructor at the Abernethy Trust centre in Ardgour on the West Coast. Although he has spent a lot of time in the snow recently, it’s been on skis in Switzerland, and I think the thought of a week of chasing me around the mountains for a week was slightly daunting. However, I’ve done a lot of big days recently and, with my Winter Mountain Leader assessment starting on Sunday, I’m quite happy to spend the week having short days and practicing various skills in preparation.
Today, we took the easy option and jumped on the Gondola at the Nevis Range Ski Resort, which takes you up to 650m on the slopes up to Aonach Mor. We made our way up towards Aonach an Nid and spent a short time looking at how to abseil through a cornice before heading south to the summit cairn of Aonach Mor itself. To be honest, we’d been casually wandering along the top of the east face, not really paying attention to our progress on the map, when the cloud came down and left us in a white out. It certainly made finding the summit cairn a little interesting!
From here, we descended south to the col on the way to Aonach Beag, which is renowned for the large cornice that forms on the eastern side of the south end. It was at this point that Ally started to complain of pain in his knee. Although he was keen to continue, I must admit that I was nervous about the prospect of having to try to carry him out! However, with a few rests for the knee, we made it to the top of Aonach Beag before heading back.
As we approached the top of the Summit ski tow, we became aware of a number of winter climbers looking very focussed and running around with ropes. It turned out that there had just been an accident on one of the routes. The lead climber had taken a big fall past the belayer and was now unconscious and out of sight. After alerting the emergency services, Ski Patrol turned up and Ally and I made an exit as there were already a lot of people involved in the rescue.