Ally had to pick some kit up from another Abernethy Trust centre at Nethybridge today, so we decided to combine it with a day in the Cairngorms. We had planned on heading into Coire an t-Sneachda but, when the top car park was full, we noticed that Coire na Ciste was holding a fair amount of snow so opted for the even shorter walk in.
While we were making steady progress up the coire, I became aware of 2 other blokes doing the same thing. On closer inspection, I realised that one of them was Ali Othen, an instructor/teacher from Oswestry School, that I work with regularly. While Ally was helping me prepare for my Winter ML assessment, Ali was helping Dave prepare for his MIC assessment on the same patch of snow 400 miles from home!
Ally and I practiced our rope work with snow bollards, buried axes, stomper belays, boot axe belays and a bit of confidence roping. We also spent some time looking at the snow pack and where intrigued to find a layer of slush about 18 inches below the surface. The worry with this is that the excess water can act as a lubricant, making it more likely for the snow above it to slip – causing an avalanche.
On our way out, we noticed a bank of snow which looked quite deep, and decided to have a go at making emergency shelters. As part of the Winter ML assessment, you are expected to construct a one man emergency shelter, using only your hands and an ice axe, in 30 minutes. As it turned out, although Ally had enough depth of snow, I found myself hitting frozen turf after about 2 feet so effectively had to give up. Lesson learnt – use an avalanche probe to check the snow depth before you start digging!