Peak Mountaineering's 2014 winter courses are now in full swing and, as usual, we've got a broad range of exciting snowy activities coming up over the next few months. We've had climbing and winter skills on the go and, having now got a good feel for the current conditions, we wanted to provide an update for anyone thinking of booking a course with us (or heading up under their own steam for some independent fun).
The dominant weather pattern this winter has definitely been stormy unsettled weather. Of course you'll know about this wherever you live in the UK but in the Scottish highlands this has made for wet and wild conditions which has also brought lots of snowfall and high avalanche risk on certain aspects. The downside to this is that climbing venues have needed careful consideration (but there is always somewhere to go). The upside is that there has been endless possibilities for our skills courses to play in the snow!
The challenging conditions sometimes put people off heading north....but they shouldn't. It just means it is essential to take heed of the weather reports and choose routes and venues carefully. A skill which, of course, is covered in detail on all our winter courses. Infact, it is really useful for people to see the winter mountains in their more challenging guise.
A venue we have been using a lot so far has been Glencoe. The rise in the road offers great skills options around Stob Mhic Mhartuin and Buachaille Etive Beag and the old faithful of Stob Coire Nan Lochan has been another favourite. For climbing Glencoe has trusty options like Buachaille Etive Mor and, again, Stob Coire Nan Lochan has delivered the goods. We've also used Aonach Dubh and had the odd visit onto Ben Nevis.
The content of winter skills courses is best kept flexible to make the best use of conditions (although we always cover the essentials). The heavy snowfall has allowed our recent groups to enjoy loads of shelter digging opportunities as well as great chances for lots of avalanche avoidance and snowpack interpretation education. As usual we've also been sliding around practicing ice axe arrests, constructed snow belays and a load of other key winter skills. We also have a snow shelter trip going out early next week and they won't have any problem finding a suitable digging venue! Our climbers have had to battle some challenging weather but there's always been something to climb and, to date, only one visit has been made to the Ice Factor indoor climbing wall to escape stormy weather.
Our cosy winter base at the Inchree Centre has been making everyone feel very welcome. It's got all the facilities anyone could need and we think it's a great place to stay (although our attempts to persuade them to install a sauna have failed so far!). Since last year there has been free wifi installed in the bar and the well used drying room is doing a great job. Some clients choose to self cater and others eat in the restaurant. Either is well catered for although, in the interests of client education, we've felt it important to test out the new additions to the restaurant menu! Our current favourite is the brie, red onion and lentil pie with salad and new potatoes (or chips). Yum!
As usual we've shuttled clients arriving at Fort William train station to the centre and several clients have taken advantage of the boot hire facilities in Fort William (it is essential clients let us know in advance if they want to use this facility). As we provide all the other technical equipment this means all course participants actually need to provide is their everyday outdoor clothing and a rucksack. We can even provide odd extras like compasses, maps and the all important snow goggles!
So, we really hope you'll join us for a winter adventure this season. Some courses are now full but there are still plenty of options. We also have our exciting Trek and Mountain Winter Weekender event with a few spaces remaining. Peak Mountaineering winter courses really are the perfect adventure package. Emily, an attendee on last weekend's skills course, summed it up nicely when she turned to me as we walked out at the end of the final day and exclaimed "this has really been a type 1 fun weekend." Thanks Emily. We whole heartedly agree :)
Posted by Paul