Monday, 9 January 2012

Day 1 - Ice Axe Extravaganza

An early start - we got up at 6:30am. Eleanor took the shower while I forayed out to get tea and have a fag. The kettle in our room didn't work. By 7:30 we were in the dining room. Breakfast was eggs and weird things like haggis, black pudding and Lorne sausage. For those of us without the fortitude to sample the delights of scottish breakfast meats, there was also hot porridge or cold cereal.

We took our packed lunches and headed off to get ready for the 8:30am orientation.

Then it was off to get into our gear, making sure that our crampons fit where it was warm and dry rather than trying to do it in the cold and wet when we got to the mountain.

Then it was into the vans and we were off.

We went to a parking lot near an abandoned ski lift. Don't ask me where, I can't pronounce or spell any of the locations up there. :-(

Welcome to hell. We had our first dropout no more than 15 minutes in.

First lesson was how to walk in snow. Don't try to fit your steps into the ones of the person ahead of you. Instead step in the back half of the step thus expanding the trail, making it easier for the person behind you.

Next lesson, kicking into the snow to ascend and descend both forward and sideways. Next was self-belay with the ice axe. This entailed flinging oneself down in the snow both feet first and head first, on front and on back, being pushed down the slope and learning which way to turn and how to hold ones body to (hopefully) safely stop yourself with the axe.

A note to the ladies, I strongly recommend wearing a well padded sports bra. Nuff said, eh?

Then there was some orienteering until the sun started to set at which point we made back for the van in the gathering darkness.

When we got back there was time to rinse off the kit and put it in the drying room then get showered and human. There was also tea and some outrageously delicious carrot cake ready in the dining room. Then it was off to a lecture on avalanches. I now know far more than I had ever planned to on the subject but it's wise to pay attention because it could save your life.

Next up was actually quite a good dinner. There was a gorgeous pumpkin & ginger soup then quite a tasty steak and ale pie with lots of veg and red cabbage on the side. Right up my alley. I didn't bother with the dessert.

Then yet another lecture, this time on orienteering includng how to calculate paces and timing. Frankly I only made it about 45 minutes in before I had to go to my room and pass out. It was a hard day and I really needed my bed.

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