The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Slip Sliding Away...

It has been a long old day, and it's not yet finished.

Hot on the heels of breakfast was the welcoming brief and shortly
thereafter we were due to meet our leaders and get started.

As is always the case when there's a group to get organized, it took
an unfeasibly long time to get everyone together and ready. Even our
estimate that we would be an hour late leaving turned out to be a
little optimistic.

Finally, into a minibus we piled to be whisked up the road to the ski
area where our practical day was to start - and where it turned out
that three quarters of the UK population had flocked today.

We were soon away from the crowds and towards a ridge we headed where,
after learning more about avalanche risk, and doing some work on
walking techniques, the good fun stuff started - ice axe self arrest.

Most of us picked up the basic technique reasonably quickly and felt
quite pleased with ourselves until challenged to repeat the manoeuvre
from various starting positions.

I had one run, which I believe started with me sliding down the slope
face down and head first, where I completely failed to arrest. It was
my first attempt with the axe in my 'wrong' hand and as I accelerated
head first downwards I couldn't think (almost literally for the life
of me) where I was supposed to be placing the axe.

I'm pleased to say that subsequent runs were more successful (if you
can count anything that involves vast quantities of snow up your top
as being a success).

After another, not insubstantial, walk we had found ice and it was
time for the crampons to come out. Now, that I found scary. Perhaps
the bluntness of the crampons I had been given served to shake my
confidence, but I think it was more just my brain screaming "it's ice,
you're going to slip." Of course, I didn't slip and the basics of
another skill was acquired.

The walk back to the ski centre took a while and was in very flat
light, but we couldn't complain given the good weather and visibility
we had enjoyed.

That was not our day over, though. We just had time to throw back a
cup of tea, accompanied by scrummy flapjack before we hurried along to
the first of the evening lectures (and a good lecture it was too).

I now type this in the half an hour of free time before tea, then hot
on the heels of tea is the final lecture. At 9pm we become free to
enjoy a pint in the bar - or perhaps to collapse into bed.

It's certainly been a good day so far, which will hopefully be
equalled when we put our fledgling new skills into practice tomorrow.


  1. Sounds great and learning from the top outdoor centre in Scotland is something I know I would love to do. Will we get any photos?

  2. I'm waving at you both, but it's probably too dark to see me.

  3. I don't think that it was the darkness that stopped us seeing you Duncan - more that by 20.40 last night we were just passing Carlisle and heading south. Really should have stayed up there a couple of extra days, mind. Apart from it being a long way to drive for two days, it would have been good to go play in the snow a bit more.

    Martin - I have downloaded the photos and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they're very white. And my little video-snippets of the views are even worse than my usual poor quality. But, I'll no doubt put a little slideshowymovie thing together, even if just for the ridiculous photos of us both in the Glenmore Lodge waterproofs (the ones they recommend you use to protect your own when sliding down slopes; they don't go for fit or style!)