It was a chilly day in Glenshee last Saturday when 6 girls and a brave husband set off on our winter hill walking skills day. There was much fiddling of equipment to start with, fingers numbed by the cold but eventually we were off!
Our rucksacks were weighed down with helmets, ice axes and crampons and we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of us. This was making some of us rather apprehensive and there were mutters and giggles with a few comments of "whose idea was this anyway?"
However we were in the safe hands of Mountain Leader Mike (known by many names but Mr Health and Safety is definitely one of them) so soon everyone relaxed and plodded up into the white mist. After about 20 minutes, it was already apparent who the comedienne in the group was and she was angling for a coffee break.
ML Mike gritted his teeth and led us on just a bit further, determined not to be swayed quite so easily from his mission of getting us up on to the slopes .... we stopped fairly soon however for an early lunch and everyone was happy.
We didn't hang about long because of the cold so then it was onwards and upwards practicing using our ice axes and boots correctly as we walked up to a safe slope for some sliding play. The snow was so incredibly deep up there that MLM dug out a nice ledge for us and then proceeded to demonstrate how to slide down the slope in various positions and how to stop using the ice axe - easier said than done I can assure you. We all went careering down the soft snow in miserably failed attempts at "ice axe arrests" but it was hilarious fun. We all ended up head first into the snow on numerous occasions.
True to form, on her final attempt, Jess the comedienne took off like a bullet down the slope and managed to whizz past the usual stopping point at incredible speed. She blamed her expensive but enviable Paramo jacket and trousers, thereby proving the point that for every silver lining there's always a cloud. We all laughed so hard about this that we had to give up and have another food break.
After lunch no 2 it was crampon time because we were now on so steep a slope that it wasn't safe to only have boots on. Everyone practised with crampons and then we walked up to a top at 3000 ft which was like being on the moon, couldn't see much and howling gales made it difficult to hear a thing.
Welcome to the excitement of winter hill walking! I've talked about it before but there really is nothing like it... One of the girls, Stella, was so thrilled with the whole experience she just can't wait to get up there again. It was great to introduce someone to a winter walk and know that they loved it too... Not everyone would dash back to repeat the experience next week however (although some actually are) it was really Baltic weather and spending a day in ice/snow isn't everyone's cup of tea. However our group did have a great time, were all VERY glad they tried it and we took lots of pics to show our kids and future grandchildren that we were there and we really were SCOTTISH WINTER MOUNTAINEERS (for the day) Hurrah!