• Jake Gardner

Scotland Winter Mountaineering Expedition Jan 2020

The Scotland Winter Mountaineering expedition is something I really look forward to every year. I love organising routes, constantly looking at the weather 2/3 weeks before the departure date and getting stuck into packing all the necessary kit, old and new, in preparation for a week of adventure! It’s almost like organising for an expedition to one of the worlds highest mountains minus the altitude sickness. Scotland can really test you in every possible way - fitness, navigation, mountaineering skills and you can get caught out in some very challenging weather conditions.

The drive from Southampton to Fort William took around 11hrs picking up Tom from Oxford, who took on the WN Mt Elbrus expedition last year. Photographer James May joined the team later on in the week.

The main purpose of this week was to practice existing skills in winter conditions and learn new skills -

  • Ice Axe arrests

  • Route planning

  • Navigation in arduous weather conditions

  • Contour interpretation and map reading

  • Crampon techniques and good foot placements

  • Emergency snow shelters Reading of weather reports

  • Testing of new kit Avalanche risk

  • Rope work Abseiling and climbing with crampons

(Photo Credit - James May)

Although the winter weather conditions have been very warm in Scotland, we got very lucky with fresh snow and temperatures plummeting toward the weekend. We arrived at our destination around 1am and set our tent up in less than ideal conditions with gusting winds and sleet/rain to settle down for the night. It was a challenging night and when our alarms went off, we quickly noticed that the tent had also had a bad night!, A few pegs had come out and the front of the tent had completely flooded - always a good start! The next evening we based ourselves at Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, which was always the plan and a great place to stay! With spacious well heated rooms, kitchen facilities and a log fire, it really is a great place to come back to after a long day on the hills.

(Photo credit - James May)

One of the main objectives was to test my new La Sportiva Nepal Extreme Mountain boots and to make sure that they were up to the job for next years Everest expedition. After a week of varying wether conditions they were absolutely up the job. A durable, water proof, crampon compatible, sturdy boot that kept my feet very warm and toasty! The only drawback was that I will need a moulded insole because of my high arch feet and the laces needed adjusting at times. But for a new boot that hadn’t been worn in, they worked exceptional well! No blisters. A great set of approach boots.

Overall a great week in the Scottish highlands, making the most of the Winter conditions while training, learning and taking on some difficult testing arduous routes.

After finishing up with the team in Scotland on Friday, I drove drown to the Lake District to Support and take part in the annual Adaptive Grand Slam Cumbria Challenge - A weekend that brings the AGS community together and to take on a mountain challenge. This years challenge was a lead a team round a 13 mile horse shoe route with the objective of summiting Fairfield in winter conditions. We were lucky with the conditions with great weather and a fresh dusting of snow over the night sub zero icy conditions that made it very difficult at times for some of the team that lower leg disabilities.

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