February half term; time for the annual HSX training week in the Cairngorm Mountains of Northern Scotland. Based at the Badaguish accommodation centre, a massive group of 34 arrived from Hampshire, comprised of HSX members and the Peru team
The first day on the hill saw a late start for half of the contingent due their arrival at 7am. The group that had arrived the night before kitted up and headed into Corrie an t’Snechda to catch a sneaky peak at the climbing conditions as well as brushing up on winter skills such as ice axe arrests, rouge blocks and kicking steps. Lead by Nath and Smudge the team spent the day in the Corrie, unfortunately not being able to see a great deal! Team Peru hit the hill at a more sociable time of 10am(HSX), walking from Corrie na Cisite car park, with most of the team experiencing their first day walking in the snow.
Our second day saw a more structured and unified approach with all of the HSX team heading for the hill at 0800. Splitting again into teams, lead by Dave and Nath, both teams headed into Snechda for further winter skills practice and Anthony discovering the speed that you could travel whilst sliding with oil skins! The The First of the winter climbs also being recorded with smudge soloing Aladdin’s mirror direct.
The day began with most of the tenting people having to dig themselves out due to the large amount of snowfall overnight. The heavy snowfall continued into the morning, providing complete white out conditions in the hills. This provided me and bursar Tom an opportunity to brush up on our micro navigation with Nath, walking from Corrie na Ciste car park up to Cairngorm and down into Snechda where we met up with half of team Peru, lead by Bram and Chris Laws, who were working on their winter skills- snow bollards, dead-men and bucket seats. The weather did finally clear about mid day! Other HSX members paired up to hit the gully climbs in Snechda.
The half way point saw the contingent launching several mini-expeditions. Firstly team Peru accompanied by bursar Tom, bursar Anthony and Bestie packed and departed for a night in a Snow hole. Unfortunately the Cairngorm road was closed and blocked, meaning a route extension with a walk from the lakeside car park. The second expedition was Russ and Jeremy heading for the Orkney Islands. They set off mid morning and arrived at John O Groats, unfortunately Jeremy did not have any photo ID so they were unable to make it onto the ferry however assure us they tried to find somewhere suitable to build a snow hole but were unsuccessful so had to put up with a hotel for the night!!
The rest of HSX split into climbing teams heading out to various climbs and gullies. Rhys and Chris headed out with Harold and Rhys successfully passed his ice climb leaders award. Fortunately all of the climbing pairs had reached the Snechda car park prior to the road closure. Myself and Rob Kedge decided to hit the ski slopes for the day as the conditions were so good. After queuing for what felt like hours we reached the resort. Both being on blades (Robs first time) we hit a few of the easier piste’s first, then moved on. Unfortunately Rob managed to “break” his knee after taking a fall avoiding an “idiot skier.”
Snow hole-ing – Joe Doherty (Peru Team Member)
We left Badaguish early in the morning and walked out to the snow holing but i cant remember where it was? We must have got there at about 11am; we set of work straight away with two Peru groups working on the top part of the snow holing section and one group and the leaders making snow holes on the bottom. Me Matt K, Bertie, Ross and Andy where at the top and soon found out that the top layer section had really hard ice and progress was slow and tiring. The original plan of pimp beds, columns, a bridge and a bridge going over the cold sump went out the window. The other team on the top section found it hard to unlike the bottom teams who could move the snow out easily with shovels in giant lumps. Whilst we were hacking away at the snow with our ice axes the other team had made enough room for 8 people by 4pm.
We only had room for two people in our snow hole so me Bertie and Ross had to go to the big snow hole that Kat, Katie, Tom, Anton and Becki had made. We all crammed in and settled in for a cold sleep. During the night the snow hole dripped because the roof wasn’t flat keeping us up. Unfortunately Katie got very cold and I found my self in a bivi bag with her by the end of the night hugging her to warm her up as we changed her wet sleeping bag and gave her loads of jumpers.
In the morning we realised we survived the ordeal and had breakfast of baked beans and sausages, after this we set back to the hut and arrived at about 1pm. on the way back we were greeted with amazing views and scenery which made the whole experience worth while.
Taken as a rest/easy day by many due to the snow fall overnight. Myself and Craig were out on a Harold day. We walked into Snechda, through about 1 ft of fresh powder in order to climb Aladdin’s mirror direct. We started at 1100 and didn’t top out until 1530, however were greeted with fantastic views of the Cairngorms so well worthwhile. Russ and Jeremy returned in the evening after their successful trip.
Yet another crystal clear day. Smudge and co visited Creag Meagaidh to discover less than ideal climbing conditions. Half of the peru team were given their first chance to climb, following Aladdin’s Couloirs and Central Gully. The other half was left in the capable hands of Rob and enjoyed a day in and around Aviemore. Me and bursar Tom had an opportunity for another Harold day, we hit spiral gully and Fiacaill ridge.
Last day on the hills. The usual collection of climbing pairs hit the gullies, with the other half of the Peru team getting their chance to climb. Craig and Rob led a trip to the Glenfiddich distillery which turned out to be a fairly long drive followed by a fairly long wait for a tour! Despite this, was a successful excursion.
A highly successful week with everyone achieving something, however most people achieving a lot more than they had planned to! Thanks must go to Russ and Jeremy for all of the catering; to Smudge for excelling as Director of Mountainous Activities and to Chris Laws for co-ordinating the whole event. Also to all of the leaders that took groups out onto the hill…(too many to name!)