I walked a few hours to dig some holes in the snow. Well actually it was rock solid neve that went down for half a metre and took forever to dig in. I felt like Popeye by the end of the day.
I can’t really complain, there had been a lot of snow fall over night so the walk into Coire an Lochan was fantastic. The visibility was pretty good and we could see up to Cairn Lochan and the Fiacaill ridge, though visibility eventually dropped as we got on to the edge of the ridge west of Coire an Lochan.
Tough question I know. I’ve been known to have a half hour discussion with a friend just about different crampons, and then we moved on to axes.
I love gear. Not in a ‘all the gear and no idea’ way. I don’t buy gear to look good. I like the technicality of different gear whether that’s climbing kit or waterproofs. But that’s not to say I don’t hoard gear too.
But in winter my favourite bit of kit has to be my rose-tinted goggles which add a veneer of sunshine to the worst weather, and despite my love of gear I only own one pair. (Well except for the glacier glasses that have goggle attachments…)
Anyway, goggles are fantastic, especially for someone who wears glasses and doesn’t get on with contact lenses. My glasses fog up on the most peaceful days if I make the mistake of tucking my chin into my coat to keep warm. So goggles are brilliant for keeping me from stumbling around like I’m in a white out all the time.
I’d planned on doing my Winter ML last summer when I realised I had the ability and skills required. I knew my log book was a bit thin on days but I knew navigation wasn’t a problem and I was confident on snow and ice. So why wait?
There was an intimidating moment as we went round the table this morning at Glenmore Lodge, introducing ourselves. One Outward Bound instructor, 2 members of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team, someone who has returned from working with British Antarctic Survey and someone who’d done the assessment before and left it too long to redo the bit they’d deferred on so having to do it all again (so basically adept at most of the syllabus).
And then there’s me. Someone who’s done a fair bit of personal winter walking, some winter scrambling and only uses her summer award about 6 times a year to either take Duke of Edinburgh groups out or lead challenge walks. Out of my depth doesn’t begin to describe how I felt!
“So what are you doing with your week off work?” my boss asked. “I’m off to Scotland to play in the snow, I’ll try not to throw myself off a mountain this time!” I replied.
I could see he was both confused that a week mountaineering in Scotland could ever be considered a holiday, and sweating with concern as I’d reminded him of the time I returned from a trip with a twisted knee, looking like I’d been in an RTA and spend 6 weeks hopping around the office.
So I legged it out of the door before he could ask why I was off to do a winter mountain leader course for a career that has nothing to do with my day job and would I have Wifi access to deal with any issues he might have while I’m gone.
You’ve probably already worked out that I’m a Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion for 2017 – if not then you’re clearly not on Twitter or Instagram!
Having found my own project last year I’ve set my own goals for 2017 some of which will lead me some way towards this, and others just give me a chance to get outside. This is the only area of my life I set personal goals (the rest of my life would be loads easier if I put this much effort in!)
Mountains are like an addiction. The more you climb them the more you want. The need to feel the cold biting wind on your skin or the sun on your face. The desire to walk until you’ve reached the top and to just keep going.
Running was not something I planned to take up this year, but thanks to a couple of inspiring friends who are parkrun addicts, I’ve become one too. I started in May, shocked that whilst I have no problem walking a marathon I struggled to run for 5km without my lungs burning and feeling like I was going to be sick!
Now I’m not only beating my personal best and running fast than I ever imagined, I’ve also done my first 10k this year and thinking about a half marathon next year. Yes, it’s really that addictive.
I was just happy to finish the 10k but to have managed it in under 1 hour and to feel like I could carry on was amazing.
I still suck at climbing. I’ve yet to build the strength and guts to get good at it. Despite that, after about 5 years of stop-start efforts this year I have been climbing more or less weekly, and I finally feel I can say – ‘I climb’.
On the road to becoming someone who can call herself a climber I’ve met some truly inspirational women. Women who don’t need to prove themselves and are bold enough to share their love of the sport with others. Of course there’s a lot of women who are just as ego driven as the men who climb – you know the ones – skimpy clothing, ripped torso and super toned arms with an aloof demeanour, just google ‘women climbers’ and you’ll see what I mean (that stereotype applies to the men as much as the women!) But there are equally just as many willing to help, teach and encourage women who wouldn’t otherwise consider climbing to be their thing.
I’ve just started regularly climbing again with a good friend and its taken the last 7 weeks for me to regain my confidence to really start to push my grade. It doesn’t help that Cath is fitter, more agile and braver than me but she’s a great confidence booster so good to climb with. I’m not the type who like climbing with cocky alpha males, I don’t like the competitiveness. I climb for fun and as a personal challenge. I’m not interested in egos.
Its hard to travel in a country like Cambodia and not be affected by the poverty that exists. A relic from the conflicts and genocide under the Khmer Rouge that has left a country, with a powerful and glorious history, struggling to rebuild itself.
For the traveller, this provides an opportunity to see a country untouched by too much commercialisation (except perhaps in Phnom Penh where development is quickly racing along), and a place were the people are open to the opportunities tourism can bring, without being ruined by it.
The Khmer Rouge robbed the country of a generation, especially those best able to transform its future economy and infrastructure. Its hard not to notice that loss as you walk around the cities and towns – there’s few people over 50.