Karn House Winter Hut Meet - including Winter Training Course
Thu 18th Jan - Sun 21st Jan, 2018
Members attending: Emily Thompson, Jared kitchen, Stuart Hurworth, Andy Stratford, James Meakin, Jim Symon, Mark Pilling, Andy Pierce, Fiona Dixon, John (R) Evans, Joe Dugdale, Chris Kastavunis, Steve Graham (meet leader).
For James & I, the meet had started a day earlier, us travelling up Wednesday evening. Arrival in Aviemore presented fantastic winter conditions, our excitement levels shot to top of the scale! Tomorrows hill day was gona be great!
Winter kitted-up, we left the ski centre car park mid-morning Thursday. This being only my second day on the hill since my ankle shattering accident back in May last year (my first being last Saturday up Y Garn). I was so excited, but also somewhat anxious. The knee-deep snow made for hard-going conditions underfoot, but thankfully the weather was favourable, so providing a splendid 5hr out-and-return journey up the westerly flanked ridge of Coire an Lochan, our turnaround point being the 1083m spot height. Albeit a short day, on a personal level it hadn’t been easy. The legs were feeling it and the ankle even more so but I was buzzin, I’d been back out in the wonderful white stuff and I was feeling good for it! Many thanks go out to James for his patience to persevere with my slow pace, his words of encouragement too. Cheers mate!
Other KMC’ers started arriving early evening Thursday and it wasn’t long before Karn House was a fizz of busyness… Settling in to rooms, dinners on the go, next day plan discussions and kit preparation support for the winter newbies. These being Fiona, John, Joe & Chris (yet to arrive), all of whom had signed up for the 3-day winter mountaineering training course. 11:30pm Chris arrived. Phew, after the severe weather west-side travel warnings these past few days, all concerns about everyone’s arrival could now be put to bed. Which is where we all now went (but not together I must add!).
Friday started with the usual hustle & bustle of everyone (excluding winter newbies) departing for their day on the hill/crag. Them all gone, I enjoyed a peaceful breakfast whilst awaiting the arrival of Jonathan Preston, our winter guide for the training course. A short meet & great session with Jonathan after which I left him with our KMC clients, them all keen and enthused for their winter wonderland adventures.
Not wishing to hold anyone back today, I opted for a day alone, summiting Cairn Gorm (1245m) from the Coire na Ciste car park. A peachy blue-sky day but by gee’s, the 60mph westerly winds kicked in above the Ptarmigan station, a bitterly cold wind chill for the summits final approach. Another 5hr hill day in the bag, I was chuffed, the rehab was going well.
As for the rest of the group… James & Emily had an early start with the goal being Braeriach, however the tediously difficult soft deep snow/breaking trail conditions made for very slow and energy sapping progress, so there 8hr return journey only got them up to approx 800m on the shoulder of Ciore Gorm. James was an exhausted and broken man. “That was a proper walk..!!” being his quote. Emily was fresh faced and rather relaxed.
Jared and Andy P… Hmmnnn, so who was to blame for leaving the guide book on the cars passenger seat..?? They did a couple of routes in Sneachda. Firstly Alladin’s Mirror Direct (IV, 4**), followed by Pygmy Ridge (IV, 5***), taking the ‘lacking-a-guide’ book variant line. “It’s called adventure” was how they sold it, but Jared later adding, “blimey, that was proper nails!!”
Andy S & Jim also opted for Sneachda, and as is tradition when the two of them get-together on a winter route, it was an ‘epic’ day..!! Patey’s Route (IV, 5**)… “The hardest thing we’ve ever done together. Lots of powder, twitchy bums!”, but thankfully no discharge was evident. Andy climbing to a soundtrack of his own ‘grunting’, the lean lacking of ice conditions eventually forced an abseil retreat upon arrival at the choke-stone two pitches up. No disheartened spirits though, the post climb comment, “that was a mega-route, what a brilliant line!!”
Mark & Stuart… Now these guys had a superb 12hr day! The long walk-in to Lurcher’s Crag paying dividends. The fat ice on Central Gully (III 4**) delivered a fine line. They were both buzzin on return!!
The winter trainees were all excited too. They’d had a top-tastic day learning lots (crampon techniques, axe arrest, snowpack analysis, nav etc) in wonderful conditions. Great to hear their tales of the day, them all highly complementary about the guide Jonathan and the skills they’d learnt.
It was now après-mountaineering time..!! Fiona, James, Chris, Stuart and myself setting off to the Caringorm hotel bar for a little post-dinner liquid refreshment. Just a pint or two we said, yeah right! Quite on arrival but before the first pints were complete the evening entertainment had kicked in - Chris Grant on guitar playing many popular hits from recent years. The increasing number of Friday night punters now building the party atmosphere, this being enough to encourage an extended stay from us. Guinness, Cairngorm Stag, Belhaven Black Stout and Whisky being the refreshments we much enjoyed, however Fiona & Chris were somewhat questioning that enjoyment on their early start second days training. James, Stuart and myself were less constrained to an early start, so our pub departure was a little later, making it home approx. 1am. Ooh err.
Back on the hill, Saturdays diary… After hearing the feedback of Mark & Stuarts fantastic day at Lurcher’s yesterday, Andy S & Jim followed suit today, but choosing a different route, North Gully (III*). The feedback being equally as positive as the previous days Central Gully climb - the ice was good, a wide line of WI2/3 grade, the fourth and final pitch being described by Jim as “wonderfully delightful”.
Jared and Andy P… Can you believe it, guide book in-hand today but still they managed to climb the wrong route..!! Albeit they followed Andy & Jim up North Gully, this wasn’t their original intention for the day. I don’t recall what was, but do recall them clearly saying they climbed the wrong route! Doh..!!
Emily was keen to put yesterday’s lessons learnt into practise. Borrowing Andy P’s shiny new snow shoes, from Glen Feshie she romped her way up Sgor Gaoith (1118m), efficiently gliding across the deep soft snow surface, chuckling as she passed the sinking snowshoe-less walkers.
Mark took advantage of the calm blue skies and had a day’s downhill skiing. Probably the best conditioned slopes in years. Happy days!
Stevie G… Setting off from the Reindeer Centre, through the winter wonderland of Glenmore Forest to the Ryvoan bothy, I then topped-out on Meall a Bhuachaille (810m). A slow pace with ever increasing discomfort in the legs/ankle, particularly suffering on the descent, but a third consecutive (half) day out complete, I was going home a tired and very happy chap!
Then there was James & Stuart. Now what can we say? These guys are hardcore..!! James did a superb solo of ‘Duvet Day Delightfulness’. A calm, relaxing horizontal line of epic proportions, skilfully reading approx. 100 pages of a novel en-route. Wow!! And Stuart, not so calm for him, opting for ‘Calorific Calamity’. A big day savouring the delights of Aviemore’s finest Scotch pies, followed by a Pyrex dish filled cocktail of random high calorie/high protein/high carb pre-packaged food ingredients. Both great choices for today’s good weather, such challenging days could have unfavourable consequences in gnarly weather!!
And finally (but no means least), the wind-burned red faced trainee team. Rope work, steep terrain skills and nav-ing on the claggy plateau had them all brew & biscuit craved on return. Again they were all excitedly keen to share details of the day, all enjoying a fully packed syllabus of new skills.
Saturday night was much more relaxing than the previous nights ‘quiet’ drink in the Cairngorm. A KMC’ers lounge filled chilled evening, sharing recent stories and tales of yesteryear, with some laughable banter thrown in too.
The forecast for Sunday was due to turn, gnarly winds expected but exact time of arrival being questionable. Bearing in mind the peachiness and much achieved previous few days, all non-trainee members decided they’d head for home mid-morning Sunday, after a chilled breakfast and hut clean.
But for the trainees… They’d had it easy until now, so the return to ‘normal’ Scottish winter conditions was a nice final day treat for them. Their objective being the Fiacaill Ridge, however the incoming deteriorating weather forced a retreat after ascending mixed Grade I ground near the Twin-Ribs. Unfortunately the day was cut short a little, but on all accounts a good day was still had. They made it out just before the ski centre road was closed.
A superbly successful winter weekend meet. The conditions were magical, the weather superb (most of the time) and everyone got loads done, not to mention a hugely successful winter mountaineering training course (I’d say our best yet!).
Thanks to everyone for making it such a great trip! Cheers!
And finally, the meet ‘Muppetry’ award goes to Jared & Andy P. Congratulations guys..!!
Thurs 18th Jan to Sun 21st Jan 2018.
This 3-night meet will not only be for experienced winter mountaineers/climbers, it will also include formal winter mountaineering training for those aspiring to dip their toes into the wonders of winter for the first time, or maybe broaden their pre-existing winter experience/skills.
Karn House is the FRCC's newest hut - see http://www.frcc.co.uk/venues/karn-house/ for further details. As a Kindred Club, we’re fortunate to have been able to book 13 places across a mix of male/female/mixed dorms. The 2017 hut fees were £9pppn and we’ve not been informed of any increase for 2018.
Aviemore lies at the foot of the Cairngorms with easy access to the Northern Corries. For the more adventurous and those seeking to escape the crowds, the Loch Avon Basin may suit better. For those willing to drive about an hour, Creag Meagaidh is available. With all these premiere winter climbing destinations so close, what more could you want? And if climbing isn't your thing, there’s plenty of skiing (downhill and touring), mountaineering and stunning walking. Finally, there's the gear shops and cafes of Aviemore, oh yeah, plenty of pubs too..!! I can highly recommend the local Cairngorm brewery real ales..!!
Provisionally 4 spaces are reserved for those on the training course, leaving 9 spaces for those who aren’t. The balance may change a little depending on who signs up for what.
To reserve your place in the hut (training or not) please contact the meet leader - Steve Graham (see handbook for contact details).
If in addition you want to sign-up for the training, please also contact Steve Graham, who is coordinating this. More details of the training have been distributed to the membership via email. Septembers newsletter will also include details.
The meet (incl training) is open to full and associate members only (in the first instance).
When signing up to the meet, you may like to indicate what your aspirations are for the weekend. Conditions permitting, there will be a number of members aiming to climb winter routes at a high level – this does require prior experience. Please do bear in mind, particularly if you're new to the club or to the winter environment, that an assumption of you joining in at this level might lead to disappointment. Instead, why not first have a friendly chat with the meet leader to discuss your aspirations and what you can hope to get out of the meet. As ever, you should remember the participation statement applies (http://www.karabiner.org/meets/) and acknowledge that you are ultimately responsible for your own actions and involvement.