I’ve been to Scotland for the weekend – mainly to learn some winter skills for Mera Peak, but depending on this years snow pack in the high sierra the skills may be transferable to the PCT.

Arriving at Glenmore Lodge on Friday (and having gotten over my 5 year old style excitement to seeing the snow) I met up with Sarah and Alisdair – aka Destroyer and Blackbeard – from the class of 2012 to talk all things PCT, and I LOVED it. I spent 4 hours absorbing as much information as I could and found myself getting increasingly excited to the point where I want to stop researching and organising and I just want to get out on the trail! Sarah and Alisdair had fantastic stories, gave me some great advice and alleviated some of my fears – and of course it was only about an hour before we started talking about poo, definitely my kind of people.

I also met James who is another 2015er, we may be flying out to San Diego on the same day – although having already hiked the Appalachian trail I’m sure he will be much faster and have a much lighter pack than me! It’s nice to feel like you already know someone.

Anyway, back to the winter skills…

Glenmore Lodge offer a great course which involves learning how to move in snow, how to fit, walk and climb in crampons, how to use an ice axe, how to self arrest with and without and ice axe, jumaring (climbing a rope with a device called a jumar) and abseiling.

On Saturday we went out into the Cairngorms to find a snowy mountain. It was a new experience walking in rigid plastic boots through the snow. Everything takes a lot longer and is more exhausting. Post holing quickly became one of my least favourite things – that’s where you walk on snow that looks firm but when you step on it you sink up to your knee or further and you have to drag yourself out, usually then stepping straight into another hole – slow and tiring.

Walking with crampons however is really fun, apart from the constant danger of tearing your clothes or stabbing yourself or someone else! You feel really stable and secure – just need to work on those lower leg muscles!

Most of the afternoon was spent sliding around on the snow, then learning how to stop yourself from sliding around on the snow. In a controlled environment at slow speeds and with a patch of ‘safety heather’ at the bottom it was fairly easy, at altitude with a rucksack on and limited thinking time it may be a little trickier…

On the walk back to the car park the wind showed its power taking the temperature from a cold enough -4 down to a very cold -21 degrees…brrrrrr.

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In the evening I had my first experience of Burns night. The haggis was presented around the room with bagpipers in an procession, then the theatrical address of the haggis happens with a poem written by Robert Burns (of which the only understandable words are ‘gushing entrails’…mmm) and the haggis is slashed open with a ceremonial knife. We then toast the haggis with a wee dram of whiskey! It was brilliant! I wimped out and went for the veggie haggis and it was a lot nicer than I expected, not a clue what it was made of though!

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The temperature warmed up overnight so on Sunday a lot of the snow was melting and the conditions on the mountain were windy, very windy. We practiced jumaring and abseiling in crampons near the lodge and then went to a small crag to put our new skills into practice. I got really really cold waiting around in the gusty winds, but my mates noticed the change in me and helped me out, getting my jacket out my bag and making me put it on – and this is one of the reasons I am going with this group, because we have a great team spirit and I trust them a lot. And of course there is always time for a few selfies…

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Overall a great weekend, and thanks to our instructors Andy and Rich I now feel a lot more confident moving around in the snow…lets just hope it’s not too windy at the top of the big one!

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