Our free Winter Skills Course for children aged 11 to 16 years, held last weekend, offers key skills needed in Winter Mountaineering. The kids were split into groups 11 – 13 and 14 – 16 meaning there was less of a physical difference between the children.
The course, run by Chris, Rich, Alasdair, Gordie and Ryan, began last Saturday at The Stables with a chance for us to check they had the right kit before. We lent crampons, ice axes and helmets to those who didn’t have any with much of the equipment generously loaned by Tiso.
With all the kids fitted out they were raring to go, we and drove to the start of the path into Coire an Laoigh. Once there we split and went off to two different locations in the coire to start the fun!
Lessons on walking on hard snow involved moving up, down, across and diagonally across the slope just using their boots. After doing this a few times we moved onto doing the same course with an ice axe.
After lunch we put on crampons and showed the kids how to use them. Then, with crampons off again, we had fun sliding down a slope to practice ice axe arrests; everything from sitting on their bum feet first to sliding down head first and stopping. Before we went on, my group decided to snowball Chris. This went well with both sides getting stuck in.
Back at The Stables the kit was de-rigged and put into the drying room and the kids packed round the tables ready for food and a talk from Ryan. He has lived in the area all his life and we asked him to go through his mountaineering experience.
It snowed overnight and next day we took the kids back into Coire an Laoigh and decided to get them used to moving on steep slopes by going onto Stuc Coire an Laoigh, the ridge on the south side of Coire an Laoigh, leading onto Beinn Eighe.
The route we chose was a good steep slope with some tricky parts where it led through a couple of gullies. Once on the ridge, we had a couple of awkward steps to go over and round but the kids all negotiated them well. We descended the hill via the summer footpath and halfway down the slope, we let them bum slide down to the bottom of the coire then headed back to the vehicles.
It was an amazing weekend with lots learned, loads of snow balls thrown and with useful skills acquired to help the children stay safe on the mountains in winter.