Winter 2014/15 Round-Up

It feels a lot like spring in many parts of the UK (and like summer in others!) but in the Scottish Highlands and the Pyrenees, our winter season has only just come to an end. It’s been a successful season with many new award holders and no major incidents or accidents.

Mountain Hare

Winter Mountain Leader

The weather in Scotland was nowhere near as ‘bad’ as in 2014, though it still had its moments and many training or assessment courses had their fair share of challenging conditions. This winter a succession of freeze/thaw conditions led to thick ice accumulations at higher altitudes coupled with heavy precipitation and a varied snowpack that was often unstable. We’d like to thank all the course directors and staff for their hard work and dedicated professionalism, often in the face of extremely hostile conditions, to help make this season such a success by training 121 new candidates and passing 64 new Winter Mountain Leaders.

Some comments from two different course reports highlight the challenges faced by all involved:

“A very challenging week due to the weather with storm force winds and a high freezing level dominant throughout. However through juggling the programme and a flexible approach from both the staff and candidates a rewarding and successful week was accomplished with clear results for the candidates.”

“Due to the low avalanche risk during the expedition, each candidate was provided with a printout of a previous SAIS pie-chart showing certain aspects as being 'considerable'. This was their avalanche risk reference for the expedition and it allowed the assessors to understand the candidate's route planning more effectively and realistically. It worked well and all candidates understood what was required.”

Leading through the mist

Registrations on the scheme were 20% lower than last year, however such drops are not uncommon and often tend to reflect the seasonal impact of a ‘good’ season (weather and conditions wise) compared with a ‘bad’ season. The winter of 2013 was, as you may remember, significant due to the ferocity of the frequent storms which impacted hugely on candidates being able to get out in winter and develop their quality mountain days to either register or present suitable days at assessment.

With that in mind it’s worth highlighting that there were more candidates than usual deferred on their logbooks (or DLOG) this year than in previous years. This lack of experience, or more specifically, quality experience, does reflect on a candidate’s performance at assessment. If you’re planning to register on the scheme or attend an assessment next season read the FAQs section for guidance about quality winter mountain days.

Congratulations to the 64 new Winter Mountain Leaders and good luck to everyone preparing for next winter.

Scottish winter in the Highlands

International Mountain Leader (IML)

The winter training and winter assessment took place in the French Alps and Pyrenees respectively this season. We are very pleased to announce that 41 people passed the winter assessment this year and are now fully qualified International Mountain Leaders with a further 35 people completing the winter training element. The training courses in France at the start of the year were incident-free in an otherwise complicated season for snow activities in the Alps. The weather in the Pyrenees for the assessments was varied with one course in particular experiencing some very challenging snow and travel conditions. Many of the assessment candidates displayed some excellent environmental knowledge and we’re looking forward to seeing what they get up to as qualified leaders.

We would like to thank the staff team at Plas y Brenin for delivering the training and assessment courses.

Mountaineering Instructor Certificate (MIC)

The Mountaineering Instructor Certificate is the most senior UK-based qualification in mountaineering and candidates on the scheme have already passed three other qualifications: Mountain Leader, Winter Mountain Leader and Mountaineering Instructor Award (MIA). As such the number of people coming through the scheme is always relatively low and this year 26 people completed the training course and 16 people passed the assessment. As mentioned above, the conditions in Scotland this season were definitely not as ‘bad’ as last year but still just as testing for the candidates.

Congratulations to the 16 new MIC holders and let’s hope that conditions are more stable next year. Thanks to Glenmore Lodge and Plas y Brenin for delivering both training and assessment courses in the Highlands.

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