A winters tale - MTA Winter CPD weekend

Working in winter - credit Lewis Lane

“Just do a tummy crunch!”

This was not something I'd ever thought I'd be attempting while hurtling down a snow slope, head first on my back. Life is full of challenges and the 'tummy crunch' would enable me to stab the slope with the most lethal weapon I've ever handled. Flip over to my stomach in one smooth movement. Gravity would do the rest - so theory has it. I now know how to do an ice axe arrest - all I have to do is practice. Apparently, in an emergency muscle memory will kick in and save me!

Saturday - Winter skills

Arriving in Aviemore by train on the Friday there was a sad shortage of winter. Green prevailed, all skiing had been cancelled. Expectations were managed to the level of promised improvisation. However, Saturday chose to ignore forecasts and it was smiles all around the breakfast table as we watched the world outside turn ptarmigan white.

Intro to winter skills - credit Ian Bowles
While many were at the winter CPD conference to learn or reinforce skills as part of a programme of progression to winter outdoor leadership, I was there merely for fun, with a bit of personal safety thrown in. After all, it does snow in the Lake District and I do go out walking in it on those picture postcard days when we get a little taste of alpine magic. Yes, I have had a pair of crampons for some time which I've used on occasions, but ice axes look like a dangerously offensive weapon so I've always been reticent about buying one let alone carrying one.

After expert tuition from Conrad who ran the Introduction to Winter Skills workshop on Saturday, (even though I still having no intention of visiting the snow in a blizzard) I'm now somewhat better versed in the uses of an ice axe. Cutting steps was a great way to aid traverses across the snow but also proved effective in warming up my core! As with anything new, the weekend revealed vast areas of unconscious incompetence. There was so much about winter walking I had no idea I didn't know; from avalanche awareness to how to stow my ice axe under my shoulder strap for ease of emergency access.

Sunday - Winter navigation

Intro to winter skills - credit Lewis Lane
Day two, the front had blown over and Sunday was more the kind of day I would usually head out in; not good for practicing poor visibility skills, but far better for photographs! With all but the largest features covered, at least we could enjoy those snow enhanced contours as well as walk on them during our Winter Navigation workshop. Heather makes walking pretty hard going in summer, but add snow to the equation and timings quickly double as pacing increases exponentially with every drift. Everything was somewhat slower but I did manage to figure out where I was and enjoy the scenery, as well as meet the local reindeer who had learned that hungry hikers carried more tasty morsels than lichen in their packs.

The whole weekend was superbly organised. My instructors, Jess and Conrad may not have persuaded me to pursue the Winter Mountain Leader scheme but their professionalism, knowledge and enthusiasm meant that I learned a lot and really enjoyed the days.

Belinda (MTA Development Officer) gave clear guidance on the role and benefits arising from MTA membership; the chance to meet other participants, network and learn from them was more than valuable. Last but not least, Glenmore Lodge was comfortable, well equipped and the food was just delicious - there were even tea pots to make a proper pot of tea.

MTA CPD weekend - 28-29th Jan 2017

Written by Alvina Labsvirs (MTA member)

Photos by Lewis Lane (image 1 & 2) and Ian Bowles (image 3)

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