Over the last couple of days I have been running a winter mountaineering course for Summitreks over in Coniston.
Day 1 was spent up on Raise in really poor visibility, looking at the core winter skills that you need to master to stay safe on the hill. We looked at movement on snow and ice, crampon use, cutting various types of steps and how to arrest a fall. It was then time to take advantage of the poor visibility and go over some winter navigation techniques – a really important and often overlooked skill.
On Day 2 we headed over to the east face of Helvellyn to look at the various snow anchors that we can use to protect ourselves and our climbing partners on steeper ground. In (again) poor visibility and unfortunately driving rain, we looked at ice-axe belays, snow bollards, stompers and boot belays before attempting to gain Stiding Edge and the summit of Helvellyn via a steep route up the edge of the east face.
Unfortunately, dangerous snow conditions and 60mph gusts drove us back. Sometimes though you need these sorts of conditions to really learn about how to look after yourself in winter and to realise that the mountains at this time of year are an extremely serious place to be.
A challenging but great couple of days in the last of this season’s Lake District winter conditions.