Winter training – Matt Stygall

Midwinter 2020 sees groups of young people bridging the gap between summer and winter mountaineering, in courses subsidised by the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust (JCMT). The location is the Cairngorms; a £1000 contribution from the SMT will help it happen.

The SMT has supported this training for some 20 years. There are five two-day courses this year, each for 12 young people and all based at Ardenbeg Outdoor Centre in Grantown-on-Spey.

They are designed for experienced summer hillwalkers and climbers, the sort of hillgoer who might say, as one did: “Having never touched an ice axe or crampons before this weekend, I was pretty apprehensive about anything ‘winter’.”

The courses are led by instructors from Plas y Brenin National Outdoor Centre. They cover using the boot as a tool, ice axe and crampon techniques, route selection, navigation, avalanche avoidance and emergency procedures. They plan to make participants more confident and proficient in a challenging and demanding environment – for example on steep ground or in white-out conditions. They include an evening talk by one of the instructors covering personal experiences relevant to the Scottish winter scene: this livens things up by helping the students understand the impact of only digging a 1-star snow-hole or not giving a corrie a wide enough berth.

Sometimes, good weather conditions allow ice-axe braking and avalanche assessment on pristine, snowy slopes in Coire an Lochan or Coire an Sneachda. At other times, when winds are at gale force and snow cover is more limited, the course will hunker down and work in corries like Coire na Ciste, counting paces and using the compass to micro-navigate.

The charitable aims of the JCMT are to offer mountaineering training to young people, so the age range for the course is 18 to 30.

The family of Jonathan Conville established the Trust after he died on the Matterhorn in the winter of 1979, aged 27. Its aims are to encourage and assist young people to train for and pursue their love of the outdoors in the spirit of adventure. More…<https://www.jcmt.org.uk/>