Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A weekend in the snow

We didn't have enough snow here in Norfolk, so I thought I'd go and find some. Well, actually I planned the weekend some time ago because people kept telling me that if I loved the Scottish hills in summer I'd love them even more in winter. So I booked a course called Weekend Winter Skills at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore. There were six of us in the group, and our excellent instructor, James Woodhouse. There are more photos on my web gallery.

It's always refreshing to escape from your comfort zone and great, if like me you're a teacher, to suddenly find yourself a not especially bright pupil for a while. The combination of pieces of hard-to-take-in technical information about navigation and avalanches with walking uphill though deep snow into a corrie was great. It didn't take me long to realise that I am a fairly bad navigator, which should make me more careful in the future.

We did plenty of rolling downhill in the snow and making hilarious and occasionally brilliant attempts to arrest our falls with ice axes, and on the second day, after climbing onto a ridge and off it again, with fabulous views of the Cairngorms, we dug holes in the snow in order to convince ourselves that it was far better to get home safely than to have to dig a snowhole to survive.

And while we were doing all this the ski-centre car park below was filled with the kind of chaos you normally only see at an overcrowded beach on a hot summer's day, all played out in brown slush. I didn't take a photograph - you wouldn't have liked it. On Monday morning the bus down to Aviemore was running half an hour late because of all the traffic up at the ski-centre. The bus driver reckoned the tourist people would rather not have the skiers anyway - they'd rather the coach parties rolled up, got on the railway and whizzed to the top, spent some money and went away again. The skiers just get in the way. They certainly do when half the population of Scotland and the north of England all turn up on the same weekend!

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