On 2 January, a small but elite group of Year 13 pupils, accompanied by Mr House, Mr Blackshaw and Miss Isaksen, set off on the 11-hour journey up the Cairngorm National Park in Scotland in search of some snow to practice their winter mountaineering skills. Although there had been a big thaw recently we managed to have a fantastic few days in a truly beautiful part of the UK.
On Thursday we walked into Coire na Ciste, as this is quite a narrow gulley it tends to hold snow even when it has disappeared elsewhere. We were rewarded with some excellent hard neve, perfect for learning how to use crampons, how to stop ourselves if we took a slide down the mountain and how to dig various snow belays to either help others climb up snow slopes or to lower people down them. Armed with our newly learnt skills we decided to go and bag a Munro on Friday, a Munro is a name for any mountain over 3000ft in Scotland, there are 282 of them in total.
The target of our endeavours was a mountain called Ben Macdui which was once considered to be the tallest mountain in the UK at 1,309m but is now in second place after the discovery of Ben Nevis on the West Coast. Some excellent navigation by the team saw us setting off up the Fiacaill Coire an Lochan in poor visibility and onto the Cairngorm plateau. As we continued across the plateau we came out above the clouds to be greeted with some breathtaking views as we approached the summit of Ben Macdui. We all enjoyed a well-earned lunch on the summit while we marvelled at the 360 views that surrounded us, a rare sight for this time of year in Scotland.
We still had a fair distance to cover and not a lot of daylight left so we continued back across the plateau bearing slightly more east to descend via the Fiaciall Coire Cas and back to the minibus. It was a big day as we had covered over 16km and there were some weary legs that walked into Aviemore that evening for dinner. For our last day in the Cairngorms, we decided to do the classic ridge that is Fiacaill Coire an t Sneachda. Again we set off in poor visibility heading up the first part of the fiaciall towards the Cairngorm plateau, as we were nearing the more technical part of the ridge we were greeted with brief glimpses of the views across Coire an t Sneachda and the summit of Cairngorm, our target for the day.
By the time we had scrambled up the last bit of the ridge the clouds had once more dropped below us and for the second day running, we were left marvelling at the amazing views that surrounded us. After a chance to have some lunch and take off our crampons we followed the rim of the corrie towards Cairngorm and climbed the final 200m from the plateau up to the summit where we were treated to more spectacular views as the sun was dropping down towards the horizon.
It was time to descend back to the car park and say goodbye to the Cairngorms which had been amazing. The following day we did the long but uneventful minibus ride back down to London and the start of a new term. M H