Sandy Paterson Mountaineering

This is a blog of my personal and work climbing along with all the other things I do in the outdoors. Please feel free to have a look at my main website.

Over winter I will try and blog at the end of each week, however I will aim to tweet each day so feel free to follow me @SandyPMIC

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Last day of Sun.............................and then more SNOW!!

Laura on her way up!

On the col resting before heading down!

With today being the last day forecast to be sunny (as the snow is returning) of our trip Laura, Chris and I were keen to get out touring again today. We headed to the Grand St Bernard area, as did it seemed the rest of the skiing world! Not to worry there was plenty of terrain and snow to go around we skinned up into the Combe de Drone and onto the Col du Bastillon, before heading down again. The snow was a little more sun affected than yesterday and below 2400m it was crusty, however it was a beautiful spot to ski in and I am sure we will be back.
More snow forecast over the next few days so I think we will be turning our attention to playing in the powder!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Blue bird powder day

Another blue sky day in the alps with fresh powder to still be found!


Chris, Laura and I headed to Arolla today to make sure we could get high as the temperature was on the up and we had had a tip off of there still being plenty of powder on offer! We headed up to the Pas de Chevres first which still had great snow on it as it spends most of the day in the shade. After this we headed up to the Col La Forcla. The snow at the top of this was a little sun affected, however once we got into the shadow of Plan Tsardon it was nice and light again.

Another great day out on the planks.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Christmas Ski Boots in Switzerland
Laura enjoying a Christmas day ski
Santa has been good to us in Switzerland filling our ski boots with presents and  producing a blue sky day with some lovely fresh powder. I hope everyone else out there had an equally great day. Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Fresh snow for Christmas Eve

The light snow fall that was predicted last night and this morning turned into a little more than forecast with about 15cm being put down at around 1500m on a reasonable westerly wind. Laura and I headed up towards and past Solalex, however after we got above the tree line the wind was not very pleasant so we turned around and played in the fresh snow amongst the trees. There is a light crust from Thursdays warm weather but it is not too unpleasant to ski on as long as there was fresh powder on top.

Merry Christmas to everyone, I hope Santa is good to you tomorrow.

Friday, 23 December 2011

So much snow!

Retreat back up the piste after the power cut!!!
Laura finding her way to through some tricky terrain
Looking towards Martigny over the cloud inversion
Laura on the way home at the end of the day.

There is certainly plenty of snow out in the Alps at present although it looks like it has stopped now! For our first day out we headed to Chris's local ski area Villars, it snowed all day and the lift team were struggling to open many of the runs due to unstable snow however we had a good day warming up the legs on and off piste. That was until the whole of Villars had a power cut so the lifts stopped working, not great when you are at the bottom of a run waiting to go back up, never mind skis on rucksack and a good bit of exercise walking back up the piste.

Today Laura and I had a day at Verbier as Chris was on a course with Alison Culshaw across in Chamonix. The weather was stunning high up on the slopes at Verbier and there was loads of very deep powder to be found. We spent the day skiing our self to a stand still, awesome.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Short Roping CPD

I was back at Glenmore Lodge yesterday for the final day of staff training. We headed into the hidden coire between Sneachda and Lochain to look at short roping as an MIC and how we teach it on MIC Training courses. I spent the day in a small team of 5 looking at issues and different solutions to short roping, what is possible and what is not. A great weather day with sun and no wind.

Now down in Edinburgh for a early family Christmas before heading out to what sounds like a very snowy alps, looking forward to some powder skiing and touring:)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Snow Anchors

I have been at Glenmore Lodge today for some staff training. We spent most of the day out on the west wall of the Ciste looking at different snow anchors and testing them to destruction. It was a breeze day but not too wild where we were, some new snow falling and below freezing all day.

Back out again for more staff training tomorrow and then off to the Alps for Christmas and New Year.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mountain Rescue Training and Mountaineering Work!

I was at Glenmore Lodge for most of this week just gone, on Thursday and Friday it was the Glenmore Lodge Mountain Rescue Team training. The weather was wild and we spent most of the time around the lodge low down, over the two days we looked at radio work, client care and packaging, stretcher work, first aid scenarios and some cable ways. A very good few days although the sort of skills you hope you don't have to use!

Over the weekend I was working with Kevin Rutherford on a Winter Mountaineering course for Glenmore Lodge, this was my first winter work of the season and a great weekend to start on. The weather on Saturday was awesome and Sunday's was almost as good. We spent the weekend looking at personal movement skills on steep ground, ropework, navigation and avalanche awareness. A great weekend with a keen team.

Avalanche Workshop

I was out last Wednesday with Mark Diggins from SAIS on a workshop for the AMI. The workshop was aimed at the latest thinking on avalanche assessments for instructors. We spent part of the morning looking at the theory and some updates in statistics before a quick session on transceivers in the grounds at Glenmore Lodge before heading out to Coire an t Sneachda to look at the process the SAIS observers go through and to discuss the pros and cons of different stability tests. A very good day with some interesting points and a great start to the winter.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Winter in the Cairngorms

I spent a short day in the Cairngorms today with John and Monty and it was definitely winter! We headed into Sneachda across to underneath Ficaill Buttress then across to point 5 gully and up onto the plateau before heading back along the corrie edge to 1141 and back to the car.

There was plenty of snow in the corrie with quite a lot of drifting going on due to the strong westerly winds, which were also helping the rime to start building. The turf that we crossed was not frozen, however good conditions reported on Fingers Ridge by a team of 3 that made a fast ascent. There were also people climbing on The Runnel, Genie, Original Summer Route and The Message however we did not chat to these teams so can not report on conditions.

Looks like more snow is going to be put down in the next few days and it looks like it is going to stay cold next week as well.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Profesional Development

Cairngorm Ski Area this morning
The start of December is normally CPD time of year for Mountaineering Instructors and this year is no different. Yesterday I was at Glenmore Lodge for a Report Writing workshop, although not the first thing you would think of for a Mountaineering Instructor it is actually a very important part of the job for NGB courses. Saturday sees me at the MLTS Providers workshop, Wednesday at an Avalanche workshop, Thursday and Friday is Mountain Rescue Training at Glenmore Lodge. Followed by my first winter work and then some more training. So all go for the start of the season. In between I hope to get out and play in the snow that is now falling!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Is this winter?

Could this be the start of winter we have all been waiting for? Well it looks like it is going to warm up a little over the weekend but the general trend is for it to cool down over all, in fact some forecasts are predicting large amounts of snow to fall in the mountains over the first few weeks of December!

With the likely onset of winter I have managed to time it badly with a injury! However a visit to the physio has told me that my Achilles is strained and nothing worse so a few days rest and some rehab exercises and I should be fine for when the snow comes.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Crag Problems

Will showing the strain!!
Bill and his team abseiling past a knot
Will lowering a client past a knot
I have spent the last 2 days out with the 3rd year students from West Highland College looking at crag problems and solutions. I was teamed up with Will and Lauren, we headed to Glen Nevis on Thursday and used the Pinnacle Crag area to look at escaping the system (anchors in reach), unassisted and assisted hoists in the system and lowering past a knot. It was dry up till lunch but then the heavens opened! On Friday with the rain lashing down in Fort William we headed east to Huntley's Cave were it was dry! After a short session looking at escaping the system anchors out of reach we then spent the day setting up some scenarios for Will and Lauren to solve with what they had learnt over their 3 days of coaching. Another great day with some really motivated and keen students, thanks guys.

Ripping up the Trails

A last minute change on Tuesday night meant I was working on the bike on Wednesday rather than rock climbing, variety is the spice of life and all that! I spent the day biking with a group of 2nd year students from West Highland College and Mike Pescod. Mike know much more about the trails around Lochaber being a local and so I really just followed his lead for the day which was great. We spent some time in the morning doing some maintenance and coaching skills before heading down Glen Nevis to ride some of the natural trails down there.

It was great to be on some new trails and watching someone else run some sessions. Great weather, spicy trails and awesome fun!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

1st Aid Course

Over the weekend I have been on a 1st Aid Course that was being run by Bill Strachan for Outwardly Mobile. It was a very good 2 days and I can recommend Bill and Outwardly Mobile if anyone needs to re do their 1st aid qualification.

12,000 Years in a Day!

For the last day of my IML training we spent the morning out with Keith. We spent the day heading out to the green lochan doing a circuit looking at what we would have found in the area up to around 12,000 years ago just after the ice finally receded and then applying this to what we might see in the Alps and further afield.

It was then back to the lodge for a few final lectures on using alpine huts, the winter training and the summer assessment. It has been a great week and I am now looking forward to my assessment this coming summer out in the Alps.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Chains and Flowers!

For day 4 of my IML we had a split day between the mountain environment and uising fixed gear on routes. After a session indoors in the morning looking at some of the theory of Mountain Environments we headed out for a day on the hill. With the groups split into 2 I spent the morning with Keith looking at various points of the environment, this was really interesting and whilst I think I have a reasonable knowledge of this topic already there is still certainly much to improve on! In the afternoon we joined Nancy and Jon to look at using fixed equipment to look after clients in an exposed area with just a rope, 2 krabs and 2 slings.

It has been dry all day although at times it has been fairly windy and a quite cold. The last day tomorrow looks like it is going to cover some more environmental info plus a few other lectures.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A theory day

Day 3 of my IML training has been a bit of a theory day. We have spent most of the day inside looking at Medical issues including cold problems, heat problems, drug use and dosages, altitude issues and then a ropework session in preparation for tomorrow.

A good day but quite classroom heavy! Back outside tomorrow though.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Windy day in the hills

We were out on the hill today for the second day of my IML training, after a 45min session of translating our route for the day from German! My group headed into Corrie an t Sneachda with Nancy looking at the environment, having a re-cap on navigation and then looking at some of the technological tools used for navigation i.e. GPS and Altimeter. We also spent sometime discussing emergency issues and how we might deal with these in different locations in the world.

It was then back to the lodge for a few lectures on 'Working for Trekking Companies' and 'Marketing'.

Another good day and it stayed dry all day although it was very windy in the mountains.

Monday, 7 November 2011

IML Training - Speed Navigation

I am at Glenmore Lodge this week, but this time as a student! I am doing my International Mountain Leader Training (IML), this is the award needed to lead other in rolling Nordic type terrain elsewhere in the world.

Today after a chat in the classroom discussing the plan for the week, we had to do a speed navigation test. To do this course you have to have passed you Summer ML and so a test of your navigation is carried out over orienteering style course using ML style navigation legs. There is a time limit to this worked out at 4kmp and 1min/contour, although this sounds easy it is actually quite challenging as it does not leave much time for mistakes, poor route choice and some fairly unpleasant terrain that you have to cover. Each course is around 3 hours long and thankfully I came in with 1hour and 1minute to spare!

The rest of the day was spent in the classroom looking at the remit of the award, professionalism, legal issues and alpine weather.

It has been a glorious day here in the Cairngorms but I don't have any photos sorry too busy rushing around whilst out!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Performance Rock Climbing Clinic for WHC

I was back at West Highland College yesterday to run a performance rock climbing clinic for some of there students. With a damp forecast on the west Ben and I decided to take our 4 students to Kingussie Crag across near Aviemore. The drive was worth it as we stayed dry for most of the day, although the rock was a little damp.

Andrew and Adam had done a little bit of outdoor climbing, lots of indoor climbing and had spent the previous clinic looking at gear placement and belay construction so were keen to look at actually leading routes. We had a recap of gear placements and belay construction and introduced them to some new ideas for this. We then spent some time looking at self protecting an abseil and a set up for this before getting them on the sharp end for some leading, albeit with a ghost rope as the crag was a bit slippy by this stage after some rain.

A great day out and both Adam and Andrew have now started their careers as lead climbers.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Dry in the West!

I was working across on the west yesterday with the 2nd Year Students from West Highland College. The day was a hill assessment for them which has a large element of navigation plus emergency procedures and equipment. My team and I headed up to the top Ben Nevis car park and headed up towards Meall an t-Suidhe looking at navigation and burn crossings. We then had a chat about emergency procedures and equipment over lunch before finding the return path to the CIC hut which we headed down for a while before crossing the Allt a' Mhuilinn and heading back to the vans to meet the other teams. My group did well and all passed their assessment, well done.

Today I have been at Glenmore Lodge helping out as a casualty on the WEMSI Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician  course, which was great fun.

Back to West Highland College tomorrow for some rock climbing coaching.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

7 Stanes Mountain Biking

With Laura having a week off for half term it was too good an opportunity to escape to miss, but what to do during a time of year that is traditionally wet, windy and cold! Simple go mountain biking, so we hired a cottage down in Galloway sorted some biking friends and set off with the plan to cycle as much as possible in 5 days. It was a good plan until I came off my bike at speed on the 1st trail of the week, this was followed by a trip to the minor injuries unit at Newton Stewart to have my lower leg glued back together. I was told I had healthy skin though by the nurse!!

Thankfully I only had to sit one day out and after that was back on the bike. During the week we cycled at Dalbeattie, Ae and Kirroughtree. The trails are excellent, well maintained and something for everyone. We were though a little disappointed by the support infrastructure at the centres with the cafes closing early or being no existent in the first palace! Still and awesome week and a recommend it to anyone into mountain biking more info at

Summer Mountain Leader Training

I was working across on the West coast the week before half term with Bill Strachan, we were running a Summer Mountain Leader Training course based out of West Highland College. It was a full course with 12 keen clients, which was good as the weather was not the nicest! During our 6 days we visited a number of different locations and looked at the main skills that are required to be a Summer Mountain Leader. If you are interested in training to become a mountain leader then have a look at the following page dates for next year will be online very soon.

Hot Rock - Toulon

At the beginning of October I flew out to France to spend a week climbing with my friend Luke who is based in the Engadina teaching. With winter approaching in the Alps he was keen for a last fix of sun and I was keen for a first taste of sun from the summer! We decided to use the new rock fax guide to the Cote d' Azure and headed for the Toulon area (home to the French Navy!) although Toulon is not the most attractive city the surrounding area is lovely, lots of limestone which on the whole is well bolted and very few other people. We spent 5 days climbing at a different venue each day and generally enjoying the sun, at times it was a little too warm with the daytime temperature never really dropping below 25 degrees and one day it reaching 32 degrees, hot for a Ginger Scotsman.
There is loads to go at in the area for all standards of climbers and after a flick through the local guide books there is much more to see than what the rock fax have in. A word of warning though the grades are tough! The locals laughed when we mentioned this as suggested that the rest of the world was wrong and they were right, however they did agree!

An awesome holiday and great to catch up with Luke and Anne before Baby Boon is born.