Friday, 26 March 2010

A week in the west with Winchester College CCF

Last Friday I headed off west to Tulloch to work with Winchester College Combined Cadet Force on their regular Easter Camp. The base was the Joint Services Training Lodge at Tulloch and I had accommodation at Tulloch Station Lodge, the warm and comfortable bunkhouse in the old station buildings on the railway platform.
On our first day we took the gondola up to Aonach Mor to learn and refresh basic winter skills, step kicking, cutting and ice axe braking then Fergus, Neil and I took our groups up onto the plateau then to the summit where we got some brief glimpses across to Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.
On Sunday we were all up and away early for a hill day and some navigation practice on Stob Coire Easain with a steep scramble up the nose of Meall Cian Dearg before following the long ridge to the summit where the cadets performed the Winchester College version of a rugby scrum much to the amusement of the other folk at the summit and a curious collie dog who wanted to join in with the fun.
On Monday the strong winds and heavy rain in the morning gave us all the chance to look at how to use the stoves safely and how to pitch the tents before going out for a low level micro-navigation day at Fersit.
Despite the strong winds that were forecast we planned our overnight expedition to Creag Meagaidh for Tuesday and Wednesday. Fergus, John and I were to take a group up to The Window to dig snowholes whilst Ian was to take another group to camp by the lochan in a very scenic and sheltered spot. Neil joined Ian's group later in the evening walking in by torchlight to the camp.
Our group of cadets burrowed enthusiastically into the snow and dug out two good snowholes from scratch whilst Fergus, John and I were a little bit lucky when we dug into a roomy two person snowhole quite by mistake and then found a huge four or more person snowhole at least three metres into the snowdrift!
The weather had been fairly kind to us on the walk in though the wind did pick up as the day wore on and the snow was quite damp whilst we were digging though it did freeze up a bit overnight.
On Wednesday morning we woke up to mist, drizzle and more wind so time to head back down rather than up to the summit of Creag Meagaidh. We passed Ian and Neil with their group as they were going up to check out the snowholes.They also decided against going on to the summit and came back down to dismantle the tents.
On the last day, the cadets had a choice of activities at the Ice Factor where they all had a great day out on the ice wall, the climbing wall and the high ropes.
Everyone headed back home today - back to Winchester, Aviemore, Stirling and Fife. All in all, a great week!


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