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Snowed In

Monday morning: I quickly get up and look out of the window. No snow yet.

It was forecast for the evening (not that morning), however the weather up here can do funny things.

Tim gave me a lift in to work as he was starting a bit earlier, anticipating a planned power cut. I set up a few team challenges ready for the morning’s activities: a thank you to everyone on the team who had spent the last week deep cleaning the centre, ready for the new season of guests.

Splitting into two teams, my team grabbed some helmets and we set out for “The Wall.”

The Wall is a team challenge with two stages but the same aim for both stages: get your whole team over the wall.

Pretty simple right? Yes, for the low wall, which is still a challenge for some, but the high wall is very interesting, quite physical and requires trust in your team mates. All those who wanted to try it successfully made it up and over the wall.

Next was the imaginatively named “Gutter Ball”. Needless to say hilarity and some confusion ensued as the guys tried to roll a golf ball into a bucket using pieces of gutter.

The second half of the morning was at the archery range: it was great fun and a rare opportunity to shoot more than 3 arrows a day! On the scoring round, I won with 17 points out of a possible 30. Could do better, but it was enough to win! The afternoon was spent building a shelf in the bushcraft wood store.

The next day I didn’t even need to get out of my bed to know whether the snow had arrived, it was sitting on my velux window! It had arrived!

The snow had been around on the hills for a while, but now it was down to low levels. I walked up the drive to the centre feeling that super exciting and unique, crunch and squeak of fresh snow.

This was going to be a good day. We had heavy showers of snow throughout the day interspersed with super clear blue skies.

The work on the bushcraft wood store continued, with some help from Kev, and we were fortunately reasonably sheltered by some big trees. After dinner, I tried to sledge home but only made progress on the steepest sections of the driveway.

Wednesday was a day off. After a lazy start and lunch at the centre, Callum and I set about the construction of an igloo. We used the recycling bins from inside, packed full of snow, to make snow bricks rather like a sand castle but snow.

With three layers of blocks on their sides, it was time for the roof. We didn’t have to travel far for snow, in fact we never went further than 5-10 metres from the igloo! With the main structure complete, Dave came to inspect, admire and offer some advice for the finishing touches.

A cup of tea and some flapjack fuelled us on to the finished product. With ten roll mats (five each) on a levelled platform, breather holes strategically placed in the walls and sleeping bags in situ, all Callum and I had to do was wait for bed time.

I was pretty shattered after an afternoon of hard graft out in the cold, but couldn’t miss the opportunity to take some fun photographs and play with lighting and long exposures.

At ten to midnight, Callum and I crawled inside the igloo and carefully slipped into our sleeping bags all the while trying not to collapse the igloo from the inside! We needn’t have worried, it was very sturdy.

After an hour of fighting the need to pee, I gave in and nipped outside. It was quite breezy outside the igloo, something I wasn’t aware of from inside.

It turns out snow is a great insulator, not just of heat but sound too. It was one of the quietest nights sleep I’ve ever had, apart from some light snoring from Callum every now and then!

After a semi-decent night's sleep, Dave came to check if we had survived the night.

It was a splendid day, the sun was shining, the air was cool and crisp. Stunning. As instructors we spent the morning doing some training out in the snow, but not before clearing the minibuses of their winter coats.

Whilst the training was ridiculously good fun, it was also very beneficial. We talked about the struggles snow brings on adventure days, but also about the extra games, activities and learning experiences that can be extracted from such conditions.

Soon Thursday was over and Friday had begun. A whole load of us were supposed to be going on a staff trip away to Barcaple, leaving just after lunch, and as such we all had our bags packed and ready to go.

Due to more snow overnight and continued snow forecast, the decision was made to not go to Barcaple. The good news though was that we were going to have a “weekend away” at home.

Dave’s parents were going to be leading the weekend with a load of prepared material and sessions. With the change of venue they fought their way North as far as Killin, where Phil went to collect them in his 4×4 beast. Hooray! We were all together and ready for our weekend.

Tom and Judy led us through the weekend with a theme of journeying. Our journey: in context, with God, with work and rest, in relationships and our journey ahead.

It was great to have some good quality and biblically based teaching. On Saturday afternoon we had some time to get outdoors into the fresh air and I took four chaps out the back to teach them some winter skills.

It was a magnificent day to be out and playing/learning. The highlight was definitely cutting our way through a cornice to climb up a short steep section of the hill. There was so much snow you could lose people in the channels we dug!

I came away from the weekend with some encouragement, questions and twelve A4 pages of notes to review.

By time Sunday evening came around, I was ready for some rest and was glad to have the next day off to recharge.

Today has been the first day that it hasn’t snowed since Tuesday. The roads are clearing up and so are some of the surrounding hillsides.

In many ways this is a relief. Travel is now safer and even possible, the post can be delivered and with a thaw and freeze cycle on the hills, hopefully some of those deep powdery drifts will consolidate into excellent conditions for mountaineering.

This is particularly relevant, as on Thursday I plan to meet up with some good friends in the Cairngorms for a few days of mountaineering. We plan to camp out in the Northern corries to save ourselves the 2-3 hour walk in each day, climb some easier routes and catch up with some whisky in an over populated tent in the evenings. We may even play a card game or two!

Next time, I’ll let you know how I got on.


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