Sunday, 20 December 2009

Training in Scotland

The trip started off easy enough, an 8 hour drive, Pete behind the wheel, Matt getting his head down…standard! We met up with Ben Cassells at Arbroath. Ben is a Captain in the Royal Marines, a close friend of Pete’s and was in Afghanistan last year with Matt. He’s just come off the back of an extensive mountain training package at work so strong like a bull in the hills…or he would be had he not achieved the illusive half-man half-alcohol status during the pre-christmas leave celebrations! Nevertheless, he knows the Scottish mountains well, and was to be an awesome guide for us, as well as providing some premiership level banter!

Training on a budget is tricky, Pete’s ginger-induced intolerance to the winter temperatures don’t really favour kipping in a tent, so we went for the Youth Hostel option. However having called a few it seemed we were out of luck! The prospect of spooning under canvas was looking likely. And then stepped up Ben! Securing us three nights in a romantic log cabin, with mountain balcony views, en-suite facilities and open fire-place, for a reduced rate in Glen Coe!

We took a late start the following day, having only got to our luxury accommodation in the early hours of the morning. The intention for the day was to get some good distance covered with one or two fairly cheeky scrambles. We succeeded! Smashed a 12km route, three cheeky ascents scaled with a bit of scrambling, although nothing too serious, and some incredible views from the snow covered peaks.

The final day was what it was all about! What we had travelled here to do! We were up way before the sun and across to the North Side of Ben Nevis, where we tackled the non-conventional, cross-country route. Which involved an initial gradual climb to 1010m, followed by a horseshoe ridge-line in some pretty severe clag and then a further climb to the summit of Ben Nevis. The snow/ice line was about 600-700m and we were in crampons from then. Visibility was close to zero at the summit and not much better on the approaching route, which provided a few hairy moments! In all we spent a good 10 hours on the hill. The conditions meant that navigation was tough and the freezing temperatures forced a heavy reliance on our own personal fitness.

All in all a fantastic trip and some invaluable days spent in the hills! Highlights include watching clumsy Pete tip a whole steak dinner down his front, getting tipsy off the sweaty alcohol smell emanating off Ben as he struggled to work off his hangover, and watching Matt slipping up and sliding almost a third of the way down Ben Nevis on his backside, after an overly cocky point and laugh at Ben who had just done the same!

Check out the photos if you get a chance!

Matt & Pete

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