I was curled up in a ball, shaking and sweating. It was dark and I couldn’t tell if it was hot or cold, but I felt freezing. My whole body ached and I could barely stand from exhaustion. Nope, I wasn’t on a Himalayan giant. It was the day before I had to fly to Scotland and, like many others in Chamonix, I had got the flu.
The winter induction for the British Mountain guides involves a day of assessed winter climbing at grade V and despite this being well within my usual climbing ability, I have to confess that with aching joints and a pounding head, a chest infection, and just to top it off a bloody broken thumb, it was something that I wasn’t really looking forward to. At least this time I remembered my rack!
Our large intake group of 12 people was split in to two groups, and my six were the first to be ‘inducted’. Everything went well and our trainers/assessors were great. After being told stories how the Scottish part of the guides was the toughest, with the toughest assessors, I was keen to find out what it would be like.
The Guides were fantastic, super-experienced with a range of personalities from cutting banter (excellent!) through to softly spoken encouragement. If I hadn’t been ill I would have loved every minute, as it was I still had a great time.
After the initial climbing day, we went on to cover winter navigation, snow belays, short roping and general safety in the Scottish winter hills. The weather, starting off bad, got kinder as the three days went on.
Despite being ill, and not getting the chance to do any climbing for myself prior to the course, I was as always impressed with the wild nature of the Scottish mountains and I’m looking forward to spending quite a bit of time there next winter, hopefully with two working thumbs and no flu next time (gripping an axe without using your thumb takes a bit of getting used to!).