Friday, 31 May 2013

School of Adventure Studies. Morocco and High Atlas Expedition 2013.

Over the last 8 days I have been working in Morocco with a group of degree students on the Adventure Tourism Management course  from The School of Adventure Studies, West Highland College for Hebridean  Pursuits Ltd.
The students aim was  to self lead and create an expedition, carry it out and then reflect on the process and outcomes. Hebridean Pursuits initially helped organize the expedition and this trip is the first of three to the High Atlas in 2013 that HPL are involved with. The trip was to offer the students an insight into expeditioning at altitude, other tourism models and a range of cultural differences. Morocco offers all this only 3 hrs flight from the UK. The team achieved much whilst out in The Atlas mountains. We ascended Aguelzim 3650m, Afella 4045m via a fantastic PD+ couloir of snow, ice and rock, Toubkal 4160m [The highest peak in North Africa]. Tough trekking was has between peaks this emphasized  the need to acclimatize correctly and highlighted the differences between Scottish hill walking  / mountaineering  and the higher ranges. It is one of the coldest springs to be recalled in the Atlas, so we are not alone in the slow march to summer. We experienced -19 degrees wind chill on the summit of Toubkal, a complete contrast to the heat of the city once back in the addictive chaos of Marrakesh.
We were based in Riads [guest houses or refuges] and experienced some excellent Morocco food along the way. Everyone remained well and all achieved personal goals along the way. Thanks to all the local guides, cooks and mule men and of course the students for being so amazing and strong, especially on the longer days. Being away is excellent but returning to Scotland and my family is even better. Oban is finally blooming after a long cold spring and the balmy west coast weather has arrived. Hebridean Pursuits are running a 'Coasteering'   Stag party on Saturday and a Silver Duke of Edinburgh training expedition next week so fingers crossed the weather holds up.

On top of North Africa 4167 m. 

Toubkal 4167m

Expedition leaders / guides. Andy Spink and Matt Groves on Toubkal.

Maze terraces at 3200 m. 

Relaxed and calm Riads in the city.

In the Tizi Melloul, en route to Afella 4045m on day 3, 6 hrs into 12 hrs of mountaineering.

Dinner in the Lepiney Refuge. 

Remote trekking routes away from the crowds. Local knowledge is essential.

Looking back to Toubkal 4167 m form Aguelzime at 3650 m.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Heading off to work in the Atlas Mountains.

Blog posts will be sporadic over the next 8 days due to my being in Morocco. I will be working with the degree students from the Univesity of the Highlands and Islands in the High Atlas. This will be the first of three expeditions Hebridean Pursuits are guiding and organising this year. Hope to have some photos posted on my return.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Feed back from Coasteering course on Raasay.

Today was day three and the participants SLSGB Coasteering safety and rescue award assessment. Well done to all. A battle of swimming and rescues was won! This award is not a push over and most of us are not super hero swimmers. Well done Gordon, Ali, Jack and Andy. A hard earned pass.

Thanks guys for your feed back.

Had an excellent 3 days on the BRAWA & SLSGB coasteering course on Raasay. Really opened my eyes up to the potential of coasteering and left me with the knowledge, confidence and skills to run fun, interesting and safe sessions.

Thanks Andy, I had a really great time.

Thanks for a fantastic course, greatly informative and excellently run. Really enjoyed it and I've come away with more than I could have expected. You're welcome back anytime Andy. Cheers.


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dun Caan. Sunshine on Raasay's summit.

After a day instructing coasteering skills I headed off for a wander up Dun Caan, Raasay's highest hill. From Skye it looks like a table top and it is flat as a pancake. A short ramble over the moors along a distinct path leads to the craggy summit. The views from the top of Dun Caan over to Skye were tremendous. The hills were clear of cloud,  the sun shone and the sea twinkled in the evening light. A true Hebridean spring day. This feeling can only be experienced and once experienced it is never forgotten. After 24 years of working and travelling in the Hebrides I still have to pinch myself that I live and work in the most beautiful part of the World. It is such a privilege.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Coasteering Skills Course on Raasay.

Today I was back in the sea off Raasay. I am working for Hebridean Pursuits running a skills course for Raasay House Hotel's instructors. It's very exciting to be coasteering on a new island and at a new venue. It is brilliant to be able to tick off another wee section of coastline of the UK. A day of contrasting light and weather. With a small swell from the north we had some fun little play spots to develop techniques. The hail salvos did test our metal and after nearly 3 hours in the water the comfort of the Hotel was welcomed.

Hill snow on Sgurr a Mhuilinn and Creag Ruadh in Strathconon.

The hills are alive with the sound of hail, strong winds and snow at present. Not unusual but uncharacteristically cold for May. Staying low and just below the maelstrom seemed to work. This is the beauty of Marilyn and Corbett bagging. Strathconon Forrest  is one of my favorite Glens, it is isolated, vast and so beautiful. It's patch work cultivated fields contrast with steep heather slopes and craggy summits which are presently snow covered. On arriving on Skye before heading to Raasay to work I bumped into friends who had been guiding on the Skye ridge. The reports were of  blizzards, full winter ascents of gullies and particularly wet rock. Summer is not far away, so they tell me!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Technical Advice and instructor training in the Meig Gorge.

On Monday I was back in the Meig Gorge working for Hebridean Pursuits, working as TA to Boots and Paddles.  Last November I descended this pleasant gorge for the first time. I must be jinxed as it was hammering down with snow as I drove to Strathconon. Snow lay on the road and the hills looked plastered above Fort William, summer skiing might happen yet! Though not as cold in the water as last November the temperature still has not risen enough to warm up the dark pools and rapids for swimming in and down! My newly repaired Rubber Man dry suit was, it has to be said a bonus!  A constructive day looking at a variety of skills and scenarios and few new ways of working with their clients for the instructors on the training day.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Coasteering Skills Training Course Day 2.

Ropes, knots  anchor set ups, rescues, swimming, swim lines, towing, and more swimming today on the coast of Oban. A physical day for the students with allot of in the water time experimenting with various techniques for the above skills. Tomorrow they will be assessed for their SLSGB Coasteering rescue and safety awards.
The next open course will run is November 1st and 2nd based  in Oban. please contact Hebridean Pursuits Ltd  if you would like more information.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Coasteering Skills Training Course. Day 1.

Hebridean Pursuits Ltd are currently running a skills training course in Coasteering based out of Oban. Today was day 1 of three. We headed to Seil Island and found wonderful conditions. The sun shone all day and the swell rolled in.  Perfect! The Pictures tell the story so far....

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Purple in the Pentland Hills Today

It's a long way from Oban to Edinburgh for a relatively short meeting or two, yet today the drive was wonderful, quiet on the roads and the country side was delightful to pass through. The hills are still bleached and parched and the ground is so dry, [well it was until the heavens opened this evening on the way back to Oban]. Snow still hangs on stubbornly in the central highlands. A slight detour towards the Pentland Hills on my retreat from the capital was a rather pleasant decision. I had never really taken much notice of this modest ridge line of fells and I am regretting that. They are beautiful. Magenta and mauve bathed the hill side and the sound of new born lambs echoed in the deep corries. The small cold grey lochs hissed with the firm breeze that weaved through the glens and the occasional Lark made assumptions it is spring. A brief wander with the dog has developed a curiosity to traverse the ridge back one day. I expect on ski would be the way to tackle them. An industrial grey cloak has descended on Oban this evening, Scotland Outside is not so charming just now.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

An article about the first ever Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Coasteering Expedition.

Thanks to D of E office in Edinburgh for sending us this great article / interview with the participants of the first ever Gold Expedition in Coasteering. It was an honor to be involved with the project and to work with such a motivated team. Hebridean Pursuits would be keen to offer and run another such expedition in the future, so if you know anyone looking for a real challenge please get in touch.