“It’s just too expensive…” I thought to myself. I stumbled across the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust website by complete chance, just as I was ready to abandon my search for a Winter Mountaineering course. It surprised me that a charity existed for the very reason I was about to stop looking – I just couldn’t afford it.
I tagged the webpage until applications for the course opened in September, checking the website every few weeks to make sure that the opportunity didn’t disappear. The chance to go became very real when the JCMT website turned from a static page to an application form. I waited approximately 6 weeks to hear back from the trust. The application form contains the questions below:
- Please provide a brief description of your mountaineering and climbing experience. Include number of years winter experience, mentioning specific areas you have visited and examples of routes undertaken.
- What do you hope to gain from the course?
- What are your mountaineering aspirations and what type of routes, or actual routes do you hope to climb?
You can read a copy of my application here.
The charity let you know the outcome of the application at least 2 months in advance of the course date, giving plenty of opportunity to secure cheap train tickets to the Highlands. I was over the moon when I heard back! The only prerequisite for the course is experience in hill walking.
Winter Mountaineering Course 16th – 17th January 2016
A free pickup service is offered on the Friday evening before the course from Aviemore Train Station. We spent the evening distributing rental kit, settling in the bunkhouse and meeting other course participants. It was a varied group with 7 girls and 3 guys – varying from teachers, to paramedics to engineers and medical students!
Our first full day in the Cairngorms! After a one hour trek to Coire an t-Sneachda, Mungo Ross (our guide) went through:
It was a full day in the mountains, leaving Ardenberg Bunkhouse at 8:30am and returning at 5:00pm. Dinner at the bunkhouse was a quiet affair, with the cold weather creating mountainous appetites. On Saturday evening, we had a presentation from Mungo, our mountaineering guide.
I found our guide, Mungo Ross, nothing short of inspiring. He has led over 50 worldwide expeditions and his wealth of experience coupled with a gentle and caring persona, amiability and humbleness instilled a sense of both possibility and passion for inspiring mountaineers. “What’s the point of mountaineering?” he joked. “Nothing really!, go out there, find like-minded people and love what you do”.
He didn’t only teach us. Mungo tore apart any stereotypes of what “mountaineers” are. With refreshing honesty, he went through his story of ’50 years in the outdoors’, describing how outdoor pursuits are open to anyone with a passion for it. A true inspiration and a real credit to JCMT.
Our 2nd day out in the mountains! This time, with 20mph miles to contend with. We set off from the car park with a icy cold wind buffeting our footsteps. Freezing temperatures clawed at any exposed skin. The snow was untouched and knee deep, with Ellie carving out a trail for us to follow.
We sheltered beneath a ski lift for shelter until the wind died down. Today, Munro took us through:
We wrapped up the course with a 3 course dinner and a lift was provided back to Aviemore Railway Station. It was a brilliant opportunity to learn Winter Skills. JCMT offer 3 subsidised courses (Scotland, Chamonix and Wales) for young people under 30, go for it!
- The Winter Mountaineering Course is subsidised to £75.00 for under 30s. A similar course with Glenmore Lodge costs £285.00! Equipment hire is £4.00 per item, per day. I hired everything and kit hire was £32.
- Transport: A sleeper train (from London) can be booked. A flight to Inverness (1 hour drive from Aviemore) can be organised for as little as £6. My train fare was around £79 in total. I opted for first class on the way out and I was provided with x2 meals and unlimited drinks/snacks. I’d highly recommend this, it’s only £15 more to upgrade for a 7.5 hour journey!
- A kit list and the winter course notes are available here
- It’s a full day in the mountains (8:30am – 4:30pm), be prepared for this!
- A cash machine is under a 10 minute walk away from Ardenberg Bunkhouse.
- I extended my stay at SYHA for just £15.00 per night. I took the transfer back and the hostel was just a 5 minute walk away. I walked some of the Speyside Way and took the funicular railway up to the Cairngorm Mountains.
- Bus 31 (departs every hour) will take you straight from central Aviemore to the Cairngorms. It is approximately a 20 minute bus journey and a return ticket is £3.80.
- If you have any questions about the course, feel free to comment here or email me.