We happy few.

Day 2 of the KSMRT winter skills course.

It was a day of reindeer and rainbows where the clouds played kiss me quick with the Cairn Gorm plateau, scurrying eastwards on a substantial breeze. 
We joined the pilgrimage up the mountain road to the ski resort’s base station. Skis and climbing equipment were in abundance as cars unloaded the multitudes into the rapidly filling car park at 9am this morning. The summits were hidden in thick cloud as the day started grey and damp.

“Do they have names?” I asked the lass trying to feed her herd of reindeer alongside our path?
“Yes,” she said, “ they do.”
I heard the names of Nutkin, Topi and Poirot called into the wind as she endeavoured to bring the herd to her. But not a single Donner or Blitzen or Rudolph.
“Ah, you’ll all have to move on”
She gestured to our brightly clad team snapping away with their cameras.
“You’re putting them off their breakfast,” she explained apologetically.

We strode on up the well made path into the Coire an Lochain valley. No mud jumping was needed here for once! 
After yesterday’s small group training events, we all came together today to further explore the use of snow’s qualities. The clever deployment of a single axe or creating a snow trench mean people can be safely assisted on sloping terrain with a rope and belay system. 
There was a substantial amount of watching, then digging and knot tying as we grappled with South African abseils and the West Coast stomper amongst others. And the time flew.

I asked Adrian our Team Leader about the benefits of the winter skills course especially when, in reality, it would be highly unlikely these new talents would be needed in the Eden Valley.
“Absolutely,” he agreed, “the Lakes teams will rarely need to call upon these techniques because we just don’t have the Scottish winter conditions. But learning these things together does an enormous amount for our teamwork and development and helps us see new ways of approaching things that we can apply elsewhere. And it’s a great way to get to know each other better too.”

A fact borne out beautifully when our instructor Graham set out the afternoon project. As the skies cleared and the sun shone, we were divided into two teams. We were to get all our team members to the bottom of the snow slope we’d been working on in the fastest time possible. He outlined a few rules and gave us a few minutes to plan our strategies.

As ‘Go’ was called, the creativity of problem solving immediately came into play with our opposing team taking terrorist gambits to hijack our approach at every corner, or rope length. Snowballs of course were hurled into the mix and there was a clear satisfaction on their faces as they celebrated a winning strategy. It was a short-lived joy.
Graham looked at us as we got our final teammate over the line and pronounced us the winners.
“You lot cheated your way through the whole challenge,” he bantered in response to the other team’s now betrayed expressions.
All we could do was laugh from the moral high ground!

As the only woman on the course this year with the KSMRT Team, it has been an education from day one. The lads could be described as focussed and passionate cake and curry eaters. Or you could say they are serious kit geeks if our luggage is anything to go by. 

However, it may be Shakespeare’s oft quoted line in Henry V that cuts gently to tell of the soul of these lovely men:
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”
They are prepared and ready to battle any weather and conditions in order to maintain or save lives. And that makes them the best company in the world.

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