My New Ice Axe Skills!

Decision made! I will do this “ice axe, crampons and self arresting” course in order to prepare for my next thru hike!! I am all set, the plane to Inverness, Scotland, leaves in 7 hours. So I better get some sleeping done.

I slept surprisingly well, despite the anticipation of flying and self arresting…

Oh hell, it’s shaky in the air! I better grab one of these little airline bags and vomit into it!

Done. I feel much better (but my seat neighbour probably doesent anymore. Sorry mate!).

I arrive more or less savely at Inverness Airport, wait for the bus, hop on the bus to Inverness, wait one hour for the train, hop on the train to Aviemore, wait one hour for the bus, hop on the bus to Glenmore, walk a mile to the Glenmore Lodge outdoor center. Done! That was quick, the journey only took me 13 hours to get here.

Piece of cake!

I grab my room, have a drink at the bar, and already meet some girls who seem also be doing the same course as I am! They are all super nice and friendly local Scotland girls! Awesome! I love their accents!

Very welcoming these Scottish! I like!! And it seems they like to drink! Alright, I am also having another one!

Time to get some sleep and check out whether my roommate is there now. I have not met her yet and am rather curious with whom I am going to share my room with!

Nobody here, just some bags and lots of clothes! Alright! Going to sleep.

The lights are being switched on.


“Hi! I am Amy!”, says a young Scottish girl with red hair and a big smile.

It clicks right away! I like her. Sometimes it’s funny, you meet somebody and “boom”, you like ’em right away. She rumages around and I go back into sleeping mode.

We wake up rather early and start chatting, both still in our beds. Amy is also a long distance hiker! A very young and very funny one! So we chat about our hikes until breakfast.

So. TIme to meet our instructors! There is a large group of wonna be mountaineers here, so they split us up in several little groups. Amy is in a different one. Boohoo.

My group seems nice though, the instructor seems nice and skilled! Perfect, let’s get the hell out there on these icy Scottish mountains and learn how to ice-axe without panicking!

First, we do some theory work about the weather and avalanches and navigation with map and compass.

Now we are ready! Last equipment check, and off we go!

Finally outdoors! Finally up in the mountains!

Oh my it’s chilly!

Wind is still absolutely crazy too!

Love it!

We always have to group huddle when the instructor says something, otherwise we can’t hear him.

We learn how to climb up and down an icy snow slope with the help of kicking steps and the ice axe!

Awesome!! It’s not that hard/scarry once you know how to do it! :D


Alright, let’s try some self arresting in a shady, frozen spot, won’t we?!

Ha! Thats even fun! Who would have thought!

Well, to be honest, we are just (literally) scratching the surface of self arresting, but having an idea of the technique does give me a better feeling about this all! And the idea is to learn on this course how NOT to slip and fall on the ice in the first place!

We did not go high today due to crazy high winds and avalanche danger. The snow is patchy down here and we have to look out for icy fields to play around in. But it’s oh so beautiful!

Alright! Enough excitement for today. We hike back to the ‘base camp’, get tea and cake (thank you guys from Glenmore Lodge!), have a quick debriefing, rest, have dinner, get two lectures about winter navigation and avalanches and off I go to bed!

Amy seems to hang out at the bar, she is not in our room yet. I hit the hay.

Already morning! Breakfast! Quick briefing with the group, and off we go, higher up today into the snow, ice and wind!

We check on the map where we are going. 600 meter up! Cross-country! On snow and ice. OK. Let’s do this!

We learn some more ice axe techniques (might very well come in very handy one fine day on the CDT…)

More hiking up. It gets steeper! Icyer!

Time to get these Crampons sorted!

We learn some different walking techniques with these things strapped onto our shoes.

Rule number one: Don’t get your feet too close together otherwise the crampons hook up and you will stumble and fall.

Rule number two: Don’t get your feet too close together otherwise the crampons hook up and you will stumble and fall.

Rule number three: Don’t get your feet too close together [you get the idea….]

I stumble and fall.


Tricky these things!

Aha! Now we are talking! We crampon up and up, into an icy, cloudy winter world into which you can’t get into sans crampons and sans ice axe!


I am back into Happy Heidi mode!

Our instructor does an excellent job keeping us all save out here! He is great!

He wants us to learn some more navigation skills and asks us to get the maps and compasses out of our pockets again, but we all seem to be too reluctant, tired and cold, (and overwhelmed in my case) to work up enough enthusiasm for some more navigation skills now. So all the five of us moan. Our instructor is not amused, but I think he understands!

“It is BLOODY cold!”

We want a one last “hot coffee from thermos” break and then its time to get home back to the base camp.

We almost run down that mountain in our crampons and beat the wind!

Down is easy and great fun!

I fall again! (Forgot about rule 1, 2, and 3).

Goodness I am knackered! A hot bath would be perfection now! But that option is not available.

Well, in this case, I meet Amy at the bar instead.

She is really great! I hope to see her again!

Well, time to sleep. Tomorrow, I will take the train to Edinburgh, check out the city a little bit, stay in a hotel (with hopefully a hot bath option!) and fly home the next morning.

What can I say, it was an amazing two learning days up here in Scotland! The group was great! The instructor was great! The learning was great! I am so glad I made the effort to come up here! It was so worth it!

I definitely come back to Scotland, with its warm and friendly people, and generous, beautiful landscape!

But first things first: CDT is next!


5 replies
  1. Kathy says:

    Hello Heidi– it is so funny–I tried emailing you last night & got back an automatic message I couldn’t read!– So I am so glad to get your posting today! This experience in Scotland sounds great—just what is needed to prepare you and calm your nerves when you hike and come upon these conditions—-Congratulations to you for accomplishing it!

  2. Tanja says:

    Hi Heidi! What a great experience this must have been. I‘m glad you liked it in Scotland, you know I love it there, have been there at least 15 times 😉. Best of luck to you!

  3. Carol & Jim says:

    Congrats to you, Heidi!! You have such an interesting life – thank you for sharing your adventures with us!!

  4. Connie Lufkin says:

    Hopefully your new ice hiking skills will keep you safe on your new adventure on the CDT! I’m so looking forward to hearing about your next thru hike.



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