Mountain Skills Course

Last weekend Catherine and I went and did Bren Whelan’s Mountain Skills 1 course in the bitterly cold Wicklow mountains. I was pleasantly suprised at the amount we covered over the two days and am much happier with my navigation skills now.

Concentrating Hard

The first day we covered different types of maps and their features, how to intepret contours, hand-railing (i.e. how to use a feature to guide you), different types of slopes, gear, mountain rescue, etc. etc. Aaron Byrne of Mountain Ventures Hostel and Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue was our instructor for the day.

The second day we went up Trooperstown Hill and moved onto a gradual, but detailed, introduction to navigating with a compass, pacing excercises, recovering from errors and “aiming off”. Bren was our instructor and I really liked the way he eased us into the skills, introduced concepts gradually and then did lots of useful excercises to drill them into us.

Both days we were joined by Ian, a trainee instructor, who very quietly added some useful tips and helped keep the atmosphere relaxed and cheerful.

There was six in our group, which was a perfect group size. It was nice that we had a mixture of experience and interests, but at the same time we were all at a similar level so no-one felt left behind or bored.

The Group

Some of the most useful stuff we picked over the weekend was from seemingly random chats between the “real” stuff, but I guess that was all part of the plan, really.

I’d definitely recommend these courses to anybody who likes to spend time in the mountains. They’re extremely well thought out, professional, good accompanying material etc. At the end of the course you’ll feel a lot more confident about what you’d do if something went wrong.

We stayed two nights in Lough Dan House, not far from Laragh, well up in the wild mountains between Scarr and Lough Dan (O 147 032). Sean and Theresa we great hosts and we spent hours chatting with them on Friday night in front of a roaring fire over a bottle of wine. The room was really top notch – newly decorated, big, bright, airy and cheerful – with an en-suite. Plenty of choice for breakfast, with everything from porridge to “full irish” to kippers on the menu. I reckon we’ll be back there as we start heading to Wicklow more often.

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