International Mountain Leader

Assessor Helen Barnard and my fellow candidates. 

Assessor Helen Barnard and my fellow candidates. 

Lucy: The exciting news here for us in the French Alps is that I have passed my International Mountain Leader Award!  Its been a time consuming and often challenging process, that has taken me just under two years to complete, with two 5 day training courses and two assessments as well as a speed navigation test and months of personal consolidation.  Preparation for my final assessment was one of the ulterior motives in our relocation to France this winter. 

A break in the clouds on Mont Chery. 

A break in the clouds on Mont Chery. 

My last assessment began in Morzine a week ago, and I joined 15 other candidates and four super professional Plas Y Brenin assessors for five days of navigation, digging in the snow, avalanche transceiver searches and nature appreciation. The assessors kept us busy, scrutinised our skills, and gave us plentiful opportunities to demonstrate our knowledge. Thank you PYB instructing staff: Helen Barnard, Mark Tennent, Helen Teasdale and Rob Spencer. 

Whilst much of the IML award involves taking the skills that I've developed as a working mountain leader and applying them in an international setting, I've also learned absolutely loads. Emergency summer rope-work at this level can be more complex, and there is an expectation that IMLs will be slick and safe in dynamic situations. My understanding of the alpine snowpack and avalanche avoidance has increased exponentially (this is a subject where there is always room for more learning), and I've deepened my understanding of the flora and fauna of Europe. The best thing is that I've also had some awesome adventures on the way. The key for me I think was having a supportive community of fellow candidates to train and practice with over the last year or so, and ample preparation time to build up my experience whilst out here in France. Huge thanks to everyone who has joined me on the journey.  

Sub optimal conditions above the Col d'Encrenaz. 

Sub optimal conditions above the Col d'Encrenaz. 

Looking ahead, I'm excited to be going home to Scotland next week and returning to the mountains that I love the most on Arran. Nature is best for me when it's on my own patch, with birds, mammals and plants that feel like old friends.  However, I'm also blessed that this new qualification is going to bring me lots of thrilling work in Europe and the next few months are looking busy. I'm raring to go! 

La Belle Vie

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Lucy: We've settled in to life in France, and while Wally still has a while to go out here, I'm over half way through my stay. It's been a roller coaster ride of snow storms, epic weather, adventures, visiting friends and the daily routine of checking the avalanche hazard bulletins.  This is quite a job as here in Le Bourg d'Oisans, we nestle between the two forecast areas of Les Grandes Rousses, and Oisans, and have a couple more on our doorstep. Not only that but I've been travelling about, with visits to the Pelvoux for the Ecrins Ice Festival, and north towards the Beaufortain and Chamonix areas. The stack of Blue IGN maps on my desk is getting bigger and bigger, we've reached peak cheese, I'm finally starting to get the measure of la bureaucratie française.  As is usual for us, life is hectic. 

It's only four weeks now until I head back to Scotland and whilst I'm loving life out here, I'm looking forward to getting home to friends and family,  as well as hills that feel like old friends too. We are taking bookings for the Spring and I can't wait to be back beside the sea again. 


A White Christmas!

Lucy: We've heard a rumour that has travelled all the way from Scotland to le Bourg d'Oisans... Apprently there has been a White Christmas in some parts of the country... We hope that many of you have been able to get out and enjoy the snow, as we have over here. Today sadly,  it is mild and raining so we are hiding at home.  Above the house they are blasting loose rock to clear a road that was blocked in the last big storm. Tomorrow another epic snowfall is forecast.


I've been absolutely blessed with a fantastic welcome and a great new snowshoing companion. Kirsten and I made the most of the interim good weather over the weekend in the run up to Christmas. On Saturday I was a guest of the Grenoble-Oisans sector of the Club Alpin Français on one of their regular saturday meets.  This active club enjoy a lot of Snowshoeing and Kirsten is a regular particpant. On this occasion we met on the outkirts of Grenoble and headed in convoy up to Engins, in the Vercors Massif, for a snow shoe hike up to the plateau above Sornin.

As we set off the mist hung thick in the valley and it was a dark and depressive atmosphere in the forest.  It's quite a pull up to Sornin but once above the hamlet the mist began to disperse above us, and it wasn't long before we popped out of a cloud inversion in to brilliant blue skies. We paused at a chalet to "casse le croute" and also for some transceiver/probe/shovel practice, with the wise Francis patiently coaching us all on our technique. After lunch we continued in a circuit through the woodland on the plateau before eventually descending in to the mist once more. For me, this was an excellent experience- once more I was made to feel very welcome, and I enjoyed practicing my dodgy french on the group. It was also very interesting to see "how the locals do it", and I am grateful to Francis for sharing his knowledge and experience.


The following day Kirsten and I were a little tired! However, we managed to muster up some energy and Kirsten skillfully drove us up the steep snowy road to Villard Reymond from where we could easily access the small but steep little summit of Le Pregentil, that looms above the valley where we live. It was late afternoon, the sun was beaming at us from across the mountains, and we lingered for a long time on the summit taking it all in.

Yesterday of course was the big day, and we decided to spend the daylight hours outside, knowing that it would be the last good day for a while. Wally and Lee joined us for an ascent of La Quarlie, a 2322m summit above the village of Besse with incredible views of Le Meije. The sun beamed down on us and at times it was so hot we felt we were snowshoeing in the Caribbean not the Alps in December. The Quarlie itself is a big rounded lump, dare I say it a slog, nevertheless dwarfed by everything else around it. Again, we lingered on the summit, and the sun was setting as we raced back down to Besse so as not to miss our Christmas Dinner.

La Quarlie.png

The coming week looks a bit mixed for us out here, with bands of rain and snow coming through and topping up the mountains with their winter garb. We hope that all our friends and clients have had an enjoyable Christmas, with lots of time to spend with family, including some time outside having fun. In the closing days of 2017 we are reflecting on a busy year for us, and to looking ahead to perhaps our busiest yet to come. We would like to thank our customers for choosing to book their outdoor adventures with us and to wish them all the very best in this festive season.

Heavy Whalley: A life in Mountaineering and Mountain Rescue

heavy whalley poster


Heavy Whalley, A life in Mountaineering and Mountain Rescue

Wednesday 9th August, Corrie Village Hall at 7.30pm.

Hosted by the Arran Mountain festival. This promises to be an exciting evening.  Heavey is an experienced local mountaineer, who has dedicated his life to the mountains and mountain rescue. He has many adventures to tell both on Arran, and further afield.

If that isn't enough, Kirstie and I will be talking about our Arran 700s challenge, and Arran MRT will be flipping their legendary burgers...

Adults £10, u16 £7. Tickets from Arran Active.  BYOB!

Welcome to the new site!

The Arran Hills are currently snow free.

The Arran Hills are currently snow free.

We are excited to have started 2017 with a brand new site that better reflects what we do and the beautiful places that we work in. Over the next few weeks we will be adding content to the site. We hope that it will not only be a great showcase for our walks, but also for Arran and the outdoors in general.

In other news, I (Lucy) am off to the Alps on a training course next week, and not long after I get back, Wally and I will be moving our base temporarily up to Lochaber to begin offering our winter walks on the Scottish Mainland until the end of March.  We will be coming back to Arran from time to time so if you are interested in a walk/wildlife watching on Arran its still definitely worth getting in touch.