At the start of March for Women Outdoors Week both Plans y Brenin and Glenmore Lodge, the National Mountain Centres, ran a series of winter training courses specifically for women. We’ve caught up with avid hiker and Mountain biker Laura Hall who attended the week long winter mountaineering course run by Plas y Brenin in Scotland. Here’s how she found it….
What made you get into the outdoors?
After being persuaded by a work colleague several years ago to join her on a sponsored walk, I visited my local outdoor shop and asked to be kitted out with a good pair of walking boots and that’s how it all started!
So I just began to love walking. From the training walks across my local North Downs to trips away with my husband to the Lakes, Wales and Scotland, that first pair of comfortable boots was the key.
But then I started to realise that my husband (a former venture Scout) was always planning and leading our walks, doing all the navigating and I was essentially just following along.
So I discovered the national mountain centres, Glenmore Lodge in Scotland and Plas y Brenin in North Wales and I spent my 2016 annual leave allowance attending courses and building my skills. I completed courses on mountain skills, winter skills and scrambling and began to feel much more confident being out in the hills generally and with planning mountain journeys and the decision making along the way. These trips were also some of the best holidays I’d ever had and met so many great people along the way.
What did you think of the Women’s Week course?
I decided to take it up a level, as well as consolidate my previous courses and I booked onto the Scottish Women’s Winter Mountaineering course with Plas y Brenin, based near Fort William.
The course itself was excellent, allowing me to progress to Mountaineering with rope work. This included the planning stages at the beginning of each day and then undertaking a mountain journey with skills instruction along the way. We also managed to completed several grade 1 and 2 mountaineering routes throughout the week.
There was also plenty of opportunity to build on my previous experience including walking with crampons and ice axe and general movement skills on the mountain, as well as winter weather considerations, avalanche awareness and winter navigation.
This was all delivered by the amazing instructors from Plas y Brenin who have a wonderful ability to draw out your own talents and skills and build on those to increase your knowledge and confidence. The accommodation was top notch with plenty of fantastic food to fuel our journeys, all included within the course fee, which also includes top quality kit hire. Evening lectures were also provided which were both educational and entertaining.
What did you think of a Women’s only course?
Having always participated in mixed courses previously, this was the first time I had seen a women’s specific course being offered and I felt that it would be great to be part of an initiative to encourage more women in the outdoors. I am often described by friends and colleagues as ‘completely bonkers’ for getting out and doing all these macho activities with the boys and it was great to share the week with like minded women who also wanted to learn new skills in the outdoors.
I would definitely recommend this particular winter mountaineering course and the courses in general offered by the national mountain centres as ways of accessing the mountains safely and building the skills to get out under your own steam. Hopefully more women’s specific courses will also become available to allow any ladies wanting to get out in the mountains to see that it is both achievable and enjoyable for all.
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