“The ball started to roll with a team of 3 Himalayan veterans who collectively had climbed six 6,000 metre peaks between them and who aspired to up the altitude ante by training for the 7,000 metre high Nun peak in northern India. The focus of this particular course was to not only practice all the skills needed to climb this enormous mountain but to practice them in terrain far more serious then that encountered on the peak itself.”
“We abseiled steep, overhanging terrain and loose, rocky alpine walls. We climbed rock sections in crampons and jumarred up vertical gullies with the overall strategy of making the training for Nun harder than what is needed to climb Nun peak itself. Once out on the mountain this team will feel well at ease with both the technical demands of the climb ahead and be able to climb without the continuous need for support from guides and Sherpa. Thanks to our extensive training, we will feel like we have reached the top on our own terms when hopefully we reach this fantastic summit.
The second team for 2023 had no previous mountaineering experience but had the broad aim of attempting a Nepali 6,000-metre peak in the future. For this we needed to focus on essential skills such as proper use of ice-axe and crampons, how to arrest a fall, glacier travel and crevasse rescue. In addition, we experimented with building snow and ice anchors to understand which anchor worked in various snow conditions. We practiced basic body belay systems and how to descend a rope without technical equipment before once again upping the ante and practicing abseiling over steep terrain and jumarring up a slope that replicates the headwall of Island Peak and Lobuche East perfectly.”
“This week was made especially informative by having snow guru David Norris along. Dave runs specialist avalanche awareness courses in the Pyrenees and his informative way of teaching added a huge amount basic knowledge to our teams rapidly filling repertoire of skills. The focus of the last day was to climb a Pyrenean summit but to let each team member take the lead and work out the safest and most practical way to get their teammates over complex alpine terrain. Each passed this section with flying colours. The highlight for all however was having John Churcher join us on this trip. John is completely blind and deaf yet proved to be incredibly inspirational by excelling at everything we threw at him. John flawlessly climbed a 6B rock route that spat off every other team member who attempted it. It was a huge inspiration for all to see that no matter which cards life deals you by simply having a go you might well reach goals you previously thought impossible.”
“The last team of the season was organised by Jamie Ironmonger of Adventure 999. This team was comprised of emergency service personal from the fire brigade, police and ambulance service. Deep snow conditions made for tough going but we managed to complete everything we set out to do and more. A useful addition was to introduce a “stress test” where team members had to ascend a 40 degree slope as quickly as they could only to be told they had to throw themselves off again and arrest themselves from falls varying from a belly slide to an upside down back slide. Everyone’s heart got pumping but as expected this crew proved to be able to handle the pressure well. Everyone’s highlight was building snow caves which went from being mere emergency shelters to elaborate snow homes in which everyone spent at least one night. On the last day we pushed the boundaries of our comfort zones even further and put our skills into practice, reaching the summit of a stunning local mountain over a huge 15 hour day. This day was made especially memorable by fantastic conditions and an incredible sunrise and sunset.”
“Once again the Pyrenees showed off their incredible beauty and suitability to train and practice every skill needed to be a self-sufficient mountaineer and a valuable team member for whichever expedition you aspire to.”