A group of students at the summit of Cairn Gorm

A group of students at the summit of Cairn Gorm

A scheme to train Scottish university students in mountaineering winter skills has been so successful it will be expanded to include autumn months.

The partnership between Mountaineering Scotland and St John Scotland began last winter, with 10 university clubs taking part.

The 11 weekend sessions were run by Mountain Instructor Certificate holder Nick Carter, and were aimed at improving safety for the students. He worked with university clubs, giving on-the-hill training to 86 students, teaching them about winter skills, winter mountaineering and winter climbing, depending on their existing levels of experience.

He also gave evening winter safety lectures to 181 students and gave informal advice to many more as they discussed their plans and preparations.

The programme was funded by the St John Scotland charity.

By the end of the first season St John Scotland was so impressed by what the project had achieved that it was extended to include this winter and next.

Now the organisation, which also provides substantial levels of funding for Scottish mountain rescue teams, has agreed to expand the scheme into the universities’ autumn term.

This will allow pre-winter training which will prepare often inexperienced students in advance of the less forgiving conditions in winter.

Mr Carter said: “Feedback from students who took part last winter was that more days of training would be very welcome.

A student practises ice-axe braking

A student practises ice-axe braking

“Winter weekends were already fully booked, so I suggested to St John Scotland that I could work with student clubs on their autumn weekend meets. This will allow me to give instruction to more young people and to teach general hill skills which will make a good foundation for the winter season.

“It will also give some opportunities to teach other important aspects of mountaineering, like scrambling and rock climbing, which cannot be done in the winter.”

Training weekends have already started for this winter and are fully booked. St John Scotland has confirmed that in addition to next winter’s sessions, they will fund 20 days’ training for clubs through September and October this year.

David Montieth, Mountaineering Scotland’s director for mountain safety, said: “The extension of the mountain safety instructor programme into the autumn months provides an opportunity to further improve the basic hill skills of Scottish students so vital for their forthcoming winter adventures.

“Nick Carter is a hugely experienced MIC who blends the vital components of technical competence with an approachable personality, which enables him to relate so well to the students.

“As such he is the ideal man to front this ground-breaking collaboration between St John Scotland and Mountaineering Scotland.”

Angus Loudon, St John Scotland’s executive director, said: “Following the success of Nick’s mountain safety training for students, St John Scotland is delighted to confirm the expansion of his post to include the autumn months, providing more training for Scottish university mountaineering clubs.

“The work he does with young people is critical, and ensures climbers are equipped with the necessary skills to deal with Scotland’s often treacherous terrain and conditions. We look forward to continuing to work with Nick, and wish him all the best for the exciting year ahead.”

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