With Sally going through the International Mountain Leader qualification at present one of the stages of the process is to be assessed as a leader in summer in the Alps. So, in July, we booked a few weeks off in the calendar and drove out with the intention of allowing a couple of weeks preparation time and a week for the assessment with Glenmore Lodge.
I'm not currently going through the IML so I was just in the Alps acting as 'support' providing transport, flower documentation skills and most importantly, the need for daily cake stops. With Sally's assessment based in southern Germany on the border with Austria, a veritable cake honeypot site, I knew my role in the team. Basically I'm a big fan of Austro-German cakes and Italian coffee. I was in my element!
Alongside the need to sample all the cake, the IML requires a fair amount of mountain experience, good navigational skills, ropework skills of a slightly higher level than the UK summer Mountain Leader qualification and a hell of a lot of local flora, fauna and historical and cultural knowledge. With this in mind Sally had already been reading up for months before heading out to the Alps, but during our two weeks of alpine preparation time we spent a lot of time looking at amazing flowers and learning about the local culture.
With some inclement weather at various parts of the trip in southern Bavaria we dotted about the Alps occasionally enjoying a few days in Italy, Switzerland and Austria to make the most of the different weather windows. We also managed to throw in a few days rock climbing and a number of fun easy summits; the Grosser Widderstein being a really nice day out alongside the traverse of the Nebelhorn and it's via ferrata.
After all this preparation and a lot of exploring the local area around Oberstdorf, Bavaria, it was fantastic to see Sally come away from assessment having not only passed but seemingly cruised the 5 days. Without any hesitation winter assessment, the final stage of the qualification process, was booked and now we have that to look forward to in January. Nice one Sally!
To celebrate, and with a few spare days before we had to head back, we headed to Switzerland in search of the best weather and landed in Saas Grund psyched to climb a bigger alpine peak. Straight off the lift the next morning we wondered up the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn (4010m), a fantastic airy AD scramble, and with wheezy lungs due to our total lack of acclimatisation descended to normal route to the Weisshorn hutte in time for dinner and a Radler. A great end to the trip!