Scottish Winter Climbing

Alan enjoying some superb ice climbing on the North Face of Ben Nevis, (‘Winter Cascade’, IV)

Scotland’s winter mountains are rightly world famous for the quality of their winter climbing. When the Highlands are incased in snow, hoar frost and ice they are a wild and enchanting place, and that’s before the equally famous weather adds to the mix. They say Scottish climbing is good training for the Himalayas but stuck in a blizzard high on the North Face of Ben Nevis you could be forgiven for thinking it was the other way round!

We run bespoke winter climbing courses ranging from introduction for complete beginners to high level guiding.

Instruction
If you have a basic level of rock climbing and, ideally, some winter mountaineering experience we can help you make the difficult transition to winter climbing. Check out our Introduction to Winter Climbing course.

Our company ethos means we will try and provide you with positive and educational experiences whilst ensuring we pass on the wisdom of our own hard won experience.

Guiding

If you already have some experience of Scottish Winter Climbing why not take this further with ascents of some of the classic winter climbs of the Highlands. Great experiences in the company of our friendly and professional Guides. Check out our Guided Winter Climbs course.

Course Ratios

With low ratios we are able to move at exactly your pace and progress through your own climbing apprenticeship at the rate most appropriate for you. In this way you will never feel held back by a less fit and able group member or alternatively never feel pressured into doing something that has your eyes on stalks! Similarly the venues chosen can revolve around your past experience, future aspirations and what 3 star routes you want to tick!

Venues

From our usual winter base in Fort William we are able to reach a wide variety of venues from Ben Udlaidh in the Southern Highlands to Glen Coe, Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor in Lochaber. We can also travel east to Creag Meagaidh and the Northern Cairngorms. That’s a lot of variety in a week’s climbing.

Conditions
Many of the classic Scottish ice climbs are highly conditions dependent. Come with your tick list by all means but try and have an open mind to alternatives. Big ice routes are notoriously fickle both in terms of the quantity and quality of ice build-up and the invariably steep snowy approach and exit, which can be exposed to avalanche. Decisions as to whether they are safe on any given day of the winter can be tricky….better to hire a Highland Guide!

Don’t be disappointed if a safer alternative objective is offered. Snowed up rock buttresses, or mixed climbing can provide a superbly rewarding winter climbing experience and are often more likely to be both in condition and safe. Personally, Scottish winter mixed climbing is one of my favourite aspects of the wide spectrum of mountaineering we do – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! (But your nice new axes and crampons may need sharpening afterwards!)

Introduction to Winter Climbing

If you have a basic level of rock climbing and, ideally, some winter mountaineering experience High Mountain Guides can help you make the difficult transition to winter climbing.

We can teach you:

  • Good winter mountaineering movement skills
  • Climbing techniques on ice and mixed ground
  • Selection and use winter anchors – rock, ice and snow (usually in that order)
  • How to retreat off a winter climb
  • Route selection
  • Avalanche assessment
  • Navigating your way back off the hill in bad conditions.

Our ethos means we will try and provide you with positive and educational experiences whilst ensuring we pass on the wisdom of our own hard won experience.

Possible venues to visit and climbs to attempt:

  • Ben Nevis – Ledge Route (II), No.2 Gully (II), Bob Run (II), Tower Scoop (III), Castle Ridge (III), Green Gully (IV)
  • Aonach Mor – Right Twin (II), The Web (II), Left Twin (III), Golden Oldie (II/III)
  • Glencoe – Dorsal Arete (II), Sron na Lairig (II), Curved Ridge (II/III), Boomerang Arete (III), Aonach Eagach (II/III)
  • Creag Meagaidg – Cinderella (II), Staghorn Gully (III)
  • Northern Cairngorms – Hidden Chimney (II/III), Fiacaill Couloir (II/III), Red Gully (II/III), Sidewinder (III), Euan Buttress (III)

However the itinerary can revolve around your ability, fitness and goals. Easier, harder or specific alternatives could be included as required.