Compression Cracks Ben Nevis
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The second ice pitch of Compression Cracks, Castle Coire, Ben Nevis

scottish winter climbing courses

Scottish winter climbing courses

The Highlands in winter is one of the world’s most beautiful mountain environments. It also ranks as one the most challenging and exciting places to go winter climbing. The unpredictable Highland weather and wildly variable climbing conditions all add to the allure. It always leaves a deep impression on anyone who climbs here.

Winter climbing courses are tailor-made and arranged on request. They can be anything from 2 to 4 days, depending on how much of a kick-start you think your winter climbing may need. Chat to me first and I’ll advise.

Courses are normally run in the Northern Cairngorms, using Aviemore, or one of the nearby villages, as a valley base. The Northern Corries of the Cairngorms are packed with excellent winter climbs, particularly in the low to mid grade range. Following a quick refresh of basic winter skills, we’d climb a relatively easy gully or straightforward mixed route. In essence, the first day will be all about how to look after yourself on a Scottish winter climb; which can often be a very wild and elemental experience. From then on we’ll make the most of every day, climbing carefully chosen routes at a pace you’re capable of and comfortable with. We can push things too.

Improving your winter climbing

If you already have some winter climbing under your belt and would like to improve your skills to tackle harder routes, I can help. I’m convinced that new skills and techniques are best learnt in real climbing situations. With that in mind, we’d aim to climb as many pitches as possible in the time available. This maximises the opportunity of seeing a variety of rock, snow and ice protection being used, and well as a range of different winter belaying techniques. This hands on experience is key to walking away a better winter climber. It’s a good idea to book at least 2 days of instruction if you’re really intent on improving your winter climbing skills.

Guided winter climbing

A classic gully in the Northwest, an ice climb on Creag Meagaidh, or a mixed route in the Cairngorms, if there’s something specific you’d like to climb, let’s speak. If it’s possible on the day, we’ll do it. Otherwise, I’ll recommend the best alternative climb based on the weather and conditions. Guided climbing can be arranged throughout the Highlands and booked on a daily basis.

If you have your eye on a particularly long or committing route, for example Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis or something on Beinn Eighe, it would be sensible to first check out your current level of fitness and climbing ability. This would require an additional day. Grade V is my maximum grade for guided winter climbing.

Previous experience needed

Winter climbing instruction can be tailored to accommodate most abilities. However, a Scottish winter climb isn’t the best place to be handling a rope for the first time, so some previous rock climbing or summer mountaineering experience is required. If you’ve never been in the winter mountains before, we’d need to go through a day of basic winter skills training before we go climbing. You’ll of course need to be hill fit.