Looking west from Spidean a’Choire Leith, Liathach, Torridon
Scotland’s winter mountains
A little bit of knowledge and experience can open up a world of opportunities in the mountains. Whether you aspire to climb winter Munros, shuffle along snowy ridges or fight your way up mixed climbs, I can more than likely help you on your journey. Throughout the winter season, from late December until late March, I offer tailored skills training, for all levels of ability. This can range from a single day’s instruction through to a comprehensive multi-day course.
To make it easier to explain the type of winter training I offer, I’ve broken it down into three categories…
Winter skills is the type of training that covers the basic stuff needed to enjoy the mountains in winter – how to use an axe and crampons, how to navigate in snowy conditions and, very importantly, how to cope in Scotland’s often harsh winter environment. Essentially, winter skills training is a generic term for equipping a summer hill walker with the skills needed for winter mountain walking.
Winter mountaineering courses teach the skills needed to venture onto steeper or more serious winter terrain, usually up to maximum of grade II. In Scotland, winter mountaineering is traditionally, but not exclusively, done with one axe. The style of ropework is ‘rough and ready’ and more akin to alpinism than rock climbing, and is only used to safeguard the more difficult sections of a journey. If your mountaineering ambitions lie in the big gullies of the Northwest or on the classic grade I/II ridges of Glencoe and Ben Nevis, well, this is the type of training you’ll need.
Winter climbing instruction, generally speaking, comes into play when you think two axes would be more useful than one, which for most people happens somewhere around grade II. It mainly involves skills borrowed from traditional rock climbing, but with a winter twist to cope with steep snow, ice and snowed-up rock. If you’re already comfortable in the winter environment, this type of training can set you on the path to being a competent winter climber.
There’s no distinct line between each activity; one merges seemlessly into another. Who’s to say when winter walking terrain becomes mountaineering, or when mountaineering becomes climbing; it’s all subjective. However, there are skills that are common to all three; avalanche awareness, the ability to plan a winter’s day and knowing what to do in an emergengency being equally important to walkers, mountaineers and climbers. You’ll find more detailed information by following the links below.