Garry Smith
climbing and mountain skills
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mountain skills
Kath crossing the remote and wonderful
'Northern Pinnacles' on Liathach
Torridon, North West Scotland.
The beautiful snow arete of Sgurr Dearg.
A lovely finish to a winter
mountaineering course at PyB in Lochaber.
Chubby Dave taking in the view of Coire Mhic Nobuil.
Torridon, North West Scotland.

mountain skills  a little bit of knowledge and experience can open up a world of opportunities in the mountains. Training can be arranged to help you enjoy the hills at any level. This can range from a single day's instruction through to a comprehensive multi-day course, depending on what you'd like to learn and how much time you have available.


beginners winter skills training  for most people, a short course, of only 2 or 3 days, is all that's required to gain the core skills for venturing into Scotland's winter mountains. You'll learn how to use an axe and crampons to travel across snow-covered or icy terrain. You'll also be shown how to plan a mountain journey that takes into consideration the forecasted snow and weather conditions. All in all, this a good kick start to a future life of winter mountain walking.


winter mountaineering courses  a course of between 2 to 4 days (depending on your experience) can give you the skills needed for tackling grade I/II gullies and snow-covered ridges. Training in these traditional mountaineering skills, as they are often referred to, can involve just a single mountaineering axe or two climbing axes, whatever your preference. Either way, the aim would be to set you up for venturing onto steeper or more serious winter terrain. You'll get to grips with winter scrambling and come to recognise the situations where a rope can add some safety.


where can winter skills training take place?  the usual venue is the Northern Cairngorms, with an accommodation base in Aviemore or one of the surrounding villages in the Spey Valley. The Cairngorm Mountains, an area of outstanding natural beauty, are an ideal environment for learning the basic skills of winter walking and mountaineering - the easily accessible Northern Corries have reliable snow cover throughout the season and contain a wealth of easy mountaineering terrain, particularly gullies. And the high and extensive Cairngorm plateau is about as arctic as it gets outside of the Arctic Circle.

Being based in the Aviemore/Northern Cairngorms area gives the option of a day's mountaineering in other major mountain ranges (Aviemore is centrally located in the Highland road network). The Laggan Hills and Creag Meagaidh are only 50 mins drive away. Ben Nevis and the Mamores can be reached in an hour and 15 minutes. And with an early start, Torridon, the Lochcarron Hills and An Teallach are also within a day's striking distance.

Winter skills training can also be based elsewhere, just ask. It's easily feasible to arrange courses based in Glencoe, the Fort William area or even the North West. There'd be a small additional charge to cover my re-location expenses (quoted upfront before any booking).


navigation training  learning how to find your way around a mountain in poor visibility can be far easier to learn than you might think. In just a couple of days you can have the whole map and compass thing de-mystified and become comfortable at navigating around the hills. You'll learn essential techniques such as how to walk on a bearing and how to pace or time the distance you've covered. You'll also learn how to pick out the safest route to your destination and how your smartphone's GPS can be used as a back-up tool. Navigation training is available on a daily basis, all year round.


summer scrambling  with as little as a day's instruction, you can grab the basic skills of route finding and hazard awareness, which are all that's needed to set you up for easier scrambles. If you'd like to take things further, I can teach you some simple climbing/rope techniques that will come in handy for the trickier sections of harder scrambles.

-  North Wales  Snowdonia has some of the most accessible and varied scrambling in the UK and is an ideal area to simply ferret around in the mountains and learn. Guided scrambling is available on a daily basis from late March through to November.

-  Skye  mountains, sea, great rock, magical light... Skye is unique and in our own backyard. There's countless corries and ridges to explore and the scrambling is as good as it gets anywhere (if not the best). The traverse of the main Cuillin ridge ranks as the mother of all British mountaineering journeys.

Guided trips of between 3 and 5 days can be organised for scrambling, climbing or a ridge traverse, with skills training along the way if you'd like it. The best times to go are in May, early June and in Sept, when the weather's traditionally more stable. I quote separately for guiding on Skye, so please get in touch for a no obligation chat.

There are 11 Munros on the main Cuillin ridge, including the Inaccessible Pinnacle (the most difficult of the Munros). A 4 day itinerary allows you to climb all of these peaks and return to your valley accommodation each evening. This is a fantastic way to intimately experience the Cuillin mountains. The days are long but achievable for any fit hill walker.


alpine preparation  make life in the bigger mountains that much easier with a bit of pre trip training. Learn the art of safe glacier travel and make sure you can haul a partner from a crevasse. If your objective is alpine rock, the ability to 'move together' quickly and fluidly can be practised on the numerous mountain crags in Snowdonia.