winter climbing the Scottish Highlands is one of the world's most beautiful mountain environments. It can also rank as one the most challenging and exciting places
to go winter climbing. It has unpredictable weather and wildly variable climbing conditions, but this all adds to the allure. It
always leaves a deep impression on anyone who climbs here.
winter 2018 the valley base for next winter's climbing courses is the Aviemore area of the Cairngorms National Park. The Cairngorm mountains, with their high arctic plateau, are literally on the doorstep and have the most reliable winter climbing conditions in Scotland. Winter climbing in the Cairngorms is nothing less than superb, being wonderfully varied and with reasonably short approaches to many of the routes. The style of climbing is predominately 'mixed', but not without the occasional ice pitch thrown into the pot. There are also numerous easier-graded snow gullies, perfect if you're just starting out or are more interested in the mountaineering aspect of Scottish winter.
The combination of good climbing and relative ease of access makes the Northern Cairngorms one of the best locations in Scotland for learning winter climbing skills. More can be achieved with what time you have available... and in a stunningly beautiful location too.
Being based in the Aviemore area is also about as good as it gets for being within reach of most of Scotland's major winter climbing venues. For example, the Torridonian mountains or An Teallach, with their infinite mountaineering possibilities, are easily within a day's striking distance. Alternatively, some of the most impressive ice falls in Scotland are 50 minutes drive away at Creag Meagaidh. And of course there's Ben Nevis, less than an hour and a half sees you from Aviemore to the top carpark beneath the north face.
winter climbing courses or daily climbing instruction, are arranged on request. Just get in contact with your preferred dates and we'll take it from there. Prices and booking information can be found on the bookings page. If you haven't climbed in winter before, or you're looking to brush up on existing skills, see below for an idea of what's possible.
beginners' winter climbing an introductory course of between 2 and 5 days can be arranged for just yourself or with a partner. We'd start by refreshing the basics skills of using a single axe and crampons to move un-roped on snow and ice covered slopes. You can then cut your teeth on a relatively easy snow gully or fight your way up a typical Cairngorm mixed route. In essence, these first few days are all about learning how to look after yourself seconding Scottish winter climbs; which can often be a very wild and elemental experience. From then on we can move through the skills needed to become a self-reliant winter climber, at a pace you're capable of and comfortable with.
improving your winter climbing there's no substitute for hands-on experience when it comes to being a safe winter climber. That's why new skills and techniques have to be learnt in real climbing situations. Together we'll choose routes that will not only create good learning opportunities but also memorable climbing days. You'll see a variety of snow and ice anchors being used, some cunning ways to arrange protection and some innovative methods of belaying in snow. There'll be plenty of practice at quickly evaluating snow conditions and sussing out the safest approach or retreat from a climb. There's even tips on how to navigate back to the car if the weather craps out. It's advisable to book at least 2 days of instruction if you're really intent on improving your skills.
guided winter climbing can be arranged anywhere in the Highlands, whether it's to tick a 'Cold Climbs' classic or for a mission to discover the far North West. It's a great way of broadening your winter climbing experience, pushing your grade or simply grabbing the chance to climb when a partner isn't available. I'm happy to guide on grade I snow gullies through to grade V ice climbs, and up to V 6 on mixed routes (conditions permitting). Guided winter climbing is available on a daily basis. However, if you have your eyes on a particularly long or more serious/technical route (e.g. Tower Ridge or an ice route on Liathach), it will be necessary to check out your current level of fitness and climbing ability on a shorter/easier climb, which will require an extra day.
previous experience needed a beginners winter climbing course can be tailored to accommodate most abilities. Some previous rock climbing and winter walking experience is a distinct advantage but more important is a good level of fitness. If you have no experience of being on a mountain in winter, or moving around on snow-covered slopes, at least a day of basic winter skills training will be necessary before we go climbing.
clothing and equipment having good quality mountain clothing is essential for winter climbing in Scotland. There's clothing and equipment advice on the winter
kit list, which will give you an idea of the personal stuff you'd need to bring along. For any winter climbing course or guided day out, all technical climbing equipment is provided free of charge. This includes good, modern technical axes and crampons, if you don't have your own.