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Reaching the first belay on a mega spindrift day.
'Fluted Buttress Direct', Northern Cairngorms.
Ian making the iconic move on 'Fingers Ridge' in
glorious alpine weather. Northern Cairngorms.
Dusk on the summit plateau of the Ben Nevis
after climbing 'Indicator Wall'.

winter climbing  the Scottish Highlands in winter 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. 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.


beginners' winter climbing courses  an introductory course of between 2 and 4 days can be arranged for just yourself or with a partner. We'd start by refreshing the basics skills of using an axe and crampons to move un-roped on snow and ice covered slopes. You can then cut your teeth on a relatively easy gully or fight your way up a typical mixed buttress climb. In essence, these first few routes 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 are best learnt in real climbing situations. We'll climb routes where you can see a variety of rock, snow and ice protection being used, and where you can also observe some innovative methods of winter belaying (when there's soft snow or you've topped-out onto a barren plateau). It's advisable to book at least 2 days of instruction if you're really intent on improving your skills.


where can winter climbing instruction take place?  the usual venue for winter climbing instruction is the Northern Corries of the Cairngorm Mountains, with an accommodation base in Aviemore or one of the surrounding villages in the Spey Valley. The easy to access Northern Corries have the most reliable winter climbing conditions in Scotland and are blessed with a good selection of routes in the lower to mid grades. The style of climbing is predominately 'mixed', with an abundance of good quality buttress routes, interspersed by a number of easy snow gullies.

Being based in the Aviemore/Northern Cairngorms area gives the option of a day's climbing in other major winter climbing venues (Aviemore is centrally located in the Highland road network). If conditions are favourable, some of the most impressive ice falls in Scotland are only 50 minutes drive away at Creag Meagaidh and the Ben Nevis carpark can be reached in an hour and 15 minutes. And with an alpine start, Torridon is also within a day's striking distance.

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


previous experience needed  a beginners winter climbing course can be tailored to accommodate most abilities. Some previous rock climbing experience is a distinct advantage but having none is not insurmountable. If you have no experience of being on a mountain in winter, a day of basic winter skills training will be necessary before we go climbing. You'll need to be fit... very fit.


guided winter climbing  can be arranged on a daily basis anywhere in the Highlands. I'm happy to guide on classic grade I snow gullies through to grade V ice climbs, and up to V 6 on mixed routes (conditions permitting). However, if you have your eye on a particularly long or more commiting route (e.g. Tower Ridge or a route on Beinn Eighe's Triple Buttress), it would be sensible to check out your current level of fitness and climbing ability on a more straightforward climb, which will require an additional day.


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.