Winter Climbing

Instruction

If you have a basic level of rock climbing and, ideally, some winter mountaineering experience Highland Guides can help you make the difficult transition to winter climbing. We can teach you - how to select and use winter anchors – rock, ice and snow (in that order!); good winter mountaineering movement skills, climbing techniques on ice and mixed ground, how to retreat off a winter climb and the important skills of route selection, avalanche assessment and navigating your way back off the hill in bad conditions.

Our ethos means we will try and provide you with positive and educational experiences whilst ensuring we pass on the wisdom of our own hard won experience.

Guiding

Hire a ‘highland guide’ and actually get on those classic winter routes you have dreamed about. Tower Ridge, The Orion Face, Point Five Gully, Green Gully….The list goes on – it’s not difficult to be inspired, and that’s just Ben Nevis. We are able to offer guided winter climbing experiences up to Scottish grade V, or VI to suitably experienced clients in perfect conditions (rare!). That covers many of the routes in the brilliant and highly recommended coffee table winter climber’s book – “Cold Climbs”, if further inspiration was needed.

There is also a fantastic array of easier climbing and high quality mountaineering available. Routes such as Curved Ridge and Aonach Eagach, Glen Coe; Ledge Route on Ben Nevis, the West Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn, or a long gully on Creag Meagaidh are alpine in scale and high in quality. The E. Face of Aonach Mor, Ben Udlaidh, Stob Coire Nan Lochain and the Northern Corries of Cairngorm can provide superb and more accessible winter climbing experiences.

Conditions

Many of the classic Scottish ice climbs are highly conditions dependent. Come with your tick list by all means but try and have an open mind to alternatives. Big ice routes are notoriously fickle both in terms of the quantity and quality of ice build-up and the invariably steep snowy approach and exit, which can be exposed to avalanche. Decisions as to whether they are safe on any given day of the winter can be tricky….better to hire a Highland Guide!

Don’t be disappointed if a safer alternative objective is offered. Snowed up rock buttresses, or mixed climbing can provide a superbly rewarding winter climbing experience and are often more likely to be both in condition and safe. Personally, Scottish winter mixed climbing is one of my favourite aspects of the wide spectrum of mountaineering we do – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! (But your nice new axes and crampons may need sharpening afterwards!)