Winter is coming! There is no better time to get out into the British mountains than when they are covered in snow and ice. Not only are they quieter, but the mountains are at their most beautiful in their winter coats.
For those heading out for some winter walking or climbing this coming season, a winter skills course is a great way to make sure that you have the essential skills to keep yourself safe. For those with mountaineering ambitions beyond the British Isles, winter is also the perfect time to sharpen your skills, giving you the best chance of success on your dream peak.
Which is the best winter skills course for you?
Which course is best for you depends on your ambitions and on what skills you already have. Below I’ve given a short breakdown of what to expect from each of our winter skills courses which should help you to decide. All of our courses include accommodation, and are based out of Onich, giving us great access to Glen Coe and Ben Nevis.
For people with little or no ice axe and crampon experience:
These courses are suitable for summer hill walkers, scramblers, and climbers who are looking to take their fist steps in the hills in winter. You don’t need to have used ice axe or crampons before, but you should have a reasonable level of hill walking fitness.
Scottish Winter Walking Skills / Ben Nevis Winter Climb
Best for: Those wanting winter skills without venturing onto steeper ground
These two courses cover the basic ice axe and crampon skills – essential skills for walking in the UK hills in winter conditions, and the minimum skills needed on many less technical expeditions (such as Mt. Elbrus Southern Approach, Mera Peak, and Aconcagua). The courses also cover winter navigation, avalanche avoidance, and using emergency shelters. The first instructed day of the course is spent learning new skills, while the next two days will be mountain journeys where these new skills are practised and refined (including an ascent of Ben Nevis for the Ben Nevis Winter Climb course).
Winter Mountaineering Course Scotland
Best for: Those wanting a solid grounding in winter mountaineering technique
This course covers the same ice axe and crampon skills as Winter Walking Skills, but then moves on to cover movement and security on steeper and more exposed ground, ascending some classic grade I/II gullies and ridges towards the end of the course. This is the ideal course for anyone who is planning on venturing onto steep ground and is looking for the skills to become a well-rounded mountaineer. It is also the best course for those with aspirations of progressing into winter climbing with one of the Snow and Ice Climbing courses below.
Winter Expedition Skills
Best for: Those with limited camping experience preparing for their first expedition in the greater ranges
This course covers a range of skills that will help prepare you for high altitude expeditions. As well as the essentials of ice axe and crampon technique, you will spend two nights wild camping in the Scottish mountains, sleeping in tents and cooking for yourself on expedition stoves – great preparation for expeditions such as Aconcagua. You will also cover other skills such as using fixed lines, skills which you can use on trips from Island Peak and Peak Lenin, right through to Cho Oyu and Everest.
For people wanting to improve on existing skills:
Introduction to Snow and Ice Climbing
This course is aimed at those who have already learned the basic crampon & ice axe techniques and now want to climb snow and ice at grades I to III. Ideally you will also have some rock-climbing experience on which to build. The course covers:
- Snow belays, rock and ice anchors
- Multi-pitch climbing
- Route choice and avalanche avoidance
- Movement and technique
Improvers’ Snow and Ice Climbing
For those with previous winter climbing experience who wants to improve their skills, learn to lead or push their grade. The course will cover all aspects of the Introductory course plus:
- Routes graded III-V
- Learning to lead (where conditions permit) & retreating safely
- Advanced techniques of ice & rock protection
If you have any questions about which course would be best for you then please get in touch and we will be happy to chat through the options.
Our Scottish winter skills courses run from January to March each season.