01690 720214

How to Choose Your Scottish Winter Course

Keith Ball - Senior Instructor at Plas y Brenin


By Instructor Keith Ball

With snow on the ground in Scotland and lots of people already getting out on the mountains it's the time of year to be planning your visit up north. This winter we have a range of courses to suit everyone, in fact such a variety it may be hard to decide which one is for you. In order to get the most out of your course it is worth giving some thought to your current experience and what you hope to be able to do after the course.

So what is the difference between hillwalking, mountaineering and climbing?


Scottish Winter HillwalkingIf you have spent time on the British hills in summer conditions and are ready to venture out in winter then Scottish Winter Hillwalking is for you. You will be introduced to crampons and axes and how, where and when to use them. During five full days on the hill you will consider good route choice and avalanche avoidance. This is a great week for developing your skills and confidence in the winter environment whilst experiencing some of Scotland's classic hills and mountains. The aim of the course is to give you the skills and confidence for independent exploration in the future.


scottish winter mountaineeringIf you are an experienced and competent summer hillwalker with some challenging days under your belt and are looking for a steeper learning curve then Scottish Winter Mountaineering is what you are after.Maybe you have some experience in winter and are looking to consolidate your skills or, you just haven't had the opportunity to get out recently and are looking to update yourself. You should have a good level of fitness that will allow you to enjoy five consecutive days of mountaineering on the more challenging peaks of Glencoe and Lochaber. The aim of this course is to move you from being a dedicated hillwalker into a mountaineer. This will involve developing a large range of skills and techniques as well as the ability to make sound decisions in potentially harsh conditions. Think winter scrambling rather than winter hillwalking, being on terrain where knowledge of simple ropework is useful. What is certain is five memorable days that will prepare and enthuse you for future adventures.

Scottish WInter ClimbingIf steeper terrain and use of two axes is what you want then Scottish Introduction to Winter Climbing will meet your needs. Previous experience should include time spent rock climbing that has given you an insight to rope work, or general mountaineering that has taken you on more technical terrain. You should feel happy in a steep exposed environment and have a good level of fitness. Previous winter experience would be useful but good movement skills, fitness and an understanding of the principles of climbing are more important. The week will be spent on some of Scotland's finest routes whether it's a snowy gully, an ice route, a buttress or a classic ridge.

If you already have some experience of snow and ice climbing then this is the course for you; Scottish Performance Winter Climbing. With a ratio of 1:2 from the start we have the opportunity to maximise time on routes. You will already be aware of the demands of winter climbing and will be well prepared with a high level of fitness. We will have a flexible approach to make the most of conditions, giving you further coaching on longer and more challenging routes. This will develop your skill and technique whilst covering as much ground as possible.

Scottish Guided Winter Classics – it’s all in the name!
This week will take you up some of Scotland’s great winter climbs with a focus on maximum mileage on steep ground. You will climb with some of the most experienced Guides and Instructors around who will help you develop safe and efficient movement on the higher graded climbs. You will need a high level of fitness with previous climbing experience under your belt. This course is designed to take your climbing to the next level!

Scottish Guided Winter ClimbingYou might have noticed that fitness has been mentioned several times! Remember the Scottish mountains are bigger than those south of the border and the walk in often starts much closer to sea level. When combined with extreme weather conditions this can make for a very physically demanding day. Also, the more technically orientated your course the bigger and heavier your rucksack will be. Whatever course you choose, the fitter you are the more likely you are to enjoy the experience and learn from it.

Cardiovascular fitness is most important, the more running or hillwalking you can do in the build up to your course the better. Almost as important as fitness is your keenness to embrace the Scottish mountain experience and all it throws at you! A positive attitude and a willingness to get stuck in are vital characteristics!

So in summary:

Scottish Winter Hillwalking – If you want to learn about crampons, axes, avalanche awareness and navigation.

Scottish Winter Mountaineering – will give you the above skills and take you onto the more challenging mountains.

Scottish Introduction to Winter Climbing – If you want to try out winter climbing.

Scottish Performance Climbing – If you have done some winter climbing and want to learn more and get you to the level.

Scottish Guided Winter Classics – If you want to get the best possible week of climbing in Scotland.

If you are still not sure what to choose, why not give us a call 01690 720214


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