Scottish Winter Mountaineering
- Location &
summer mountaineering and a good level of fitness.
* Includes accommodation on the night after your course finishes
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Black = Open for booking
Green = Guaranteed to run (additional places are limited please email to enquire)
Red = Course fully booked
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Detailed Course Notes
You should be 18 years old to attend this course.
Is it for me?
Experience with axe and crampons would be very useful on this course, as would a good level of summer hill walking fitness. This will help you to get the most out of the week and allow you to cope with what at times, can be challenging conditions. The days can be long and demanding but as with all our winter courses enthusiasm and determination are the key. This course is ideal for those people who have previously attended our Scottish Winter Hillwalking course.
This course will take you progressively through the skills of winter mountaineering. Venues and day to day activities are weather and snow-dependent and decisions regarding the exact day's programme will be decided by the course director each morning. The whole group will meet for a briefing, allowing you to share the decision making process with experienced instructors. We will aim to cover the following topics:
- Use of ice axe and crampons
- Ice axe arrest
- Winter navigation
- Avalanche risk assessment and avoidance
- Emergency snowshelters/survival
- Elementary ropework and snow belays
- Terrain - ridges, rocky steps, cornices, steep snow (Grade 1)
- Mountaineering decision making
These areas will be incorporated into mountain journeys, hopefully taking in some of the major peaks.
We make full use of the evenings by offering a number of technical lectures which re-enforce and expand upon the daytime activities. These may include:
- Avalanche risk assessment
- Cold injuries and hypothermia
- Winter mountain navigation
- Winter Skills by Fyffe and Cunningham - The official handbook of Mountain Training it covers all the essential information and techniques for climbers & walkers.
- Navigation in the Mountains by Carlo Forte - The official navigation book of Mountain training covers all aspects of mountain navigation.
- A Chance in a Million? Scottish Avalanches by Barton and Wright - A useful and understandable explanation of avalanches in Scotland.
- Snow sense by Fredstan and Fesler - An easily accessible guide to snowpack and avalanches.
- Scotland's Winter Mountains by Martin Moran - Lots of great background information on the skills of winter walking and climbing.
- Ben Nevis, Britain's Highest Mountain by Crocket and Richardson - The definitive book on the history of climbing and mountaineering on 'the Ben'.
- Hostile Habitats - Scotland's Mountain Environment edited by Wrightham and Kemp - A comprehensive guide to Scotland's flora. Fauna and landscape.
- Mountaineering in Scotland by W H Murray - An inspirational history of early mountaineering in Scotland.
- 100 Best Routes on Scottish Mountains by Ralph Storer - Classic walking and mountaineering routes of all grades.
- The Munros edited by Bennet and Anderson - An essential guide to the Munros of Scotland.
- The Corbetts and other Scottish Hills edited by Milne and Brown - An essential guide to hills that don't have Munro status.
- Scottish Winter Climbs - SMC - A generic winter climbing guide with routes of all grades.
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What's Included In The Price?
The high mountains of Scotland offer a unique challenge to mountaineers that comes with unrivalled rewards. The Scottish mountains have a world-wide reputation as the perfect training ground for mountaineering in the Alps or higher ranges. For our Scottish winter courses we are based in Glencoe, with much of the best climbing in Scotland right outside the front door. Our comfortable hotel-base 'Alltshellach' is situated at the head of Loch Leven amongst the most stunning scenery in Scotland. This is the ideal location for reliable winter mountaineering conditions, within a short drive of many iconic winter venues including Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and the Mamores. We recognise that to learn effectively and a gain the most from every day, it is important to have a comfortable, relaxing base for your adventures. That's why we return to Alltshellach each year.
It has everything to help make your course an enjoyable and rewarding one. Comfortable rooms, a relaxing bar, great food designed to fuel you up before and after a big day and even a swimming pool to sooth those aching muscles. This year, we've included a night's bed and breakfast at the end of your course too, so you can leave in the morning relaxed and recharged before your journey home.
Whilst you are with us in Scotland you'll be able to take full advantage of our equipment stores too. Our stores are packed with the latest high-quality equipment and our staff will help you select the most suitable gear for you and the winter environment. Of course, all technical gear hire is included in your course fee so, as always at Plas y Brenin, there are no hidden costs.
Combined, our high-standards of instruction, accommodation, food and equipment represent an unrivalled experience and excellent value for money. Take a look at the list of what is included in the price below.
What's Not Included In The Price?
One, none or all of the above may be included in our course programme depending on the weather and mountain conditions.
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Accommodation For This Course
Your accommodation for this course is in comfy en-suite rooms (normally shared) at Alltshellach, a fantastic hotel owned and run by HF Holidays. Each room has tea and coffee making facilities and all bed linen and towels are provided. There is also a WiFi Lounge and swimming pool.
Your course fee includes accommodation the night before your course begins and the night after the course finishes.
All your meals are included - breakfast, packed lunch, afternoon tea and freshly baked cakes and a three course evening meal, starting with dinner on the night you arrive and finishing with breakfast on the day you leave.
If you wish to upgrade to a single occupancy room please contact the Plas y Brenin bookings team on 01690 720214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HF Holidays are happy to extend your stay prior to your course or for additional nights after, to arrange this please contact then on 0208 7321247 or email@example.com.
Arrival and Departure
Please arrive at Alltshellach the evening before the start date of the course, for dinner at 7.15pm. An evening meal is provided on the night of arrival, but cannot be saved for people arriving later than 7.15pm, unless booked in advance (you can do this on your equipment loan form).
Departure is the morning after your course finishes with breakfast the following morning is also included. Check out is at 10am.
Please remember that winter in Scotland can mean snow and ice on roads and rail causing bad or impossible travel conditions; therefore, please allow plenty of time for your journey.
Plas y Brenin cannot be held responsible for adverse weather conditions and in this respect we cannot offer refunds or transfers of course fees. If you are late in arriving for a course we will do our best to help you make up for lost time! Please try to contact Plas y Brenin if you are delayed on route.
To contact a member of staff, please call Plas y Brenin main centre on 01690 720214.
The address of PyB in Scotland is Alltshellach, Onich, Fort William, Inverness-shire PH33 6SA.
If you are delayed please contact HF Holidays on 01855 821357 and let reception know.
Download travel information here
From the South, you can travel by car along the A82, through Glencoe and over the Ballachulish Bridge towards Fort William. When you reach Ballachlish Bridge, ake the second road on the right after crossing the bridge, signposted B863 Kinlochleven. Alltshellach is a short distance along on the right (approx. 400 yards).
You could also travel by train. Most trains leaving from London Euston will take you direct to Glasgow Central Station. A short walk will take you to Glasgow Queen Street Station, from where trains leave to Fort William. Fort William is 13 miles from Alltshellach. You can take the overnight sleeper from London Euston direct to Fort William.
Scottish Citylink Buses (tel: 0871 266 33 33 or www.citylink.co.uk) depart from Fort William High Street fairly regularly. Or take a taxi (approx. £15 with Blue Bird Taxis tel 01397 703000). Scottish Citylink also have a service from Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow (close to Glasgow Queen Street Station). Both will stop just past Ballachulish Bridge, just ask the driver when you get on.
The Plas y Brenin minibus will meet the Scottish Citylink Bus which leaves Glasgow at 6pm and arrives at approximately 8.34pm each evening, please let us know if you arriving on this bus by ticking the box on your equipment loan form. Details of how to reach Alltshellach from the main road are above.
The final option is to travel by coach. National Express (tel 0871 781 8181 or www.nationalexpress.com) offer an extensive service throughout the country. Take a coach to Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow. For onwards journey details from Glasgow, please see above.
It is also possible to fly into Glasgow from major UK airports, and continue your journey across country from there.
If you are delayed please contact HF Holidays on 01855 821357 and let reception know. If you need to contact a member of Plas y Brenin staff, please call Plas y Brenin main centre on 01690 720214.
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What Equipment Do You Need To Bring?
• Ice axe* - 55-60cm long. This should be a walking/mountaineering axe rather than a light weight ski touring one or a technical climbing axe. Such as theDMM cirque.
• Boots* - Good quality leather boots with a stiff sole - B2 or B3 rated. See boot advice below, the Scarpa Manta Pro Gtx would be a good example.
• Crampons* - 12 point mountaineering crampons that have anti-balling plates on and are compatible with your boots. See crampon advice below. The Grivel G12 is a good example.
• Gaiters - Extremely useful to prevent snow and scree entering your boots and help to keep your feet warm. For example the Mountain Equipment Trail DLE gaiter.
• Crampon Bag - A tough Nylon bag to protect the contents of your rucksack from the sharp points.
• Climbing Helmet* - A CE rated climbing helmet that is large enough to fit over a hat, such as the DMM Ascent.
• Snow/Ski Goggles - An essential item for days out in the Scottish winter environment. A budget pair with two layer lenses will be fine.
• Rucksack* - There is generally a lot more that needs to be carried on a day out in the mountains in winter compared with summer. A 35 to 45 Litre rucksack is fine such as the Deuter Guide 35+.
• Rucksack Liner - Almost no rucksacks are waterproof, so a waterproof liner is needed to keep your kit dry. Either a large dry bag or several small ones works well or a strong plastic bag such as a rubble bag (not a bin bag).
• Flask/water bottle - A small flask (1/2 to 3/4 litre) and a similar sized water bottle. Hydration systems with tubes rarely function well in winter.
• Map - Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 map Sheet 41 of the Glencoe and Ben Nevis area. Ideally laminated or in a small map case.
• Compass* - Silva Expedition Type 4, in degrees.
• Waterproof case for your mobile phone - A method of protecting your mobile phone from the elements is essential.
• Whistle - A cheap plastic whistle is a useful item of emergency equipment.
• Head Torch - An extremely useful item of emergency equipment. A Petzl Tikka + or similar would be fine.
• Survival Bag - An orange plastic survival bag is an important item of emergency equipment.
• Personal First Aid - A small first aid kit in a waterproof bag to include Compeed or similar for blisters, a wound dressing, a triangular bandage and pain relief eg. Ibuprofen or paracetamol
• Emergency Food - Some spare items of high energy food that are sealed in a bag eg. Chocolate or muesli bars.
• Sun block and Lip Salve - To provide protection from UV radiation and the wind.
• Trekking Poles - Useful for walking below the snow line and for low angle snow slopes. Should be collapsible into 3 or 4 sections to make stowage inside your rucksack easier.
• Camera - Of your choice - the smaller and lighter the better.
• Waterproof Jacket* - A robust breathable and waterproof jacket that fits over several layers. It should have a permanently attached hood that is large enough to go over a helmet.
• Waterproof Trousers* or Salopettes - A robust pair of breathable and waterproof over trousers, ideally long side zips (to aid putting on whilst wearing crampons) and braces.
• Insulated Jacket - A large warm jacket to wear whilst stationary is useful. It should be insulated with a synthetic material rather than down, which does not perform well in damp conditions.
• Base Layers - A couple of lightweight 'thermal' tops, short or long sleeved. Should be of a synthetic material and not cotton.
• Mid Layers - A couple of mid weight layers, ideally fleece, gives more flexibility for managing your temperature rather than one thick one.
• Trousers - Fleece trousers or power stretch tights work very well under waterproof trousers.
• Hat - A fleece or wool hat that is suitable to be worn under a helmet - no bobbles! A neck gaiter is useful.
• Waterproof Gloves - At least two pairs are essential. They should be dexterous enough that you can put crampons on whilst wearing them. The Mountain Equipment Guide or similar is recommended.
• Thin gloves - A thin fleece pair is useful for wearing whilst approaching the hills. For example the Mountain Equipment Touch Screen Glove.
• Socks - Several pairs of loop stitch style socks
• Personal clothing and effects for life in the hotel including swimwear for the pool.
*Indicates available to borrow free of charge from our kit store.
If you would like to borrow waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, helmet, winter boots or crampons please complete our equipment loan form available here and return to Plas y Brenin. For all other items marked with a * we don't need to know in advance, just ask your instructor when you get there.
If you would like to request a pick up from the 8.30pm Scottish Citylink Bus at approx. 8.30pm and/or would like a late dinner if you arriving after 7.15pm you can request this on the equipment loan form.
Advice on Mountaineering Boots and Crampons for Scotland in the winter
Boots for winter walking and mountaineering in Scotland should be warm enough for the coldest days (Minus 10 Celsius) and sufficiently waterproof to stay dry whilst walking through the wettest bogs. They also need to be rigid enough to kick steps in firm snow and to take a crampon; so rated either B2 or B3.
Most people, including our instructors, opt for good quality leather or a leather / Gore-Tex combination. Plastic boots are warmer but may be more cumbersome, and the warmth offered by high altitude boots is simply not necessary.
Larger sized boots will flex more than smaller sizes so if you have large feet, then definitely go for a more rigid boot. You will be less likely to slip out of your crampons. Our General advice is to buy a quality boot that fits your foot well; it is well worth the extra expense. Be prepared to spend some time ensuring the size and fit is correct. A quality boot will last many years and can be used all year round; most types allow the soles to be replaced. It is important to wear your boots in and it can be advisable to initially place tape on your heels and any 'hot spots'. Spend time walking around locally, even around the house, before attempting anything more adventurous. Most staff wear either one thick sock or a thin and thick combination. Buy good quality socks, and bring several pairs. For most winter mountaineering courses, our staff use footwear from the excellent range by Scarpa.
Match your boot with your crampon both in crampon/boot shape and fit, as well as crampon/boot stiffness. Take your boot with you when you buy your crampons and fit them to the boot in the shop to ensure a good fit. With leather boots avoid a crampon that uses a wire bale at the front, but opt for a 'French style' plastic bale. Most good makes now offer a cradle and strap system, which is ideal, and helps avoid cold fingers! Buy a 10 to 12-point crampon with a general mountaineering configuration with anti-balling plates. Technical ice climbing crampons are difficult to walk in; the front points protrude excessively and are more likely to catch. Lightweight alloy touring crampons are not up to the harsh conditions of Scotland! With small feet (size 6 or under), certain types of crampon are best avoided - get crampons fitted by the shop.
Customer Reviews For This Course
Wasn't sure what to expect
Really wasn't sure what to expect from the Scottish Winter Mountaineering Course but after reading the great reviews decided to give it a go - and so pleased I did.
Although March weather was appallingly Scottish still got into the high mountain coirres and hills around Glen Coe using crampons and ice axes every day.
Our instructor Will, ably assisted by Karen, was brilliant - relaxed but very professional, encouraging us to try new challenging things in a safe way. Highlight was climbing steep snow / ice gulley at the top of Stob Coire nam Beith - really tested my resolve / nerve a few times but felt brilliant giving it a go.
Alltshellach is a great base - rooms clean and comfortable, food excellent, small bar and friendly, helpful staff.
Highly recommend this course to anyone with a spirit for adventure and a love of the mountains (and some good waterproofs!).
Yes, you do need to be fit as they are long days with big assents / descents - but not beyond most active people.
Give it a go, you won't regret it - I've certainly caught the bug for more mountains.
Cant rate this course highly enough. Our instructors (Simon and John) were fun, knowledgable, safe and most of all down to earth and really easy to get allong with.
We had a very mixed ability group that were caterd for really well with no one feeling they had to do anything beyond their ability or indeed feel like they had not pushed themselves. We hit all weather conditions available and got on some brilliant routes up to hard grade 1.
We shared many beers after dinner in the evenings chatting about the day and the days ahead but not before the hot tub and ledgendary Alltshellach three course dinner!....trust me you wont gi hungery at this place.
If you want to have an awesome week in the Scottish mountains either as a beginer or someone who has done a bit of winter stuff before but needs to pick up on some skills then do it! You wont regret it!
Thank you for an excellent week in the Scottish mountains. The Scottish Winter Mountaineering was a great week lead by very capable, motivated instructors.
Arriving at around 5pm in alltshelach on saturday the 16th February we were all exhausted and gearded up for our adventures the next day. after a wonderful supper and a great night sleep due to the awesome quality of food and accommodation at the lodge the next morning we met up with our guides. Cath, Spike and Gareth. What a team.
The alround challenge that they threw at us every day was great but their judgement and understanding of our abilitys was unrivaled. I was so impressed.
I enjoyed my time with Sherborne School on the winter mountaineering course so much that i would definataly recomend it to anyone. and i think it has set me in good stead for my expedition to the himalayas in june.
An excellent course made so by the quality of the staff, their knowledge of the mountains, the routes, the conditions but also their ability to assess and understand the level of those on the course and put together something that stretches and supports. If you want the confidence to move on snow and ice and if you want to tap the knowledge of these experts this is most definitely the course for you - book, dress warmly and enjoy!
Bonanza of Brilliance
Good: Better than restaurant quality food. Learnt tons every day. Quality Guiding (no less than the best from PYB). Gaining 7 new friends. Hotel, and staff. Free equipment hire. Not as good: Long walk in (get fit!) Temptation to have a pint in the bar after a long day. Verdict: You learn a lot, and you have mega fun. Can't recommend enough.
A great course in spite of the weather
As regular winter fellwalkers, my husband and I mostly wanted to improve our techniques for winter walking, refresh our knowledge of safety measures for icy scrambling and tackle a few challenges we would have considered a bit too exciting without leaders.
The weather, bar day one, was terrible - very wet and very very windy-. In spite of this, our instructors, Keith and Stuart, found safe routes to give us a memorable holiday as well as cover most of the course objectives.
The accommodation at HF is excellent as is the drying room.
The course is challenging, and a good level of fitness really is required. The average age on the course (ourselves excluded) was probably around 24, but 'the team' was very supportive of the older contingent, and we managed -just- to keep up.
Top marks to PYB for the course organisation, my particular thanks to Keith for his support and fantastic instruction.
Second time around - even better!
This is my 2nd time on a Scottish Winter Mountaineering course with PYB. I was a last minute entry due to a late cancellation. My first thought was yes, then I thought will I learn anything. The answer - a big FAT yes! I didn't think it could be better 2nd time around but it was.
Not only were we blessed with magic weather (no one can take the credit for that) but I was pushed to new heights and taken completely out of my comfort zone. I learnt new skills and came away a more confident and capable Winter Mountaineer.
Stu MacAleese was our group leader. He asked us on day 2 if there was anything anyone of us wanted to see or do. I casually mentioned wanting to do some scrambling and he delivered.
Day 2 and 3 we made the ascents via a scrambling section. It was amazing and I absolutely loved it. I've never done Winter Scrambling before, had a moment or two when I felt genuinely nervous (s**t scared!) and will definitely do it again - it was so exhilarating. Let's have IT!
It was great to get a recap on avalanche awareness, crampon and ice axe usage and just generally spend time in the hills with the PYB boys.
It's snowing and I'm still sweating!
Ian M Foster
The Winter Skills course will teach you more than just being safe in the winter envirinment. It will equip you with knowledge of snow types and the risks associated with avalanche and what to look for both underfoot and as importantly what's happening above you.
The key to self-reliance and the twitch that says "maybe I'm out of my depth" means that you should actually take notice and get the hell out of Dodge, the survival instinct is youor greatest safety equipment.
How to walk in and out of crampons on various surfaces and how to self arrest using the ice axe, drills are all important although pretty good fun they're what give you the underlying confidence to venture further in to the snow line.
The guys at PYB are some of the most highly qualified and unassuming guides that you're ever likely to meet/walk with. They will never push you so hard that the summits become a chore and treat each individual seperately whilst moving the team as a whole unit, inspiring the cohesion of the groups success.
I couldn't praise their diligence and sense of humour in these mountains highly enough.
A course well worth attending no matter your concept of your own abilities or personal experience.
Cracking course !
An absolutely brilliant course which went over far, far too quickly.
A few points from the week:
* TripAdvisor gives some very mixed reviews for HF Holidays House at Alltshellach, many of which are unjust in my opinion. The accommodation is excellent, the meals are huge (I wasn't hungry once the entire week), facilities such as a drying room and PYB stores (free hire) are available. Oh and there's now a TV in the bar.
* On the first night, meeting the other attendees I did think the course sizes were a bit on the large size, but there are several instructors per course so the student/instructor ratio is about 3/1 which worked well.
* Having a mix of instructors allows for multiple opinions or suggestions to be taken on board regarding kit, skills etc... which is a great learning environment. The instructors are very approachable and have many years of experience under the belts which is reassuring for us newbies to the winter hills.
Days on the hill are long, but a good attitude and general fitness is the key to making the time enjoyable rather than just having to endure it.
Make sure you take your swim wear - the jacuzzi comes into its own to soothe those aching muscles!
This is my first PYB course and I'm very impressed and will probably be looking to book another in the near future.
As I didn't have any real winter walking experience I learnt a lot from the Scottish Winter Mountaineering course and can whole-heartedly recommend it to anybody who's used to going out in summer or mild weather and is looking to learn the essential skills that are used in winter.
The staff were knowledgeable, friendly, experienced and full of good advice. The accommodation and staff at the hotel were also excellent.
I would recommend any of the winter PYB courses to anyone who has aspirations of becoming a winter walker/mountaineer. I quickly gained the knowledge and confidence to safely travel in winter conditions without a guide. The cracking sense of humour combined with a bewildering amount of experience and knowledge made learning quick and easy.
A brilliant course!
This was an excellent course with five great days on the mountains. The tuition from Spike, Matt and Carlo was superb. Plas y Brenin have a really good method and style for teaching skills and instilling confidence. The course took us onto some steep ground that was a new experience for the group but the tutors made us feel confident in our skills.
Main skills taught were: crampon and axe useage (taught from scratch), movement on steep ground inc. belaying, winter navigation, decision making before and during a day on the mountains, introduction to various snow topics inc. understanding the snowpack, using the weather and avalanche forecast and prior snow conditions to pick sensible routes. Having since been out and used these new skills I am really glad to have been on the course as it has given me confidence but has also given me lots to think about in terms of improving my performance on the mountains under winter conditions.
I would highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to take a step beyond winter hillwalking whether or not you already have crampon and ice axe experience. It requires a good level of fitness but is certainly within the scope of a fit summer hillwalker.
We did this course having completed the similar course at Plas 2 years ago. The courses were very diiferent- due to lack of snow in N Wales that year and the big snows in Scotland. Both courses were immensely valuable but the bility to spend each day in Scotland on big mountains and deep snow was grea for gaining familiarity. The instructors were superb, as ever, and attentive to signs of nervousness! We roped up for a particulalrly exposed ridge and that experience was valuable as well.
A really great week, many laughs and a great deal learnt. Though a more expensive way of doing it, completeing the Plas y Brenin based course first was helpful but not essential.
You can borrow any gear you need and yes, you do need to have reasonable fitness to do 5 days of quite hard effort in a row. Very little theory in the classroom and navigation was minimal, both due to the excellent conditions
A tremendous week
Blue skies and cold temperatures helped, of course, but our instructors, Matt and Cath, were extremely competent and brilliant at passing on their abundant knowledge. Matt excelled at making it fun and Cath is particularly gifted at quietly boosting confidence. Keith, too, was great on the Steall Falls day.
Everything was explained very fully, and questions answered with an easy surety. Martin and I had wondered if we had the stamina to stay the course of five strenuous days but needn't have worried as it was cleverly paced with a great balance of instruction and big hill achievement. Prevalent snow conditions (i.e. such a lot of it, much of it 'the wrong sort') challenged the instructors but they cleverly succeeded in giving us safe and interesting days of great variety, and some of the fear of avalanches has been replaced with respect through knowledge. Taking advantage of the frozen Steall Falls was a stroke of genius.
Alltshellach is warm and comfortable with good drying facilities and, as others have said, you won't go hungry - more likely to suffer from an overload of carbs than famine. I'm not veggie or vegan but the menus seemed to cater for them.
Excellent course, really well delived, vey enjoyable 5 days. Both the training talks and the pratical demos were very useful and well delivered. The days on the mountain were ot enoyable and informative.
The food was fine but not as good as plas-y-brenin. The hotel was good, clean tidy and warm. Bedrooms fine and swimming pool and spa bath was great after hard day on the hill.
One thing that needs changing is that you need to add the ISBN numers for all the books that you recomend, in your book list, as some books have very simular titles, This would make it much it easier to find them. Also this should help with finding the correct edition.
This was a superb course. We had the best and the worst of the Scottish weather in the week so got out in the munro's and also learned all the appropriate skills for mountaineering and the conditions. Special thanks to the two Daves (our instructors) who were fantastic - their enthusiasm and passion for mountaineering and Scotland made the week a joy and rubbed off on all the participants, they also made excellent choices for our daily activities based on the conditions...ice climbing on the last day was a real bonus! Alltshellach was an ideal base - accomodation and food were great (you won't go hungry)! The only recommendation I'd add is, if you are considering this course, do make sure you get yourself properly fit for it - I did and it made a massive positive difference to my enjoyment as I could focus on getting the most out of the activities and the location without puffing, panting and aching (well, you've got to expect some but not enough to spoil anything)! I can't recommend Plas Y Brenin highly enough - this was my first course with them and I sincerely hope it won't be my last!
That was fun, cold but fun.
Came home with a feeling i've only just scratched the surface and that was the best £600 I've spent for a long time.
Glen Coe provides the perfect playground for winter mountaineering and PYB have made sure they can make the most of it. Stunning weather, great company and excellent staff made it a week to remember. The best thing is that half the time you learn without even realising it.
Every day left you wanting to experience more. The course builds really well and you go home planning your next trip back into the mountains.
Must-do course, must do more!
If you've ever turned back because you weren't sure how to cope with what comes next, this course will sort you out. Two impressive instructors (Tim, Spike) brimful of enthusiasm, experience, technical skills, and that all-important confidence. They took our group of six widely ranging ages (late 20s to mid 60s) through the do and don'ts; what kit to carry and how to use it; planning for expected weather and what to do when the weather tunrs out worse; rope, crampon and ice axe work, all in a very calm but decisive manner. And it was clear that they love being in the mountains, day after day, whatever the time of year, having fun.
Accommodation at HF Holidays' Alltshellach hotel, between Glencoe and Fort William, was very comfortable, though it isn't sure where it lies on the broad spectrum between bunk house and country house hotel. Facilities are very good, food plentiful and not bad, but no great advert for HF.
A team of four from Independent Television News attended a five-day Scottish Winter Mountaineering Course ahead of a proposed visit to the Himalayas to report on climate change issues there. The course was specially tailored to our needs and was preceded by a two-day introductory course at PYB in the autumn.
With very limited mountaineering experience between us the brief was to construct a course that would introduce us to basic skills and provide us with the confidence to make decisions concerning our safety in the mountains.
The course exceeded our expectations on every level. The instruction was clear, focussed and progressive as well as being interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. The facilities in Scotland and Wales were first class. We even had fresh snow laid on.
Our instructor throughout was Stuart McAleese whose love of the mountains was evident, and infectious, even on a wet and windy Thursday on Tryfan. Stuart wears his considerable expertise lightly, is an expert communicator and genuinely excellent company.
We all left feeling confident in the instruction we had received and enthused to continue learning.
I would like to add a small piece of constructive criticism, but I can't. The course was excellent in all respects. Thanks to all,
An Excellent Course
This was a great course in all respects. The instructors gave the group a very informative, enjoyable and varied 5 days, covering all aspects of winter mountaineering. As a result, I now feel confident about venturing onto the snowy Scottish mountains independently.
The bonus for me was reaching my first Munro summits on my birthday, and you could say that the icing on the cake was summitting Ben Nevis for the first time two days later!
Also, I must mention the accommodation and food; both being superb. Add to this a great group of fellow mountaineers; what more could you want!
A superb 5 days
I went on this course having chosen it over the competition because of a previous experience at Plas-y-Brenin, where the quality of instruction and overall experience was excellent.
Instruction: As expected, second to none. The instructors were highly competent and just as importantly engaging and eager to share their skills and experience. They made the time fun as well as useful. The stop at The Clachaig on the final day was particularly appreciated!
Location: What the Glencoe area might lack in reliable winter cold compared to further East it makes up for in steeper slopes. Ben Nevis is also on the doorstep.
Accommodation: Alltshellach exceeded expectations, and is comfier and smarter than the 'mother ship' in North Wales. We had a recently refurbished room. The sitting areas are very warm, comfy and make it easy to mingle. The pool and jacuzzi are very welcome after a hard day (with unbeatable views).
Food: The quantity when it came to breakfast and the evening meal was more than adequate (& I'm a 'big eater'), even if the quality will not win Michelin stars. The packed lunch gets an 'OK' - although towards the end of the week the quantity was lacking and I was glad of additional personal supplies.
If you are wondering whether to do the Winter Hillwalking or Winter Mountaineering, after extensive daily 'note comparing' I would say if you have a very good level of hill fitness then do the latter, but if you are less fit (& perhaps are a bit more nervous about the steeper slopes) then go for the Winter Hillwalking.
As for the Winter Mountaineering course, I can't recommend it highly enough.
This course is a must for anyone who wants to learn all the skills to be able to venture out into the Scottish winter hills . The PYB staff are as always a highly skilled and professional bunch.
The week involved loads of hill time to put into practice what we had learnt, and with just enough time to grab a beer before the great evening talks.
I feel PYB have given me the skills to start a long mountaineering career. Thanks PYB!!
This was a fantastic course, fitting in everything I came to Scotland to learn and more, with some great laughs along the way. Instruction was superb, with a really high standard of teaching and a professional approach. Having the pool and jaccuzi was a real treat, and the selection of whiskey at the bar was well utilised! I recommend this course to anyone who aspires to become a winter mountaineer, as I now feel I have a good base of knowledge on which to build my mountaineering career. Thanks PYB.
Despite less than perfect weather, the experience and enthusiasm of the instructors ensured we had a fantastic week, combining great tuition with excellent knowledge of the area. As always our instructors were professional and effective whilst keeping a really laid back and friendly atmosphere. Hopefully we will now be able to put all these skills to good application ourselves.
Alltshellach was a very good base, and the food was, in general, better than you might glean from reading previous reviews - though don't expect a welsh pyb banquet!
We had a cracking time, and really didn't want to leave!
Excellent Week In The Scottish Hills
I came on the course as a relative novice looking to gain new skills and a greater understanding of the winter mountain environment.
I got all that and much more. Excellent and enthusiastic instructors who were obviously keen mountaineers themselves and also had lots of patience and good humour. Skills were tought and then put into practice. The final day on Stob Coire Nan Lochan was unforgettable. The evening lectures were informative and built upon the skills learned on the hills. Advice on equipment and further learning was also given.
The location was perfect with good food and facilities - just be prepared to go TV free for the week. On the plus side there is a bar, so the social side of the week is also good.
If there is anyone else out there who wants to learn from professionals in a perfect environment, then this is the course to go on.
This course was fab, good for the soul! I learned so much over the 5 days and built a lot of confidence moving around the mountains in ice and snow. Our instructors were so great, really friendly and approachable and so knowledgable. I'd highly recommend this course if you want to start heading out on your own in winter conditions but want to be aware of and able to cope with the risks involved.
The whole course was amazing, in particular the instruction. Never having used crampons and an ice axe the instructors taught the whole group how to use these confidently. I stood on many mountains, saw beautiful scenery - this should be a must for everyone. Male or female!!!
What an Excellent Course
Originally booked on winter hillwalking but did not run - what a good thing, this course was just what I needed. Excellent teaching by course director Phil and team. Lots of good experience and a few good peaks. Alltshellack is a perfect base.
If you have done a fair bit of bad weather hillwalking this is the one for you!
Lets have it!
What an awesome time, Rob was such a cutie and Stewie - well words can't explain Stewi - Guns of Steel and more. Dave's ability to predict weather changes using his tongue was impressive and Keith's 'Quiet but serious' approach was inspirational.
But seriously - had an absolute ball, loved every minute, it was infomative, expertly guided, loads of advice and information.
All the way through we were given advice on walking in crampons, using ice axes and predicting snow/weather conditions. There was always an expert guide on hand to boost morale and add an 'air' of confidence at all times.
The scenery and weather was amazing but the Brenin can't take credit for that - we were just lucky - we had snow down to the road and day 2 was clear blue skies and sunshine.
If you can't decide if this is for you - Just Do IT - you won't regret it!
Life's too short for regrets!
Brilliant course, and great location. Really loved the pool to chill out in at the end of the day! Would recommend this course to anyone interested in gaining an intro to winter mountains. I tried to do this course the year before in Wales and we found one patch of snow - so felt I needed to get some real snow experience - and wasn't disappointed!
During the week in Scotland we had deep snow and sunny skies most days - even on the Ben. The instructors were really enthusiastic, good fun, and really knowledgeable. The only minor downside was that the food was not a patch on the Plas y Brenin gourmet banquet experience!
Good follow-on from Welsh Winter course.
The actual field instruction is very good.
The instructors balanced each other in terms of team building and saftey technical instruction. I would prefer more time in actually walking/climbing.
Boot/crampon/gear provision for those that required them was excellent.
The courses information-booking Catalogue must be published much earlier, it is far too late except for young people or the fully retired (this was a comment ALL on my course made to me). The same applies to the web site info and booking. Look at the fully private providers and see how they do it.
Administration should be more responsive to applicant enquiries, quicker, more information and actually answer the query-I never did get an acknowledgement of my second payment despite asking several times.
Accomodation in Scotland varied, while mine was just about adequate others were resonable, but the food quality was not as good as Wales, not the amount, the actual quality, I would describe it as poor, I hate over cooked vegetables and battery chicken!
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