01690 720214

Scottish Introduction to Winter Climbing

Course Overview


Winter climbing in Scotland offers rewards and challenges comparable with the best anywhere in the world. From a revision of the basic skills, to more advanced skills for steeper ground, you'll make rapid progress over this five day course. You'll discover all the ropework and climbing skills required to get your winter climbing started on a variety of Scotland's finest routes.

Experience Required

winter mountaineering experience and competency with an ice and crampons on easy terrrain

Scheduled Dates

Detailed Course Notes

You should be 18 years old to attend this course.

Is it for me?

A good level of fitness and an ability to use an axe and crampons is essential. Summer rock climbing & rope work skills are useful. An enthusiasm to get stuck in to the challenging joys of winter climbing is the main pre-requisite. This course is ideally suited for those who have attended a Scottish Winter Mountaineering course and wish to experience steeper terrain and the use of two axes.

Fitness requirements

You should have a high level of winter mountaineering fitness with the ability to spend 6-8hrs moving over steep, broken terrain. The days will often include 800-1000m of ascent and descent. You will also need to carry a rucksack with your spare clothing, lunch and equipment in - this could have an approximate weight of 8-10kgs. This level of fitness will be obtained through regular summer hillwalking and 2-3 exercise sessions per week. This could include running, cycling, walking or playing sport, these should be challenging and tiring sessions. Some upper body strength will be beneficial and training in this area, such as weight sessions in the gym, should be included in your preparation. Time spent rock climbing either outside or at an indoor climbing wall will also be valuable.

Course Content

This course will take you progressively through the skills of winter climbing. Teaching you to move competently, swiftly and safely over all types of winter terrain is our aim, covering areas including:

  • Revision of fundamental winter skills including moving in crampons and ice axe self-arrest

  • Movement skills on snow, ice and mixed ground

  • Efficient ropework techniques for ascent or retreat

  • Constructing of winter belays

  • Placing winter protection - nuts, pegs, and ice screws

  • Avalanche risk assessment and avoidance

  • Winter mountain navigation

  • Route selection, route finding and assessing conditions.

  • Dealing with all the above in harsh winter conditions

We make full use of the evenings by offering a number of technical lectures which re-enforce and expand upon the daytime activities. We will look at areas such as:

  • Snow and avalanche assessment

  • Winter navigation

  • Cold injuries and hypothermia

Examples of some routes climbed on this course include:

Dorsal Arete (II), NC Gulley (I/II) Stob Coire nan Lochan, Glencoe
Curved Ridge (II/III), Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe
The Dragons Tooth (I/II), Sgorr Dhonuill, Glencoe
Ledge Route (II), Number Two Gully Buttress (III), North Gully (II), Castle Ridge (III), Ben Nevis
Golden Oldie (II), Right Twin (II), Aonach Mor

Useful Books


  • 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.

What's Included In The Price?

Whether you choose to stay with us or you have alternative accommodation nearby, the following items are included in the total cost.

    Afternoon tea & homemade cakes
    Equipment hire
    Snow safety equipment hire
    Free (low-speed) wifi access in the bar & dining room
    In course transport
    Parking with CCTV surveillance
    Free use of swimming pool

    If you choose to stay with us, these items are also included in the total cost:

    Accommodation the night before your course
    Accommodation during your course
    Accommodation the night after your course ends
    Breakfast & evening meal
    Bar Lunch/packed lunch

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 bookings@pyb.co.uk.

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 732 1264 or agnieszkaserek@hfholidays.co.uk.

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

By Car
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).

By Train
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.

By Bus
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.

By Plane
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.

follow this link for more details

What Equipment Do You Need To Bring?


• A pair of technical Ice axes* - These would generally be 50cm long with a pair having one with an adze on and one with a hammer on. They should have dropped pick and include leashes or a lanyard. Many types of axes are available the DMM fly is a good example of an axe for easier grades and the DMM Apex is a good example of an axe suitable for higher grades.

• Boots* - Good quality stiff boots that are rated B3 and have a Vibram sole. A good example is the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro Gtx.

• Crampons* - 12 point crampons that have anti-balling plates on. They should have clip- in rear bindings that are compatible with your boots. Good examples are Grivel G12 and G14s.

• 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.

• Harness* - A sit harness with adjustable leg loops that is large enough to go over all your layers including waterproofs. A good example is the DMM Mithril.

• Climbing Rack* - Bring along any hardwear that you already own. A belay device, 3 screwgates and a 120cm sling are particularly useful.

• 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.

Customer Reviews For This Course

all good

andy cowan

This is my 12th course with PYB and they just keep getting better and better, Dave the instructor it's fairly obvious has a wealth of knowledge and is happy to share this by keeping us safe and teaching us a few little tricks to look cool as well. though out the days the information just kept flowing in our direction. in fact the only thing that I could mention is the cake is much better in PYB wales, not that its bad in Alltshellach. its just very good in wales.
The only thing I have to think about is my next PYB course and what is the chance of getting a discount as it will be number 13 so incentive might be necessary
all the best andy cowan

Great Intro To Ice/Mixed Climbing.

Phil Gray

If you want to get your first taste of Winter climbing this is a great place to start. I was fortunate enough to have Tim Neill and Dave Rudkin instructing for the week; both of them are massively enthusiastic and knowledgeable, inspiring confidence in first timers with their seemingly effortless climbing.

I was climbing with Dave for most of the week and I don't think we climbed anything less than a grade IV, including a few classics. The climbing was tough and challenged everyone in the group but it felt good to have been pushed out of the comfort zone and there were always stories to tell over a beer at the end of the day.

We encountered different weather and conditions on each day from bomber ice to unconsolidated snow. On the last day when it got pretty awful we got to climb indoors on both plastic and ice (complete with Tim's hilarious commentary) and had a chance to practise some more advanced ropework away from the hill.

The supplementary evening lectures included talks on avalanches, winter navigation and slideshows of expeditions all of which were informative and added to what we were learning everyday.

Rare week of Scottish sunshine

Steve Forgrieve

Just had a great week in the sun with climbing legends Dave Rudkin, Keith Ball and Tim Neill. These guys are the real deal, proper climbing enthusiasts who happen to instruct. There was no gentle start to the week with five great routes over five days with a total of 16 stars in the guide book. Finished the week on a high note on an icy slab called The Curtain on Ben Nevis, felt great to be climbing at that level on what is called an 'introductory' week. Always felt safe though as course focusses on seconding, with the instructors heading up first and setting up good belays.
Top quality equipment can be provided for free if you need it, as I did, so you get to have a go for the week before deciding to fork out £100s on axes/crampons etc.
The Alltshellach hotel was great with a pool and hot tub, and fantastic three course meals in the communal dining room.
One final tip. The walk ins are unavoidably long so try to get a few days out in the hills for training to avoid aching legs.
Thanks again guys.

Excellent introduction to Winter climbing

Colin Thompson

Spectacular Alpine style weather for most of the course and excellent instruction made for a superb few days. Great if you've only done a limited amount of climbing and are prepared to be thrown in at the deep end.

the best course and the best location with the best people.


as good as it gets. despite conditions on some days of 90mph winds with heavy deposits of new snow pyb managed to find routes for us to climb on every single day which ranged from II to IV (and 15 stars over the 5 days !). we covered a full range of snow gullies, mixed ridges and pure ice. Superb, calm and careful instruction - although perhaps a little less than you might expect - ie you get stuck in to see how it goes and receive guidance and tuition where needed. good fitness matters as you get more out if the day is not a struggle and familiarity with ropework whilst not necessary enables you to concentrate on the winter element and to take in the myriad of small but important aspects which help to give the confidence to go out and lead a route - and that is perhaps the one aspect of the course that some might miss : all climbing is done as a second and the jump to choosing , assessing and then leading a route is a large gap and it would be comforting to do it alongside an instructor before doing it alone.

Having said that I cannot recommend the course and the people too highly, it is simply the best.

accomodation is everything you need - superb drying room, friendly staff and with a new chef excellent much improved food.


Jon roach

Fun course, good instructors, does what it says and hard to fault. Such a good fun week with people who really know their stuff and are able to pass at least some of that on. Were able to make the most of some pretty grim days weatherwise. Worth every penny and would gladly recommend.

Top Fun!

Phil Laxton

I really enjoyed the Intro to Winter Climbing course (and so did my wife!). Two years ago we did the winter mountaineering itro course and had a fantastic time(aidedby some amazing and very un-Scottish weather). The weather this time was much more unsettled although we did have some sunshine when we climbed the Web on Anoch Mor.
With the 1:2 instructor client ratio it is very flexible what you can do and the good thing is that the instructors do spend some time asking what your experience is and what you want to get out of the course. After a day of refreshing basic winter skills we were off and it proved to be really enjoyable with a lot of opportunity to learn as well as climb. Thanks to Dave Rudkin and Keith Ball for giving us a taste of the variety of routes and palces to go in that area.
The hotel is very comfortable and we had a room in the big extension at the side which was really spacious (good for when your kit is strewn all over the place!). It was all very realaxed as there were a total of 11 clients there that week and nobody was doing an assessment either.
To get the most out of this course you do need to be reasonably fit as most routes involve quite a long walk-in and then climb up to where the route starts. As you carry a full pack with all your gear plus a rope (invariably heavier on the way back with moisture), it might be worth preparing for that before you go. They can also be long days as if you need to get kit from the drying room before breakfast then you might be stating at 6-45am or so with breaksfast at 7:30 and meeting up outside for 8. When we did North Gully on the Ben we didn't get back until 6:45pm so we just had time to get stuff into the drying room and have a very quick shower then down for dinner at 7:15 (missed the evening lecture that night and they are worth going to). So you probably won't have much time for the pool or jacuzzi but you will have a great time climbing. Thanks to all the PYB team and the hotel staff for a great week!

Superb Course!


As someone north of 50 years of age, finding myself on such a course with the youngsters Matt, Jamie and Jon could have been intimidating but the two instructors Dave (Rudkin) and Phil (Dowthwaite) did a fantastic job of helping all of us fulfill our aims and achieve things I certainly never thought I would. The weather had not been great for winter climbing but Dave and Phil were able to find routes in good condition for us to do including 2 memorable days on the north face of the Ben. Dave's suggestion of a (dry) day dry-tooling in the quarry near Aberfeldy was also great fun and much appreciated both for the technical coaching and the lack of rain!

A special thank you to Phil for a rare mixture of patience, huge technical expertise and the ability to inspire confidence. The two days on the Ben were both excellent but I am sure neither Jamie nor I will forget the snow tunnel under the chockstone in Gardyloo Gully. And emerging on the summit of the Ben after 7 pitches of climbing in the gully gave me a tremendous feeling of achievement. I also enjoyed a more technical day on Aonoch Mor to end the course; a rest for the legs in the gondola (with cappuccino) but some great advice and coaching on belays, abseiling, rope-work etc. As a long-time mountain walker/scrambler but with limited climbing experience, I found this really valuable. Accommodation is good but the most important thing on courses such as this is the quality of the instructors. PYB is second to none and Dave and Phil are excellent examples of why you should sign up and head to Scotland with PYB for some winter climbing! Thanks guys.



after just attending the intro to winter climbing course last week. everything is still pretty fresh in my mind. all i could say is dave rudkin and phil downthwaite were both brilliant instructors over the week really know how there stuff and how to structure a week of climbing, the information given was detailed and interesting. i also gained so much experiance in just short space of time. i would recommend this course to everyone and anyone who would listen. great week shame it had to end! :)

Awesome Time

Rich Spurdle

Went on a 3 day winter skills course with my company Cotswold Outdoor. I was i the climbing group.

The instruction was brilliant! They where very supportive!

A tip i can give to anyone going on any of the Scotish winter courses is make sure you are fit enough to carry all your climbing gear a long way before you actualy climb. I thought i would be fit enough, but i was wrong, got alot out of it but if i was fitter would have been alot better!!

Overall the Instructors ROCK !!!!

Course feed back...

Anne-Marie Cox

Just a word of thanks to everyone involved in the Scottish Winter Climbing Intro course. It was by far the most exciting climbing course I have done. I climbed much harder than I had expected to, learning the skills and cautions of this unique type of climbing. The Guides were fantastic, cheerful, careful, professional and encouraging. The size of the course is ideal and I really valued climbing with the same guide and climbing partner for the week it made for good continuity and confidence. The range of climbs and different settings were superb with a combination of rock, ice, snow ice and mixed routes. Always pushing to just the edge of your comfort zone giving a proper feeling of achievement. The support for us back at the hotel is also worth a word of thanks, tea when we arrived home, dinner later, beautiful warm, comfortable bedrooms and a breakfast fit for a king in the morning. The pool and Jacuzzi were much appreciated luxuries in the evenings. In addition to our busy day the evening lecture series really rounded the week off from a learning perspective. Important topics such as avalanche awareness, snow hole shelters, winter navigation and safety were presented in a very interactive and memorable manor. This was topped off by a mind opening presentation on climbing and what comes next? It has certainly inspired me, despite concerns about inexperience. In climbing, we are ever ready to learn and assess risk, but it there to be enjoyed, to ever expand on, to take up the challenge and surprise yourself! When it comes to climbing: "Let's have it!" Looking forward to another cold snap and some more Scottish Winter Routes. :-)

Fanastic Week!

Becky Moore and Ewan Buckingham

Thanks to Martin for an interesting and enjoyable (well apart from the last walk in!) week. The highlights must have been some interesting wintery weather on the Ben and ice climbing on Aonach Mor. The routes chosen were all of a grade that helped us get used to placing protection in the winter, which was surprisingly different to summer.

It was great to have a guide with us while we built the confidence to move from summer climbing and winter walking to winter climbing, and to explain their destination and route choices and to give us pointers for the future.

The food at Alltshellach was plentiful, which was great after the days on the hill.

Overall, a fantastic week getting out which has given us the confidence to go it alone next time.

A superb week of routes and learning

Julian Davis

This was my third trip to Alltshellach, it's beginning to feel familiar. Having enjoyed the Guided Winter Classics last year, I was keen to learn more to try to become a bit more independent on easy routes and this course was just right. Our helpful guides had arranged amazing weather - blue skies for four of the five days (cue sun-cream, shades, cameras!), crisp snow though not much ice yet.

The instruction (Keith and Stu) was first class of course, friendly and attentive, and we all felt well looked after. We were taught a lot and enjoyed two classic grade II routes (Dorsal Arete and Curved Ridge) that I'd wanted to do for a long time. I feel ready for more! It's hard to think of any criticisms at all - the course 'ticked all the boxes' for me, it felt secure but challenging enough to be well worthwhile, and I came away having learned lots of useful things while enjoying some great climbs. The company in our small group was excellent - as I'd found before, PyB courses attract interesting like-minded people.

Thanks too to the hotel staff at Alltshellach - we ate and drank well, and enjoyed the compulsory jacuzzi-with-a-view, a great way to prepare for dinner after a good day out.

Not found what you were looking for?

You can hire one of our coaches instructors or guides from only £250 per day. They'll tailor the day to suit your aims and aspirations perfectly.
You can enjoy one to one coaching for that cost or if you get together as a group, depending on the activity, you can split that cost between up to 6 of you. If you are a group we can run any of our courses on a date that suits you and your friends. Or you could just write your own agenda for a week or weekend and we'll price it up for you - with or without accommodation. What's more, just like out normal course fees, our private instructor hire charge covers all your equipment too. Click on the link below to fill in a request form and one of our coaches will call you back (or e-mail if you'd prefer) to discuss things in detail with you.

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Contact our team on 01690 720214 or email - they will be happy to help you find something perfect.

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