01690 720214

Scottish Performance Winter Climbs

Course Overview


People who have been on our Scottish Classic Winter Climbs often ask 'what's next?' Well here it is. More of the winning formula, with a 1:2 staff to guest ratio right through the week. Develop your winter climbing experience on some of the longer or more challenging routes. Alternatively, take the opportunity to improve your technique still further, with our expert coaching. Our Instructors will be sharing their experience and knowledge of climbing, route choice, snow evaluation and conditions to ensure you make the most of what Scotland can offer. This week will aim to break the Grade V barrier and climb some of the best winter routes in Scotland.

Experience Required

experience of winter climbing on routes of grade III/IV or above.

Scheduled Dates

Detailed Course Notes

You should be 18 years old to attend this course.

Is it for me?

Previous experience of winter climbing on grade III and IV routes is essential for this course, it is an ideal progression for those who have attended a Scottish Classic Winter Climbs course. By now you will have gained a good understanding of the demands of Scottish winer climbing and realise the benefit of a high level of fitness.

Fitness requirements

You should have a very high level of winter climbing 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 can be obtained through regular summer and winter days in the mountains and 2-3 exercise sessions per week. This could include running, cycling, walking or playing sport, these should be challenging and tiring sessions. Upper body strength is required and training in this area, such as weight sessions in the gym, should be included in your preparation. This should focus on strength and stamina in the arms, shoulders and back. Time spent rock climbing either outside or at an indoor climbing wall will also be valuable.

Course Content

The aim of this week is to develop your previous experience and enthusiasm for winter climbing. We aim to quickly refresh the basic climbing skills in order to pick up where we left off as soon as possible. Whether it's further coaching, further variety, or simply harder, faster, longer - the excellent 1:2 ratio throughout the course will allow you to steer the week.

Through five days of climbing, we hope to develop your skills with plenty of mileage over snow, ice and mixed ground, all the time sharing the adventure and judgement as we find our way. Teaming up in pairs allows everyone to gain the coaching they need, at an appropriate level. The intention is to climb routes of grade V and above and to experience both ice and mixed terrain.

Examples of some routes climbed on this course include:

Orion Face Direct (V), Hadrian’s Wall Direct (V), Point Five (V), Smiths Route (V), Observatory Buttress (V), North East Buttress (IV), Ben Nevis
Scabbard Chimney (V), Chimney Route (VI) Innuendo (V), Stob Coire nan Lochan, Glencoe
West Chimney (V), Stob Coire nam Beith, Glencoe
Organ Pipe Wall (V), Beinn Udlaidh

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



I have now been on 3 PyB courses based at Altshellach and I think that says a lot. I have just had THE BEST week which far exceeded expectations. I went on this course a little less experienced than most but the instructors didn't let that stop us from getting straight on some fantastic classic Scottish winter routes. There were 3 of us on the course with 2 instructors giving flexibilty to climb a variety of routes, pure ice and mixed graded IV to VI. The experience, knowledge and passion of the instructors was evident and I'm sure that even seasoned climbers could learn a thing or two. The accommodation is very nice, having use of the spa with hot tub overlooking the Loch is a nice bonus after a big day out on the hill. They keep you very well fed throughout with as much food as you can eat (and you will need the calories). While it may seem expensive at first glance, when you take into account the quality of intruction, the accommodation, plentiful food and access to PYB hire kit (giving me the opportunity to try out some mono points) I believe that it's is actually very good value. The course detail on the web page can seem a bit vague because what you do does depend on what you want to get out of it. If in doubt give PyB a call I'm sure they will be more than happy to help.

Great routes, great instructors, great food

Adam Wheeler

Have just had an excellent week ice climbing with two fantastic instructors Matt Stygal and Tim Neill that surpassed mexpectations. Two years ago I did the Intro to Scottish Winter Climbing and this course seemed the natural development to get on to some big classic routes. The weather held all week and we spent the first four days doing extraordinary 3 star ice routes on the Ben that I did not think I was capable of. Highlights included an ascent of Tower Ridge with Matt and Minus Two Gully with Tim with a four pitch abseil off the route. On the last day we did Twisting Gully at the Lochan. I learnt a huge anound from both Matt and Tim whose skill and experience were inspiring and more over they calmly put up with me dithering around on exposed icy belays. An added bonus was the food at Altshellach which was excellent - copious amounts of freshly prepared food to a high standard and very well presented. Last time I was here I was disappointed by the food so it was very nice to be pleasantly surprised. Hope to be back next year.


Julian D

Another first-class week with PyB in Scotland. I've been to Alltshellach before and enjoyed it so much I came back for more. This course was really good value, and two of us were superbly looked after by Phil Dowthwaite for the week. We came with slightly different skills and aims, but managed to do a series of classic climbs on Aonach Mor, Glencoe, Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Udlaidh, mostly grade III-IV, which felt just right for both of us (plenty hard enough for me, while being interesting enough for Michael!). Somehow Phil managed to combine some proper classics with a lot of learning, so lots of boxes were ticked for both of us. We felt lucky with the conditions, but it wasn't just luck, there was also some careful route selection being done by Phil each day. Having felt just a touch apprehensive at the start, by the end of the week I felt much more confident and ready for more... but I might just have to wait for a year now.

A great week, highly recommended for the quality of instruction and overall experience - very many thanks to Phil for being a fantastic guide and instructor and great company, and also thanks to Bridget and all the staff at Alltshellach for making us feel very welcome (and well fed).

Zero Gully

Simon Hayes

I've never climbed Ben Nevis before. Although I've driven passed it many times on the way to the mountains farther north and I've often thought of stopping to go up the tourist path but I"m glad I didn't.
If you're going to climb the highest Scottish mountain in the whole world as Tim calls it, you may as well do it properly.
Damn the tourist path, we didn't even come down that way. Scare yourself a little. Find someone who really
knows what they're doing (Plas Y Brennin has a lot of people like that) and climb the Ben the hard way.
Zero gully is the kind of classic ice route I've always wanted to do. I found it hard but I'll never forget topping out with Keith our instructor leading us on to the top of the Ben,walking away into the low winter sun with spindrift covering the sky.
Keith doesn't say much but he's so good he makes you feel relaxed even when you're a bit nervous.
Whereas Tim is talking all the time (Irish craic). I spent six hours on my front points and I felt a bit like a jelly afterwards and I listened to Tim so long following us up the gully that I started to think in a Irish accent.
But I won't forget Zero gully.
Go to Plas Y Brennin, it's like a dream factory. Stop watching TV and go and do something hard.

Mr S Joyce

The quality of the instruction was very good but the streaming system for clients was very poor. Being a performance climbing course you would expect to climb with other clients of similiar expectations and skill base. Unfortunately this was not the case and because of this I feel I did not get what I was expecting out of the course. I was not stretched on this course, which is what I was expecting. It was not the insrtuctors fault. He can only work with the people he is given. But if one person is wanting to climb VI and one is only wants to climb IV how can both clients be happy? It would be better to group clients together of similar ability on the same courses if possible.
£815 is a lot of money just to get 5 days climbing which could have been achieved with fellow climbers.
I must reiterate that the quality of the instruction was very good but as a Performance Climbing Course it was disapointing.
Thank you for the oportunity to voice my review.

Mr S Joyce

Great time with Phil

Gareth Snell

It was with apprehension that I arrived at Alltshellach to begin this course, 'Performance climbing', for an old fart like me. I was teamed up with Stu and our guide Phil Dowthwaite. Phils professionalism, knowledge, personality and sense of humour heped me to relax and iron out a few equipment, crap crampons, faults and work began on my technique for ice and mixed climbing. Helped by a visit , when weathered off to the Ice Factor. Left Twin and Siamese Twin on Anoch Mor both proved to be highly enjoyable with greatly improved technique after this visit. North Buttress on the Buckle also proved to be a cold but enjoyable experience , with 6 or more pitches of that typical Scottish delight, mixed climbing.

Overall the course was instructive and hugely enjoyable as well as being physically demanding. A great mixture. All made possible by our guide Phil, who inspired confidence and trust in his and then our own abilities.

One thing though, can we have mushy peas with the fish & chips in future.

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.

Fill in a Callback Form

Other Courses you should consider?

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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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