A week of exploring classic mountaineering ridges and gullies in the Scottish winter. You'll advance your winter mountaineering skills with a combination of practical instruction from our friendly, highly experienced instructors and ascents of many of the finest summits in the Western Highlands. We'll continue to hone your skills over the week on steeper snow and winter scrambling terrain, and refresh and improve your winter navigation and avalanche evaluation whilst undertaking big days out in the mountains.
This course will be delivered from our scenic winter base in Scotland, the Alltshellach hotel in North Ballachulish. You arrive on Sunday evening in time for dinner and departure is on Friday after the course at about 5pm.
We'll aim to cover the following topics by incorporating them into mountain journeys, taking in some of the major peaks via ridges and/or gullies:
Ice axe arrest techniques Advanced winter navigation Consolidating your proficiency in winter ropework skills and techniques Avalanche risk assessment and avoidance Terrain - we'll be tackling classic rocky ridgelines (up to Grade II) and snow gullies. Winter mountaineering decision making
* Please note: Itinerary is subject to weather and availability.
Given the nature of this course, 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 morning briefing on both days, allowing you to share the decision-making process with experienced instructors.
You should have completed our Scottish Winter Mountaineering Course, or have similar experience, and be confident in the use of crampons and ice axe. By this stage in your mountaineering career you will have a good understanding of the physical demand of five consecutive days out in the Scottish mountains and you'll be fit enough for five full mountain days. Be prepared for several days of over 1000m of ascent by the more challenging routes.
Why Choose Plas y Brenin?
Our instructors are some of the UK’s most experienced. We train other instructors and help to write the national syllabuses for NGB qualifications in mountaineering, paddlesports, cycling and climbing. Our goal is to teach you skills to last a lifetime, and at Plas y Brenin you know you are getting training from the best.
If your course is based at Plas y Brenin, the residential price includes accommodation for the night before, and the duration of your time here. If you’re staying with us, we also provide delicious meals to keep you going as you learn, meaning you can concentrate on enjoying yourself. We may also be able to arrange a transfer from Llandudno Junction train station, subject to availability. We would need a minimum of one week’s notice prior to your course start date – please contact reception to learn more.
When it comes to equipment, at Plas y Brenin we have a wide range of top-quality kit for you to use, all included in your course fee. This means if you’re just starting out, there’s no need to rush out and buy a load of expensive gear, and if you’re already pretty well kitted-out, it’s a great chance to try something new.
Your instruction, accommodation, meals, in-course transport and equipment hire are all included in the price. You’ll stay at Alltshellach, a fantastic hotel owned and run by HF Holidays in comfy en-suite rooms (normally shared). The hotel has efficient drying rooms so when you come in from a day out you can dry out any kit for the next day and there are also laundry facilities. Alltshellach also has a handy shop for any little essentials you may have forgotten such maps, poles, socks, gaiters, sit mats, postcards and a range of toiletries.
Ice axe* - 55-60cm long. This should be a walking/mountaineering axe such as the DMM Cirque, rather than a lightweight ski touring or technical climbing axe. 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 AirTech 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. 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. 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 such as the Deuter Guide 35+ is a good choice. 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 e.g. 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. Clothing
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 also 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. We will send you an equipment loan form on confirmation of your booking. If you would like to borrow a helmet, harness, winter boots, rucksack, ice axe or crampons please complete the form and return us. For all other items marked with a * we don't need to know in advance, just ask your instructor when you get there.
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.
Crampon advice - 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.
Be prepared for five days of over 1000m of ascent on challenging routes on the mountains of the West coast of Scotland. You should have a high level of hillwalking fitness with the ability to spend 6-8hrs walking on steep paths and on broken terrain. The days will often include 800-1200m of ascent and descent. You'll also need to carry a rucksack with your spare clothing, lunch and equipment in - this could have an approximate weight of 6-8kgs. You'll reach this level of fitness through regular summer hillwalking and 2-3 exercise sessions per week, including; running, cycling, walking or playing sport, these should feel challenging and tiring sessions. Some upper body strength will be beneficial but you should focus mainly on leg fitness and stamina.