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Scottish Winter Climbing
Our popular guided Scottish winter climbing
courses normally take place in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park
or Ben Nevis areas where we aim to give participants a realistic, safe and
rewarding introduction to all the necessary skills and techniques required
for the exciting sport of Snow, Ice & Mixed Climbing.
SUMMARY OF MAIN TOPICS
Clothing & Technical
Rope-work & Belaying
Use of Guide Books
Navigation & Route Finding
The early morning walk in can provide lasting memories......and so
can the late evening walkout!
our many YouTube snow, ice and mixed climbing videos
The revision of basic skills such as the
use of the ice axe, braking, step cutting, kicking, cramponing, navigation
and avalanche awareness.
Choice of Climbing Equipment and Suitable Clothing
The full range of available technical ice
climbing and mountaineering equipment is looked at.
Nutrition & Exercise
The basic fundamentals of what and how much
to eat during a typical winters day should never be underestimated as the
body requires calories and fluid not just for the physical exercise such
as swimming through deep snow drifts and climbing ice faces but also to
maintain the bodies core temperature to avoid the onset of hypothermia.
Cold, wet and wind continually drain the reserves, particularly when
sitting inactive on a belay ledge for an hour or so. We look at ways to
pace ourselves and how to alternate and rest different muscle groups
during steep ascents and descents as well as how to bring the circulation
back to numb fingers and feet. "A lot of time will also be
spent discussing and cursing gloves and
Rope-work & Belaying
You will be shown various methods of using
the rope in exposed ground for overcoming the odd rock/ice step and
cornice. You will also be given the opportunity to practice falling and
holding falls using waist belays and belay devices. The philosophy is
simple, if you don't practice and trust it, you will never have full ( not
fool! ) confidence in using it and that will severely limit your future
progress. We will also look at the pros and cons of moving roped together
and using stompers (looks good but is it safe?).
Looking for runners & belays in
the winter can be tricky! so Its very reassuring to know your
partner has a good belay?
We will look at single and double
rope techniques, direct and indirect belays and the pros and cons of
using belay devices or waist belays with snow and ice anchors.
Getting stuck halfway up a winter climb can be very serious indeed
especially with deteriorating weather conditions and the onset of
hypothermia. If you don't succeed with your climb several pitches up
you'll be shown how to use aid techniques to overcome short
difficult sections and how to rig up multi-pitch abseils using rock,
snow and ice anchors.
Snow, ice and rock belays
The different types of snow and ice
anchors will be shown, constructed, equalized and practiced. We'll
look at horizontal, vertical and T-axe belays, snow & ice mushrooms,
ice screws, threads and dead persons? The usual summer rock
gear/anchors and their limitations in winter conditions (especially
friends) together with the placement and removal of pegs is
Abseiling from climb
View our many YouTube snow, ice and mixed climbing
The use of technical ice axe and hammer to climb ice
We look at the different axe techniques
used to climb easy angled and steep ice when front pointing and the
variety of hooking, torquing and turfing techniques used on mixed. The
advantages and disadvantages of reversed banana and curved pick ice
tools is also discussed.
Personal climbing skills
The huge variety of winter climbing
skills used is taught and practiced throughout the five days. We also
look at self rescue and what to do if suddenly pumped out and
exhausted half way up a vertical ice/rock pitch.
Crampons & Footwork
The pros and cons of articulated and
rigid crampons is discussed together with advice on the different
crampon techniques and footwork required for snow, ice and rock.
Basic navigation techniques help avoid problems in the first place... this
photo was taken in the same area and the same day that an incident took
place on Ben Nevis due to a common navigation error...the day isn't
finished until you arrive safely home.
Navigation techniques for bad weather
Covering the full range of navigational
techniques for bad weather and
white-out we will ensure that basic techniques such as pacing, timing,
following bearings, aiming off in bad visibility/night navigation etc. are
covered as well as more advanced micro navigation techniques such as
boxing, spiral and sweep searches. We will look at the most efficient ways
to organize yourself and kit in strong winds, damp and sub zero
temperatures to avoid maps, gloves etc. disappearing with regular
Snow structure and avalanche assessment
Avalanches are fairly common in the
Scottish mountains on the less steep terrain that walkers or climbers
getting to or off routes find themselves on. The approach slopes, cornices
and scarp slopes in the climbing gullies can be particularly hazardous. We
look at the various elements which influence the stability of the snow.
You will be shown how to use snow pits to examine the snow
profile, perform basic shear
tests, walking rutschblock
tests and how to assess the danger of the given slope and similar slopes
of the same aspect. We will also show you what to do if you are the
unfortunate witness or victim of an
Navigation, Avalanche Assessment, Route Finding and use
of Guide Book!
Every year climbers come to grief getting
to or returning from their days objective. In winter, streams, lochs and
paths may be covered by deep snow drifts and completely buried. Detailed
route finding becomes very important for
conserving energy, especially in deep snow. Skilful route choice enables
you to use the minimum of energy, maximize your potential and avoid
dangerous avalanche prone areas or long detours because a river is in
spate. Once you get to the foot of your objective we'll then show you how
to use the guide book. Success on a winter climb is not just about
climbing skill - it's about planning, conserving energy and knowing the
best line to follow using that skill!
dynamic waist belays
Sample Snow & Ice Climbing Programme
The following schedule is for guidance only and
will be amended to make the best use of area, snow and weather
Each course is individually tailored
to the needs and aspirations of the participants. Clients who have
previous experience in winter mountaineering and summer rock are
likely to spend more time climbing harder routes than clients who
have limited experience for obvious reasons...although that's not
always the case! The grades climbed are dependant on the
motivation and abilities of participants who will be given the
opportunity to lead under supervision. Should you wish to be guided
up particular climbs please feel free to contact me with your
Mixed Climbing on
"Savage Slit" Coire an Lochain
Ice climbing near
Loch Avon basin.
Winter Climbing Experience/Fitness required
Regular summer climbers/scramblers or
winter hill walkers with a good level of fitness, stamina and the
ability to tie a figure of eight knot! You need to have
attended a previous 5 day winter skills or mountaineering course run
by a qualified guide or instructor in the last three years. If
you don't have the required experience but would like to sample
climbing ask about private guiding.
The 3 day winter climbing course includes 3 full
days of guiding or instruction.
Day 1: Basic rope-work and
belays for clients without previous winter experience. The day
will be spent looking at the construction of reliable
snow/ice/rock belays and advanced rope work.
You will also be shown how to escape from a climb by multi-pitch
abseil etc. and may complete an easy introductory climb
such as Jacob's Ladder.
Day 2: Climbing, axe and crampon
technique coaching as well as the
refining of rope work and belay construction. The practice and
instruction is done during the climbing. This gives you the
opportunity to refine your skills in the real stressful situation
under very close supervision. A variety of
grade 2 or 3 climbs will be attempted such as
Spiral, Red Gully, Broken Gully, Invernookie, Fiacaill Coulor,
Ewan Buttress, Vent, Ventilator etc.
Day 3: The main emphasis of
the day will be going out, climbing anything from grade 2 ,
3, or harder and enjoying the mountains while refining
techniques. Examples of climbs enjoyed in the past includeRed Gully, Hells Lum, Deep Cut Chimney, Terms of Endearment,
Mirror Direct, Doctor's Choice, Central Crack Route, Hybrid etc.
Evening farewell celebration.
Interested, but would like to see who
attends our winter courses and what our winter skills courses are all
about? Well why not view the
our Facebook page
and our photo
albums to get and idea. Many of the photos and our popular
YouTube videos were
taken during our courses. You can see what the press and magazines say