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Scottish Winter Intro 2024
Week of mountaineering skills, Grade I & II ridges and gully climbs
View all Scottish Winter courses; click here
Course overview
Spend a full week in the mountains of Scotland, learning winter skills and tackling routes in full winter condition. These courses ascend grade I and II gullies and ridges during the week. Key objectives for the week include Carn Mor Dearg Arete or Ledge Route on Ben Nevis, and the Curved Ridge in Glencoe.
Our Scottish winter courses are all based in the mountains of Ben Nevis and Glencoe, as these provide some of the most reliable snow and winter climbing conditions of anywhere in the UK. The mountains here also offer a wide range of route options at all grades, so are a perfect training ground for these courses.
The course accommodation is in a Fort William B&B, from the Friday afternoon / evening when you arrive through to the check out on the Wednesday, as the course ends on Wednesday afternoon, so you can travel home. Evening meals are available locally in a variety of pubs, and packed lunches can be purchased.
When you book, you are sent a detailed course dossier, which provides full detailed equipment lists and details of the course meeting points, and how to get there. We also detail what hire equipment hire items we can provide, and what can be sourced locally, so you can pre-order any items you require.
In terms of the previous experience required, we suggest a good level of fitness, allied with good capability in inclement and cold weather, as well as being good with exposure. Any previous roped climbing experience (even indoor climbing or roped crag scrambling) is a bonus, but is not essential.
Dates: these are listed in the column on the right, and they show the live availability from our secure online booking system. When you book online, you receive immediate confirmation, your Course Information Booklet, course specific kit list and invoice.
Instructors & skills
The majority of instructors leading these courses are either IFMGA guides, MIC mountain instructors, or WML mountain leaders. All of our Scottish guiding team are highly qualified, and amongst the most experienced in the UK. The guiding ratios are just 1:4 for the first 2 days, then 1:2 for the last 3 days.

As you will doubtless be aware, any Scottish mountaineering is very weather dependant, so our itineraries are intentionally flexible, to allow the instructor(s) to adapt plans to ensure that you achieve the maximum in the week. Safety always is a priority in reaction to the conditions, group skills, and avalanche forecast.

The past few winters have been comparatively mild, but our scheduled dates are in the key season, so we are confident of sufficient snow and conditions for the whole period. However, if the windspeeds are dangerous, or the avalanche risk is too high, we have the contingency option of the Kinlochleven Ice Factor wall.

This week has a real focus on developing your skills on progressively steeper ground, and by the end of the week the aim is for you to ascend classic Scottish winter routes using roped climbing techniques. The routes attempted in this course are typically grade I & II gullies and ridges. The technical content is;

  How to use ice axe and crampons Avalanche awareness and avoidance
  Winter ropework and snow belays Snow & ice climbing techniques
  Ice axe arrest emergency skills Winter navigation and route planning
Course accommodation in Fort William
Being well rested, dry and fed in the mornings is key to enjoying a Scottish Winter trip. You stay in a B&B / hotel in Fort William on a B&B basis. We use a selection of accommodation providers.

You are booked into twin rooms as standard, and a cooked English breakfast in included each morning. The rooms all have ensuite bath / shower rooms. You can pay to have evening meals locally.

If you would like to arrange your own accommodation for this course, let us know at the time of your booking, and subject to numbers, a discount is applied to your invoice of £40 per night. For those wanting an upgrade to single accommodation, this can be arranged at £50 per night extra, subject to availability.
The accommodation we use all has free WiFi throughout. There is parking for those travelling by car, and it is close to the Train and Bus stations, for those arriving by public transport.

Full details of the accommodation are provided in the course dossier, once you have booked, and if you'd like to upgrade to single rooms or book extra nights, this can be arranged too.

Brief Course Itinerary
Fri The B&B check in is from 16:00 and onwards on the Friday. At 18:00, there is a scheduled course briefing (in person or via Zoom), so you have the opportunity to ask any questions, before the activities the next day. For those of you arriving late, don't worry, as this briefing can be repeated the next morning.
Sat Day 1 of 5 guiding (1:4 ratio). After breakfast, you will meet your instructor for the week, who will brief you on conditions and check your equipment. If you have hired any equipment locally, ensure you have collected it the evening before, to be ready. The instructor will design the itinerary to cater for your previous experience and aspirations, in conjunction with the weather and avalanche forecasts. Generally on the first day you focus on skills for moving safely on snowy terrain, kicking steps, ascent and descent techniques, and you practice ice axe arrest skills in event of a slip. Night in B&B.
Sun Day 2 of 5 guiding (1:4 ratio). The aim of today is to get onto steeper graded ground, to develop your skills further. During the day you are taught the use of the rope for Scottish winter routes for protection, and you will learn about the wide range of snow anchors that can be used for direct or indirect belays. These include bucket-seat belays, buried axe belays, stomper belays, and direct belays using Italian hitches. The skills you practice today will be re-visited throughout the week, but are the key staple skills for any winter climbs in Scotland or the UK mountains. Night in B&B.

Day 3 of 5 guiding (1:2 ratio). As the first two days covered the key basic skills, today is a chance to put them all together, and to learn how to move quickly and efficiently on a Scottish winter route. The skills of moving together and short roping are key to developing what is referred to as moving Alpine style, where the route choice, and efficiency of movement and ropework, will determine if you get off a mountain in the last of the daylight or in the darkness. You typically spend some time today learning avalanche awareness skills and techniques for assessing the stability of the snowpack. Night in B&B.

Tue Day 4 of 5 guiding (1:2 ratio). The last two days of the course are guided on a 1:2 ratio to ensure that you are operating at the best client to instructor ratio for your progression and for safety. These days are a real opportunity for you to put all the skills that you have learned into action, during a full mountain day. There are many routes to choose from, but typically you climb one of the uber-classic Scottish winter routes such as the Broad Gully on Stob Coirenan Lochain, or No.4 Gully on Ben Nevis. These routes are famous for really developing you as a Scottish winter climber. Night in B&B.
Wed Day 5 of 5 guiding (1:2 ratio). Run on a similar basis as yesterday, at a 1:2 ratio, today you climb a winter ridge route or a buttress. These routes are more exposed than the gullies of yesterday, and the instructor will lead you on a classic winter route such as the Carn Mor Dearg (CMD) Arete on Ben Nevis, or the Ledge Route. In Glencoe, another option might be the Curved Ridge.   All the guiding is scheduled to finish by 17:00, so you can return any hire kit, and then travel home. Extra nights accommodation can be arranged, if you wish to stay in Fort William for extra time.
ITINERARY NOTES: Where possible we follow itineraries. Mountain adventures are weather and conditions dependant, so occasionally we are forced to alter the plans. If this is the case, suitable alternatives are offered. Please use this outline itinerary as a guide to the types of route / activity that you will attempt.

Course Prices
Standard course
5 full days guiding, 1:4 & 1:2 ratios
7 days holiday in total, Friday-Wednesday
Live availability
Click on the planner logo to the right to
see the real time live course availability
Latest Availability
Secure online booking system
Standard Course Inclusions
1) Hand picked qualified winter instructor for five days (1:4 & 1:2 ratios)
2) UK office and concierge service for logistics, advice and support
3) Pre course information dossier, with training plans and kit lists
4) Briefing the first evening, with latest updates and weather reports
5) Equipment discount voucher for our Windermere shop / online
6) Group technical kit e.g. rope and protection equipment, supplied by guide
7) Five nights B&B accommodation in Fort William, Friday eve to Wednesday morning
8) Preferential rates on technical equipment rental in Windermere & Fort William
9) Road transport with guide to and from climbing venues from Fort William
10) Free 36 page technical Course Instruction Booklet
Exclusions: 1) Travel to and from Fort William, Scotland, 2) Cable Cars on Aonach Mor or White Corries (c.£30 total for week) or Ice Factor, 3) Rental equipment, 4) Personal laundry, telephone calls, lunches, evening meals, & any purchases on the mountain / hotels / restaurants, 5) Activities insurance, excess baggage, etc.
1) Group sizes for this trip are 2 (min) - 4 (max) people. A booking of 2 people guarantees the date.
2) Rental kit this can either be hired from our shop in Windermere (click for details), or in Fort William.
3) The instructor may occasionally suggest that avalanche safety kit (transceiver, shovel, probe) is required, and this can be hired locally if required.
Current course availability

Course Dates
Scottish Winter Intro
  • No Dates Available
Spaces are indicated by the
number in square brackets
before each course date.
Why pick this trip...
Great instructor ratios
2 days 1:4, 3 days 1:2
Private Guiding. Get in contact to arrange any bespoke Scottish winter guiding. This costs from £250 a day for 1:1, or from £260 a day for 1:2 booking together. Higher grade technical level routes cost more in guiding fees.

Price: £999 Book online

Alternative courses
Scottish Winter Skills
Winter Alpine Intro course
Chamonix Technical Ice
Winter Alpine Classics

Client feedback

I learned one hell of a lot this week, and know I need to keep practising the skills, or I'll forget them! Thanks so much for a great week

Ben J , Winter Climbing

I'm just editing my photos, and there are some stunning ones from the CMD ridge on the Ben, which was my favourite route of the trip

Julie B , Winter Climbing

Another top week with you. Thanks to you all for the instruction, advice before the trip, and help with all my travel arrangements too

Fran T , Winter Climbing

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Location data for this trip
The trips all meet in a B&B close to Fort William, which is easily accessed by train from Glasgow, or by car if you are driving. The B&B has car parking.
Time Difference
GMT +0hr
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Suggested reading and kit
View full course equipment list, with examples of kit, click here
Outline equipment list
Note that upon booking, a detailed list is supplied with the course dossier.
Mountain boots B3
12 point crampons
Safety helmet
Climbing harness
Mountaineering ice axe
Waterproof jacket & trousers
Insulation jacket and layers
Plenty of hats and gloves
Rucksack (c.40 - 50 litres)
Head torch & batteries
Trekking poles
Survival bag / Blizzard bag
First aid kit
Compass, whistle & map case
OS Landranger map 41, Ben Nevis & Glencoe, 1:50,000 scale
Why choose our trips?
See our course blog, by clicking on the Word-press logo to the right.
Icicle Blog
Itinerary flexibility to allow you to take full advantage of the weather windows on any day, to maximise your summit chances.
Our UK Scottish courses are all led by top instructors, with a mix of IFMGA guides, MIC's, and WML's.
There is a choice of routes to opt for, depending on the weather, conditions, and your experience.
Any further questions?
A key part of choosing a company is being able to come and talk about your plans with an experienced course advisor face to face. In an increasingly virtual world, we know our clients value speaking to real people, getting open and honest advice. The vast majority of our clients are British, and our office and outdoor store is based in Windermere in the English Lake District.

Get in contact to arrange a meeting, and come in for a coffee to discuss your course in person with a trip advisor.

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