Winter Mountaincraft

Learning and Adventure in the Mountains of Skye

This popular course gives an introduction or refresher course on the skills and equipment used to safely tackle mountains in Scotland through the winter months. It is suitable for hill walkers with a good level of hill fitness. A different mountain location is used each day both to learn the skills and enjoy the scenery from these unpopulated peaks. This will include easier peaks in the Black Cuillin but will concentrate on the wonderful Red Cuillin peaks where the terrain is more typical of elsewhere in Scotland. Suitable ground is found on which to practice the skills on route. The technical skills of crampon and ice axe use, route choice, weather and snow conditions, emergency actions and navigation are all covered.

Sample Itinerary: 4-Day Course

Evening of arrival: Introduction discussion of the basics skills of winter walking such as weather and route choice. Check of client kit and packing for the next day.

Day 1: Marsco 736m

Coire nan Laogh is only an hour’s walk from the road and frequently holds large snow fields. An ascent by the north spur on snow slopes leads to the south-east ridge and magnificent views into the heart of the Black Cuillin bowl. A further 10 minutes of easy walking along the ridge leads to the tiny summit cairn.

Assessment of snow conditions and avalanche hazard. How and when to use crampons. Walking with an ice axe for security. Ice axe arrest is secondary to learning to avoid slipping in the first place but will also be taught and practiced.

Day 2: Bruach na Frithe 958m

Ascend from Sligachan into Coir’ a’ Bhasteir the Cuillin’s most wintery corrie. Surrounded by awesome pinnacles and walls an easy angled rise leads up to a shoulder at Bealach na Lice. Traversing a snow slope beneath Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire gives the first views of the Main Cuillin Ridge just 5 minutes walk from the summit and Trig point.

Learn to cut steps in harder snow surfaces. Emergency actions- dig a snow hole and other ways in which to get shelter in winter. Fionn Choire usually gives ample chance to practice more ice axe arrest on the descent.

Day 3: Blaven 928m

The ascent of the great central gully of Blaven is considered a Grade I climb but is well within the capabities of any competent walker. Simple use of a rope introduces clients safely to how steeper snow can be safely dealt with. This is an important lesson as winter walkers can easily find themselves on unexpectedly steep terrain. The views of the Main Cuillin Ridge from the summit are rated as being amongst the best mountain scenery in the country.

Introduction to basic use of a rope for safety. Ascent of snow steps up to 60 degrees.

Day 4: Glamaig Horseshoe 775m

Ascend by a 500m snow runnel from Sconser to this magnificent saddle-backed peak. Beyond the crest is often only thinly covered with snow but provides a walk of the highest quality around this classic horseshoe.

Axe and crampon practice for long ascents and descents. Basic use of rope for safety on open snow slopes. Basic navigation exercises with map and compass.