/ I've done it backwards. Winter routes for a PD+ climber
I seem to have done all this learning to winter climb thing backwards and appear to have done alpine climbing before any Scottish Winter stuff.
I've done the Aiguille du Tour, Petit Aiguille Verte normal, Pigne d'Arolla normal, Mont Blanc Du Cheilon Normal, Weissmies NW Flank, Allalinhorn Normal Route, and the Nadelhorn NE ridge. All without any major epics whatsoever.
I've done a winter skills course in the Cairngorms before where we climbed Hidden Chimney which was OK to be honest.
So basically I want to do a Scottish Winter. Need somewhere that's public transport accessible, and with lots of low grade stuff. Looking at fiacaill ridge possibly? Anyone have any recommendations?
theres no point in selecting individual climbs now as so much depends on the conditions and weather at the time. Looking at what you've done in the alps Fiacall ridge will likely be a bit under stimulating IMO.
Cairngorms tends to be better early to mid season and the west coast mid to late. When do you intend to go? The best chance of getting stuff done is generally sometime in feburary but it varies widely from year to year.
The best chance of getting stuff done, is to live in scotland. Failing that stay flexible on dates and destinations until the conditions and weather are favourable.
If using public transport the obvious place to base yourself is fortwilliam or aviemore area (there is a YHA nearish to corrie cas). If you choose fortwilliam you would have the option of aonach more for easier days (or the west face for the normal East slopes higher avalanche risk scenario) and the ben for the bigger days. The west coast tends to get better ice / neve conditions.
If you choose aviemore in general you are more likely to get reasonable conditions (the northern corries face NNW so don't tend to be as avalanche prone as the more East facing crags which collect snow on a westerly wind and you have lurchers that faces west) and good mixed climbing but less likely to get good ice / neve (although there are ice venues in the area).
Was looking to go in February as from my reading the forums it seems to be a good month. Being based in Leeds it's Scotland or Wales, and most likely Fort William or Aviemore as you say.
Wales is very fickle, the lakes is generally also fickle but slightly more reliable.
Feburary certainly was the most reliable month about 5 years ago. Resent seasons less so.
How long do you intend to go for?
I read your post with interest- I'm in exactly the same boat. I've done a couple of summers in the Alps- Petite Verte, Tour, Cosmique Arete, Mont B etc, and I'm lacking a little in confidence and knowledge to start tackling Scotland on my own. I'm looking to clock up some lower-grade climbs to go towards my Winter Mountain Leader logbook. Let me know how you get on :)
Was looking at a week from the start of Feb.
Can shift this about a bit, but not by much as my partner has to fly from Germany!
OK so my opinion is that booking any particular week now and sticking to it in Scotland suffers from a relatively high risk of getting very little good climbing done (high winds, thaw, high avalanche risk, snow blocked roads / paths etc)
I guess it's an issue anywhere but seeing as the Alps are the same distance for me as Scotland I think I'll personally plan around going south.
Living in Leeds however you can do weekend trips to Scotland when the conditions are good. I'd personally plan most your trips around being able to do that and try and partner up with someone from leeds with similar asperations.
That's the bit that could be tricky, because even if you are in say Fort William it is still some way to the car parks where most will start the walk-ins from. And camping is possible, but can be a bit miserable.
Consider Bridge of Orchy. Train and bus go there. Beinn and Dothaid and Meall Buidhe have plenty of easy stuff. Dothaid is pretty high and inland so can be in decent conditions even if say Glencoe isn't.
I've done some Scotland weekends from Leeds, but I'm not sure how you would do it without a car?
Good call on the Bridge of Orchy although it does tend to be less reliable than than the Ben or the northern corries and it's a long way to anywhere else in this case.
"That's the bit that could be tricky, because even if you are in say Fort William it is still some way to the car parks where most will start the walk-ins from. And camping is possible, but can be a bit miserable."
Assumedly the OP would stay somewhere in the fortwilliam area rather than the centre of town. From Torlundy the north face route in is easily accessible and there is a bus to aonach mor that gets you there for 7:45 am for the climbers gondola.
Either that or the OP could stay in the glen nevis side which is no longer to walk in to the Ben if you skirt around to the north face and easy enough to get a taxi to torlundy for the bus (or all the way to aonaach mor it prolly wouldn't break the bank a couple of times during the week)
"I've done some Scotland weekends from Leeds, but I'm not sure how you would do it without a car? "
Partner up with someone with a car or hire one?
All good advice people! The car thing is basically I've never learned to drive, and oddly for climbers neither have any of the people I partner up with regularly.
Cue epic walk ins to even the most roadside crag. Skipton to Rylstone as a walk in anyone? Or Capel Curig to Ogwen?
I really need to learn. Or find a partner who drives :)
Fort William sounds like a winner. Does Ledge Route come into nick often?
ledge route does come in to nick often. There is a short but sometimes avalanche prone approach up number 5 gully to watch out for, and the start is up a rock ramp that can be a little prone to thaw.
Looks fairly "PDey" to me and ace. Golden Oldie looks awesome as well.
in good nick the bulk of the route is up neve runnels with a short mixed step near the top.
It's sad to say but driving and owning a car will probably make a huge positive difference to your climbing! Besides anything else, camping out of your rucksack for a few days in Scotland in winter can quickly sap your morale and drive. Camping out the back of car is so much easier - even if you still don't have hot showers and warm bed. More dry clothes, more and better food etc. etc.
At 35 I am slightly ashamed I've never learned to drive :)
#1 bit of kit for a winter climber in Scotland (unless you're MacLeod) is a car. Or a reliable partner with one.
Good luck with the climbing. It offers different things to the Alps though.
I've climbed a bit in winter before. Mainly in Wales, but I've done a bit.
Crib Goch in heavy powder being an eye opener.
Personally if going down the public transport route I'd be looking at Cairngorms, staying in Aviemore or close by and using the ski bus to get up and back to the Corries... For the Ben I'd always prefer to have earlier starts than from the ski centre at Coire Cas and that can be a pain unless you are staying very close to the north face car park as the buses don't run super early to my knowledge. Doable from Glen Nevis or the Fort, but more mileage to add to the day. You could always try and book a week in the CIC hut, but I suspect you'll be lucky at that time of year!
as mentioned the walkin to the north face of the Ben is not noticeably longer from glen Nevis (I've done it from achintree and beaten people who left 30 mins before us driving to the north face car park) than the north face car park and isn't any further distance wise.
Fair enough... It always feels longer to me, but I can't say I've ever timed it!
Funny that as Hidden Chimney get's voted III fairly unanimously on here. I've done it several times at different times of the season. Its a good one to do early season (with the direct start which rarely gets build up on it later in the season anyway) as it doesn't need much build up. In these conditions (withouit the direct start) its solid III, more typically I think its a fairly normal III, with harder crux moves than some of the grade III mixed routes on the ben (such as number three gully butress in normal conditions).
I have heard it can bank out and become a lot easier in heavy snow years which is perhaps why it gets II/III (I often find these split grades can mean lean or well built up snow conditions rather than grade border take the Vent for example).
Unless there are several thousand other teams on it, all of whom have heard that it's the best Alpine route in Scotland. This happens quite a lot, do it early in the day unless you like being climbed over and held up.
Pic - http://blog.westcoast-mountainguides.co.uk/?p=2035
I have to disagree, pleasant though Dorsal is it lacks the scale or mountaineering context to be a truly great Alpine route. Think Tower Ridge, Pinnacle Ridge on Skye, or at a much easier grade something like the NE Ridge of Angel's Peak.
You are taking the piss, right?
Dorsal arete?.. A long walk for a short climb.
Alpine? It only takes 20 mins!
having done 4 seasons in Scotland without a car I can categorically say this is bollocks.
It's important to be keen for the routes you get on, so starting off with Ledge Route and the ribs on the West face of Aonach Mor, which you mentioned as looking good would be a decent place to start. Both routes are best done moving together with the odd short pitched bit and are often in nick. Best plan is to choose your venue at very short notice, say the day before, though this does not sit well with booking nice accommodations always
Much in agreement with Jamie - having lived in Glencoe for the last 3 winters, I find Dorsal Arete tends to become so busy that it is frankly un-enjoyable from mid-morning to late afternoon on many winter days.
Not sure if anyone has mentioned Castle Ridge on the Ben yet? Really worthwhile winter outing and much less frequented than some of the other classics. Mainly lots of grade II with an enjoyable crux of high-end grade III. Good "Alpine" terrain.
James, is the castle ridge crux above a nice ledge, or is it very exposed...?
If I leave the car-park at 8am I will almost invariably be first on the route.
It's quite exposed. A friend of mine felt the need for 4 cigarettes before taking it on solo, in summer.
> If I leave the car-park at 8am I will almost invariably be first on the route.
Not always my experience Jamie though I guess correct most of the time, but even if there's no-one else on the route itself I still don't like the sensation of several teams all storming towards the bottom of the route I'm on. Though that's me as a recluse...if I had my way there wouldn't be another headtorch or person in sight.
Depends on your definition of "very exposed" I guess - in summer I've soloed it without a second thought several times and haven't really been aware of the exposure.
In winter I've soloed in once and it felt pretty committing for the grade, and the drop below you feels a fair bit bigger.
Like I say depends on how well you deal with exposure, though it below the crux it is probably more in line with many summer Diffs than Moderates.
> At 35 I am slightly ashamed I've never learned to drive :)
Glencoe has hostels, bunkhouses, camping, dosses etc.Glen Nevis bunkhouse has the Ben path at the door!
I remember staying at the Alex McIntyre hut at the same time as Andy Parkins and his American GF, they had hitched from down south, and still hitched around the Coe, and up to the Ben to tick some impressive routes.
Assuming you're fit and used to early 'alpine' starts, you can get stuff done, without a car.
True, but being a yoof and a weekend warrior surely is not compatible? If you have plenty time in your hand, then sure you can hitch around and get tones done. If you have sat/sun and no car, it makes it a bit of an art to get the hit right with a car... so it can't be easy without one.
To the OP. Be a bit of a climbing hoe... meet with lots of UKcers so you have reliable beta and partners. Make sure you have mileage in the hills and on the rock (in that order...I'd sooner get a good winter walker with a head for height started then a monster indoor climber). And then you'll get out and about.
I guess from personal experience, east ridge of the in pinn = extremely exposed, curved ridge crux = didn't really feel exposed...
And the Eastern terrace of cloggy, only grade 1 scramble, but I still have cold sweats thinking about it...!
So which is it more akin to... Jamies post suggests the more exposed end of the scale...
> True, but being a yoof and a weekend warrior surely is not compatible? If you have plenty time in your hand, then sure you can hitch around and get tones done. If you have sat/sun and no car, it makes it a bit of an art to get the hit right with a car... so it can't be easy without one.
> Depends on your definition of "very exposed" I guess - in summer I've soloed it without a second thought several times and haven't really been aware of the exposure.
> In winter I've soloed in once and it felt pretty committing for the grade, and the drop below you feels a fair bit bigger.
Me and a mate did Castle years back on a beautiful day, - got sunburnt! I still don't know if we were lost but I tried this short steep crack that we took to be the crux and got shut down by it. If I remember right it was dry so I even tried taking one crampon off to do it again and still not doing it. Ed spied a short steep icefall to its left and climbed that getting us back on route. Oddly, I don't remember much else about the route, but if we were on route jolly good effort soloing that! :) And to put it in some context, we had stormed up Tower Ridge in good consolidated but very wintery conditions the day before in about 3.5 hours, only belaying out of the DGB gap, and the Eastern Traverse to tower gap bit, so we weren't total punters. Castle struck me as way more technical than anything on Tower, although as I say, we might have managed to get lost.
This photo is the view down the usual crux of Castle Ridge in winter.
If you came up underneath a short section of easy angled slabs, moved up them and then moved right to an exposed ledge with the crack above and to the left, then I'd guess you were on the usual crux.
I've heard many different opinions on it but a common observation is the crux is pushing tech 4. To be fair I think it is one of the hardest moves I've done on a Grade III without a technical grade in the guidebook.
To my shame I've still not got around to Tower Ridge in winter yet but I've always thought the crux of Castle Ridge in summer to be a wee bit harder than anything on Tower Ridge.
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