/ Scottish routes to take learners round
Myself and a friend have a fair bit of experience in mountaineering (in the Alps) and as such are confident with the kit, and with scrambling, glacier crossing, etc - however I've never been to Scotland (for mountaineering).
We're planning on taking a few friends (who haven't done it before) up to Scotland in January or February to teach them how to use crampons, axe, ropes etc, and do a few of the easier peaks over three or four days.
I've found this website http://scottishwinterroutes.com/ which seems good for routes.
Can anyone please suggest routes which are mainly walking and easy scrambling which would be good to take beginners round to learn the ropes? Would it be advised to be roped up on these easier routes?
They're all classic routes on the better mountains.
Lots of grade 1 gullies but they are quite weather and avalanche dependent which the previous suggestions aren't (so much).
Mine opinion too.
I found the crux of Castle Ridge desperate!
Definitely recommend the ledge route, most of it is just ride walking, easy ground with one optional crux and the start of it (which varies enormously with condition). Has a real mountaineering feel about it. If the weather is good and party are fit then it is possible to combine it with the CMD Arete.
Alternatively, maybe Tower Gully which has an approach which takes you through some great scenery.
In SCNL - boomerang gully, NC gully: others in the lochaber/glen coe area that I know of - the aonach eagach (conditions dependent), sron na larig? Even the walk up the buchaille in full winter conditions has a real mountaineering feel about it - the exit from Coire na tulach can be corniced (And avalanche prone!). What about the 5 sisters of kintail, ring of steal. Plenty to go at!
This may interest: http://www.mcofs.org.uk/winter-climbing-guide-where.asp
The Northern Corries of Cairngorm, of course, have masses to offer in the lower grades. And the wonderfully easy and short walk-in is always attractive.
Aladdin's Couloir, Central Gully, Fiacaill Ridge, Jacob's Ladder, The Slant, The Couloir, and perhaps The Vent on a good banked out day. Loads of routes and ones that can be done 'climber style' after you've just completed one.
Awesome! Was it recent?
Yep, exactly the same happened to me circa 1995. The instructor said he has done easier grade V's!!! There is not a lot of space just below the crux and it gets nippy after the first hour......
In response to the original post, maybe leave this one until a later trip. Get use to long days on the Ben and at least you will be prepared in that respect.
I nearly replied earlier in this thread, so I'll jump on the bandwagon now - Not Castle Ridge for a beginner. I did it a few years ago on a winter climbing course, and whilst I found the crux exciting, my pal struggled, and I would have been much more spooked had I not been seconding. As others found, the guide found it a challenge too. Rest of it's a skoosh, but the abseil tat down into N Castle Gully told a story imo.
I did CMD arete with a friend who had never hiked on snow before. If I did it again I'd take a rope with me because my partner got a bit scared on a couple of occasions. It has a big winter day feel and the Ben is a nice summit to brag about if you've not taken the donkey track.
Thanks for all the great comments - very useful information. They're all fairly fit guys so a long day shouldn't be a problem, as long as there's nothing too technical to hold us up! I'll get researching the routes suggested.
nice website thanks
Mixed - probably hidden chimney or dorsal arete? Enjoy!
Secondly, you don't need to do anything too demanding with complete winter novices for them to have a great time.
Third, in terms of answering your more general question about ropework and routes. That initially depends on numbers (tempered by general advice about playing it safe).
Scottish Winter mountaineering when roped-up, like rock climbing, just doesn't really work other than in a pair or a three (unlike for glacier travel). Provided you have no more than four novices to two expereinced mountaineers you have no immediate restrictions. For easier routes (including pretty much all those on http://scottishwinterroutes.com/ ) using a single rope with the two novices tied-in on the end a couple of metres apart, when appropriate, will allow a decent balance of safety, simplicity and efficiency. However, even then I would advise that taking two novices up the longer grade II ridge routes is fairly involved and that two novice parties of two/three will not move rapidly. So, if you do have no more than four friends and want them to experience climbing harder than grade I, sticking to short accessible climbs in the Northern Corries, Aonach Mor and Stob Coire nan Lochan is highly recommended.
However, if you are working at a greater ratio than 1 experienced mountaineer to 2 novices then things become more limiting; any pitched climbing or deployment of efficient ropework rapidly becomes impractical. You are pretty much constrained to routes which are tackled unroped in the main, although you would generally still wear harnesses so the rope can be deployed quickly as required. This is no bad things even with smaller groups and potential routes would include:
- Grade I gullies in good snow conditions with difficulties limited to cornices.
- Mountaineering routes with only short awkward sections (in ascent or descent).
- Mountaineering routes with easily avoidable difficulties.
There is still a lot to be gained from grade I gullies (new snow and thaw conditions excepted!), so do not discount them. In the Cairngorms in particular, it is possible to have a superb expedition linking gullies in more than one Corrie. There are also classics like Central Gully on Ben Lui, Raeburn's Gully on Creag Meagaidh and No3 Gully on the Ben.
When it comes to mountaineering routes there are plenty of good options mostly grade I and possibly the very easiest grade IIs: Tarmachan Ridge (one bad step), CMD Arete (straightforward but committing), the Devil's Ridge (avoidable pinnacle & an awkward step down), the East spur of Carn Dearg Meadhonach (couple of tricky descents), Horns of Alligin (very committing & one tricky descent), East Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn (short rock step).
When it comes to routes with avoidable difficulties, Fiacaill Ridge is unsurpassed. It provides a great opportunity to belay seconds up a series of short rocky steps without the time pressure or commitment of other more serious routes. Unfortunately there are not many other routes so ameniable.
As previously mentioned, regardless of numbers, there is lots to be said for playing it safe especially in January or early February when you are still short of daylight. After an intro day to axes/crampons I would be tempted to go gully climbing (even just grade Is) for a day to introduce ropework and snow belays. I would then look at classic walks or grade I mountaineering routes for your final day or two.
The lower gully sounds like Lower Couloir - which is no longer described in the guidebook as it's so avalanche prone. But in suitable conditions it's a fine route, which can be finished by moving left into Upper Couloir - grade II but the difficulties are very short lived.
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