/ Scottish routes to take learners round

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hamiltonblake - on 27 Dec 2012
Hello

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?

Cheers!
Milesy - on 27 Dec 2012
cant go wrong with the cmd arete. non technical but in an amazing position with views to match. it is exposed so some people might like a rope for comfort/confidence. You wont be able to place any running protection on the ridge though.
mcdweeb - on 27 Dec 2012
Dorsal arete on Stob C an Lochain, Fiacaille of C ant Sneachda, Ledge Route on Nevis (assuming decent visibility) Castle Ridge on Nevis.
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).
hamiltonblake - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to mcdweeb: Thanks guys, these look like great suggestions. I'll start planning and keep an eye on the weather!
abr1966 - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to mcdweeb: +1 for Ledge route....my first winter route...in 1980! I've taken quite a few 'new' to winter folk up there for their first winter experience and it never dissapoints..
franksnb - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake: Dorsal arete on Stob C an Lochain, Castle Ridge on Nevis are both poor choices. castle ridge is not suitable for learners and dorsal arete is a very long walk for 30m of average climbing. just my opinion. cmd is a good call as is fiacaill ridge.
Eric9Points - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to franksnb:
> (In reply to hamiltonblake) Dorsal arete on Stob C an Lochain, Castle Ridge on Nevis are both poor choices. castle ridge is not suitable for learners and dorsal arete is a very long walk for 30m of average climbing. just my opinion. cmd is a good call as is fiacaill ridge.

Mine opinion too.
Doghouse - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to franksnb:
> (In reply to hamiltonblake) Dorsal arete on Stob C an Lochain, Castle Ridge on Nevis are both poor choices. castle ridge is not suitable for learners and dorsal arete is a very long walk for 30m of average climbing. just my opinion. cmd is a good call as is fiacaill ridge.


I found the crux of Castle Ridge desperate!
bowls - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to Doghouse:

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!
jonnie3430 - on 27 Dec 2012
paul-1970 - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake:
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.
Malpractise on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake: I was taken on Castle Ridge on a winter climbing course. Started the walk in at 8am, got back to the bus at 2am - took the instructions 3 hours to do the crux. Not a good intro to Scottish winter climbing!
jonnie3430 - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to Malpractise:

Awesome! Was it recent?
sbc_10 - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to Malpractise:
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.
Malpractise on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to jonnie3430: No, about 10 years ago but its routes like this that you tend to remember!
JohnnyW - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to Malpractise:

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.
Bob_the_Builder - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake:

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.
scottie390 - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake: In my opinion, im not saying the CMD is a bad route choice but it is a pretty long day out with novices, I imagine you're in a better position having known the people your taking to judge whether or not you think it may be a little bit too much? Good examples of routes for novices that I can think of would include Fiacaill Ridge, North Ridge of Stob Ban, NC Gully in Stob Coire nan Lochan, even some of the grade I gullies,such as broad gully in SCNL or Number 4 gully on the Ben might be a good plan to further develop the basics of movement in crampons and ice axe use but dont neglect the SAIS reports and to actually dig pits/conduct your own dynamic risk assessments once on the hill. This is just my personal opinion on what I might wanna consider in a similar situation. hope it helps!
hamiltonblake - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to scottie390:

Hey everyone

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.
drsdave - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake:

nice website thanks
simon_D - on 29 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake: First Winter gully for me - NC Gully, SCNL Glencoe, goes through some impressive scenery and generally in good firm neve, has everything you could desire from a Scottish experience.
Mixed - probably hidden chimney or dorsal arete? Enjoy!
The Ex-Engineer - on 30 Dec 2012
In reply to hamiltonblake: The first thing to say is be paranoid about avalanche risk and cornices - read up about any potential route in detail and check the SAIS regularly beforehand.

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.

HTH
hamiltonblake - on 03 Jan 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer: Excellent advice, thank you very much!
rossn - on 04 Jan 2013
In reply to hamiltonblake: One possibility to add to Ex-engineer's list might be Stob Gahabar. It has a fantastic grade 1 gully system which starts very low down opens out onto a wide face then back into a very spectacular gully emerging right on the summit. Very nice mountain in many respects.

RN
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Simon Caldwell - on 04 Jan 2013
In reply to rossn:

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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