Am looking to do a Advanced Winter Skills/Intro to Mountaineering level-type course in Scotland this coming winter, and was wondering if anyone on the forums can recommend a particular company or guide with whom to invest my (and three other friend's)hard-earned cash?
I'm already aware of Glenmore Lodge and Jagged Globe; and am interested in opinions of those with experience of either. Also, if anybody can recommend any smaller, independent guides with whom they had a positive experience, it would be much appreciated.
In reply to TheMacGuffin: Have a look at the course run by the Jonathon Conville Trust - great courses (they do alpine ones as well) and cheap as they're subsidised in part by Plas y Brenin. You do have to apply for it though, so it wouldn't be certain that you and your friends would all get on the same course. http://www.pyb.co.uk/conville.php
I think Glenmore lodge are hard to beat. I know lots of people who have been on courses with them, did one once myself and generally think of them as the gold standard. JG would i'm sure also do a good job. However I'm sure there are lots of good smaller operations who are excellent too. I know Skye guides offer some winter courses (would be an amazing place to do it though the conditions are fical that way!)
In truth I've never heard of anyone saying they had a bad guide from any Scottish organisation- I think the qualifications and regs are pretty water-tight.
I've done a couple of excellent five day courses over the years with Martin Moran.
You're based in a guest-house type setup just for his clients with very nice home cooking each day.
You aren't usually guided by Martin himself, since there are normally 2-3 groups around at any one time, but the guides that he gets to run the courses seem to be uniformly excellent, and I've been impressed both times. Not necessarily cheap, but quite good value.
It's in the NW, which means there is the potential for some amazing adventurous days out. On the downside, the conditions can be more fickle so more chance of having to spend time bussing over to the Ben etc.
In reply to TheMacGuffin: Check out the Mountain Instructor Community website - http://www.themic.org.uk/ - it list contact details for over 50 of the most active MICs in the UK, the majority of whom work in Scotland in Winter. I know around a dozen of them, and would heartily recommend any one of them.
What is good is that the website has an enquiry facility that will send an email to all the members. That obviously works best if you have specific dates in mind and a very clear idea of what you would like to do. You can quickly find out which instructors are available without having to contact lots of them individually.
In reply to TheMacGuffin: Garry Smith (company - Get High) is brilliant. As well as being great at teaching, depending on conditions he'll also make the effort to take you to interesting places if that's what you're after.
In reply to TheMacGuffin:
All of the above are good suggestions. I have first hand experience of being out on the hill with Glenmore Lodge, Pete Hyde at the Ice Factor and Al Halewood and they are all great - you can expect skilled instruction, good banter and masses of experience from any of them. Another name to throw in to the mix is Andy Spink of Hebridean Pursuits. Perhaps not an obvious option for winter skills/ mountaineering as it isn't the only thing he does, but he does winter stuff on the west coast (usually Glencoe area) and sometimes in the Cairngorms too and is a great instructor. Brill for finding out of the way areas that aren't as busy as the honey-pots and inspiring you to get out and amongst it in many different disciplines
In reply to TheMacGuffin: Thank you all for the feedback, the response is heartening! The information is of great use to myself and any others out there in our community, in a similar position. Additional ideas/suggestions much welcome but this is certainly enough to research deeper, cheers!
In reply to TheMacGuffin:
Hi, I did a 5 day Winter Skills course with Glenmore in the last week of feb this year (great conditions!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Our instructor (Nick Cannon Jones of morethanmountains.co.uk) was very good at communicating his knowledge and had the kind of calm approach that (for me anyway) makes for successful and enjoyable learning. Added to the quality of the instructors of course are Glenmore's logistic advantages. Putting my money where my mouth is, I plan to return and do a Winter Mountaineering course next winter...
One thing, if you do use Glenmore, if you're flying up and do so on a sunday, book a morning flight. Public transport stops early on sundays and getting from Inverness airport to Glenmore cost me over £80 in a taxi. Glenmore do a bus run from the train station at Aviemore in the late afternoon.
In reply to Nic DW:
Hi Nic, Many thanks for the mention.
Skye Guides winter work is instructional for all levels of experience with an emphasis on quality mountain days on peaks and climbs. Clients are instructed "on the hoof” with the guide judging conditions and taking responsibility in situations where clients are less comfortable.
The reputation for Skye having fickle conditions originates in a fixation amongst climbers with the Winter Traverse. In addition an obsession with pure ice and not blunting axes also put the Cuillin out of vogue for a long time; water ice is undeniably rare in such a rocky environment.
The reality is that "traditional" Scottish winter climbing, on neve and ice, has always been fickle. The explosion of interest in mixed climbing over the past 10 years is recognition of this. Mixed routes can come into condition overnight and under snow I would go as far as to suggest the Black Cuillin peaks, ridges and faces offer the greatest variety of winter mountaineering adventures, at all standards, in the UK.