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Beginner winter walking routes (lomond/trossachs) w/o ice axe/crampons

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 stormylolol 06 Jan 2022

Hello everybody, 

I was hoping I would be able to get some wisdom as to where to find, or recommendations for winter walking routes in the trossarch/loch lomond area that would not generally require crampons/ice axe (conditions allowing, of course). 

I am a university student and to my excitement, one of my friends suggested we go walking this winter. I have previously read the freedom of the hills and the handbook of alpine climbing, have acquired a couple walking axes and B2 boots and have previous summer experience. Unfortunately I do not have any previous winter walking experience, and am not too happy about just going in guns blazing with little collective experience amongst our group.

As students we dont have too much time (and a severe lack of money!), so after researching the courses ran by Glenmore Lodge and suchlike, I think they will be unfeasible at this time. I am looking into private guides but am coming up a little short on finding much information over google - will try harder!

Anyway, for the meantime I was hoping I could get some pointers as to sussing out some (hopefully) straightforward routes that do not require crampons/ice axes. To illustrate this I mean something like the walk from ogwen cottage up to the stone wall that runs down the valley between tryfan and glyder fawr, then circling back around tryfan to the A5 and walking to the car park again. Not summiting anything and wasnt a massive day, but still had the feel of being amongst the mountains and in the snow.

Many thanks.

In reply to stormylolol:

It’s hard to say. If you go above the snow line on Munro/Corbett territory, then you may encounter sections where using the axe would be wise. I certainly wouldn’t head up a hill in Scotland without one. Having said that, I didn’t get crampons for many years, and didn’t die- though I remember having to stop 50m short of the summit of Ben More at Crianlarich as there was a steep patch of hard neve. A friend got up it kicking steps with his plastic boots (this wasn’t recently…), but then he had to get back down. I think we might have given him some polite encouragement…. 😂

but it’s very condition and time dependent- a route might be serious and require crampons, and a couple of hours in the sun later have softened up and be passable without them. I think the only way to learn is to go, see what conditions are like, and be prepared to turn back if you don’t like them. Do some reading as well- Martin Moran’s “Scotland’s winter mountains” is the classic text- and the BMCs DVD “winter essentials” is great too. 
 

but, take the axe whatever you do- and learn how to use it to stop a slide. practice on easy angled snow with a safe run out till it’s second nature. Which, fortunately, is good fun to do…

Post edited at 00:10
 mcawle 07 Jan 2022
In reply to no_more_scotch_eggs:

Cutting steps too. 

 VictorM 07 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

I would suggest checking the classifieds here every one in a while for a pair of preloved crampons with antisnow plates. Together with the walking axes you already have they would give you much more freedom of movement and they don't have to be (very) expensive. 

Last year during lockdown I bought Garry Smith's Scotland's Winter Mountains With One Axe, a book full of grade I/II routes. Living in Holland it's currently quite a challenge to go to Scotland so I leaf through it from time to time and my eyes turn all glassy...

In reply to stormylolol:

You can always rent the relevant gear from most outdoor shops in scotland.. Tiso etc

 Basemetal 07 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Are the university mountaineering clubs not meeting these days?  Either for a few outings with them or to make contact with other more experienced walkers. 

 jonny taylor 07 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Some good suggestions in the thread. From your message I'm unclear what you are looking for. You mentioned having walking axes (but possibly not having much knowledge of how to use them, and [equally importantly] understanding how to read snow conditions etc?). Are you looking to "go walking in the winter months", or go walking in serious snow where there may be ice, nevée etc? Important distinction in terms of where to go. If you clarify, I can make some suggestions in the LLTNP area.

In LLTNP the conditions vary hugely through the season, pretty much all snow will be stripped several times during the season, but other times can be super-serious. Particularly dangerous is late season when it's spring at valley level and people pile up Ben Lomond from Glasgow unequipped for winter when it's still hard ice on top. Several deaths have occurred in recent years.

In terms of cheap or free courses, here's a compilation of some links I sent a student of mine who was looking to expand her winter experience:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/hill_talk/learning_winter_walking_skills_on_the_cheap-740727

Glenmore lodge - £200 for a busy weekend including accommodation: https://www.glenmorelodge.org.uk/winter-mountain  https://www.glenmorelodge.org.uk/winter-mountain/winter-mountain-prep/

These are a little bit cheaper: https://www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/courses-and-events/our-courses/winter-skills

These are I think even cheaper (but still highly recommended), but evidently their “scottish winter” course isn't running this January: https://www.jcmt.org.uk/courses/

And yet one more organisation running winter skills courses (for free, but they currently say they are fully booked for 2022 with a waiting list): https://www.mountainaid.org.uk/winterskills.html

This was from back in November, but watch out for other free webinars: https://www.glenmorelodge.org.uk/avalanche-awareness-for-climbers-and-mountaineers/?fbclid=IwAR079L4nH19qiMZgnD3chpmB7OyYXNKhiicwbSkh1LOmlpBcDHBXLsRsxm8

I don’t know Derek, but Bill is a brilliant mountain guide and teacher, and a really nice guy. Beyond avalanches specifically, I suspect it was a good event for reflecting on decision making in the outdoors, safe travel in difficult conditions, etc.

Post edited at 11:33
 colinakmc 07 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Haven’t looked lately but I had a fun day being introduced to “winter skills” (about 30 years too late admittedly) sponsored by & purchased through Tiso’s, about 15 years ago. Covered movement with and without crampons, use of axe, and self arrest, all for £25. Bet it’s a bit dearer now though.

In reply to stormylolol:

As I have posted on here several times, for winter walking in the mountains (ie mountaineering) crampons are much more important than an ice axe, though an axe can be useful. Without crampons you can come to grief on what in summer would be a stroll. An ice covered slope doesn’t need to be at all steep to be impassable without crampons. You are very unlikely to slip and lose control on such terrain wearing crampons (though you can trip yourself up if you don’t learn the slightly bow legged crampon gait), though without crampons you would be unlikely to stop a slide with or without an ice axe. Personally, I have always found an ice axe no better than a walking stick on gentle slopes. On steeper ground, yes an axe is essential, though by the time you really need to use it a 65 cm walking axe is really annoyingly long.

Unless you are doing out and back walks you never know what you will encounter on the descent, where I’m sure (no stats) most accidents occur. Unless you’re doing flat valley walks in winter, take crampons. Even then they may be useful.

In reply to Rog Wilko:

Ps I have a pair of crampons I no longer need suitable for walking which I will give you if you pay postage and make a donation of your choice to you local MRT.

 JLS 07 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Try heading up The Cobbler. Public transport available if required. The path up is fairly benign until the final slopes at the 600m level. You’d get a good walk in, even if you only get as far as the saddle between The Cobbler (Ben Aurther) and Ben Narnain. The slope up the Cobbler from there is fairly steep and could be problematic without crampons, if the snow is frozen.

A danger to be aware of is, even if snow conditions seem benign in ascent (with no need for crampons), a temperature drop can quickly freeze things up, make what were passable slopes impassable, effectively trapping you.  There will be plenty relatively warm days when that isn’t likely.

Post edited at 18:01
In reply to mcawle:

> Cutting steps too. 

Never cut a step in my life. Only needed if not using crampons.

 Basemetal 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> Never cut a step in my life. Only needed if not using crampons.

Last year I had to cut  a line of steps for someone I came across on Ben Macdui who had got into trouble on iced over ground at the (not very) steepening from the north top because they didn't have crampons -they'd left them in the car and brought their drone instead... . 

 stormylolol 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Basemetal:

As far as I am aware yes the mountaineering club is still meeting (fingers crossed omicron wont change that) - Just yesterday I thought why not and messaged a friend to see if theyd be interested in joining and they seem rather keen so fingers crossed that becomes a plan. The issue for me is that my schedule is very busy and their social bouldering session is on a monday (awful timing), and then you have to pay for the group membership for everything when im only really focused on the walking. Suppose thats what it takes to get started though!

In reply to Basemetal:

> Last year I had to cut  a line of steps for someone I came across on Ben Macdui who had got into trouble on iced over ground at the (not very) steepening from the north top because they didn't have crampons -they'd left them in the car and brought their drone instead... . 

I rest my case, m’lud.

 stormylolol 07 Jan 2022
In reply to jonny taylor:

Apologies for not making this clear, ill try and clarify here.

At the minute I was hoping to just go walking in winter months with some friends and see if they catch the bug to join the mountaineering club with me and gain enough experience to do the more serious snow stuff you mentioned. The club requires membership which obviously may discourage someone who isnt certain, so going on a walk in winter would hopefully encourage them to want to take it more seriously. My main question was asking for routes in which would be good/safer for this sort of more relaxed walking through snowy areas idea to serve as a nice introduction (hope this makes sense) without too much stress or requirement for equipment (if possible).

As for the links they are very helpful so thank you for that. I was trying to suss out any alternatives to joining the society which fit better around our timetables and budget and was coming up short so this is a great aid in that, ill give them them some further inspection!

Thanks again

 colinakmc 07 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Ben Ledi would meet the need for a taster proper winter outing, not too steep and with no booby traps (or at least none that are difficult to avoid) for the unwary. 

In reply to stormylolol:

Given that, I think your best bet is to avoid aiming to get to the top of a hill, as the upper sections are more likely to have patches of step snow or ice where it really would be advisable to have the relevant kit. 
 

As another poster suggested, the Arrochar Alps area is a possibility- you could walk from Succoth up Glen Loin and round the back of Ben Narnain, then up to the Bealach a’mhaim. That would put you in the middle of pretty impressive terrain but shouldn’t involve crossing serious ground. You can then complete the circuit by heading between Narnain and the Cobbler and back down to Loch Long and your starting place. 
 

if you don’t actually need to get above the snow line, but just want to walk among snowy hills, and can get up to Glen Coe, then walking around the Buachaille etive beag would be something to consider. Or taking the route of the West Highland Way over the Devil’s staircase to kinlochleven. If those don’t get your friends sold on the idea, not sure anything will.

 Basemetal 08 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

>  fingers crossed that becomes a plan. The issue for me is that my schedule is very busy and their social bouldering session is on a monday (awful timing), and then you have to pay for the group membership for everything when im only really focused on the walking. 

Fingers crossed A couple of current threads remind me of my own beginnings in the late '70s. A few mates and I bit off more than we could chew in deep snow on Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond) and the next weekend in a gully on Ben Lui in winter and decided we needed to find out more about what we were doing. So we went along to the GUM club (Glasgow uni). The first outing was Glencoe and on Saturday went along the Aonach Aegach. Each outing would have a 'walking' and 'climbing' options and club kit available as well as more experienced folk to learn from (but these were freer, less 'qualification' oriented days in the late '70s). Anyhoo, it was a very cost effective way of getting travel (minibus) and accommodation sorted for a host of far flung hill venues, with fortnightly "organised" weekends and making contacts for ad hoc in between. It doesn't take long to learn the basic ropes (pun intended), and then you can really spend a lifetime learning. So Good luck!

 jonny taylor 08 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Great suggestions from no_more_scotch_eggs there, that saves me mentioning those ones! Since you asked about LLTNP, I presume you are now glasgow-based? (Your profile says manchester). The Arrochar and west highland way suggestions are great because they are easily accessed by bus on the A82 if you don't have car transport.

I'd also add the Beinn Dubh horseshoe above Luss. Medium-height and can be snowy, but a relatively safe choice under most conditions and is still great as an out-and-back if you decide you don't like the look of what you find on top.

If you have your own transport, there's a good loop on tracks, Lochearnhead->Glen Kendrum->Gleann Dubh->Glen Ogle. Or out-and-back Balquidder to Roy Roy's Putting Stone (or on through to Ledcharrie if you have two cars).

If you want something closer to glasgow for your friends to dip a toe in the water, there's nice short stuff in the Campsies. Cort-ma Law from high car park at NS613801 or make it a loop from Lennoxtown [public transport?] via Knockybuckle), or something based around Dumgoyne. Also Kilpatrick Hills (start from Old Kilpatrick rail station, or drive to The Whangie).

If you don't know about http://walkhighlands.co.uk, there are loads of route suggestions for inspiration. Or if you want to splash out for a guidebook, Cicerone and Mica both have guides for the loch lomond area (Mica route information is a bit outdated which can get intersting).

 stormylolol 09 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Thank you very much for these suggestions guys! Knew I could count on you

I think ill have a go with the Arrochar & Torbet one first as it is the closest and has a train station, but ill look into which bus routes go that way too. The latter ones also look great so ill have a look into public transport for those as well. Only one of our group is a driver so it might be a bit of a task for them to do it all, ill have to ask. 

@jonny taylor yes glasgow based, first year student and forgot to update my profile. And thanks for the guide book reccommendation, I think one of those will need to go on the list - I was quite shocked when I saw how bare the OS map is compared to the ones ive used for wales.

 jonny taylor 09 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Yes, it took me a while to get use to the lack of paths on the scottish OS maps. Not sure what the historical reason for that is. As you've discovered, that means guidebooks are particularly helpful for knowing where there will actually be a path and what the terrain is like, and indeed for cherry-picking some of the best routes. Despite the name, the online map at https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walks.html *does* mark loads of paths in the southern highlands - so if you like browsing to find a route of your own, that's a good resource.

Post edited at 10:09
In reply to jonny taylor:

Rights of way aren’t shown on OS maps covering Scotland. If there is a path on the ground, it is often shown, especially at 1:25,000 level. For the Arrochar hills, the main path up between Narnain and the Cobbler, and paths to each of the three hill summits, are shown. 
 

There’s much more bog trotting and picking your own way up open hillsides in Scotland compared to Wales or the Lakes, though the main route up the Munros will usually be a clear path (well, in summer; in winter with snow on the ground, you can’t rely on these being clearly visible)

Post edited at 10:50
 Flinticus 14 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

> Thank you very much for these suggestions guys! Knew I could count on you

> @jonny taylor yes glasgow based, first year student and forgot to update my profile. And thanks for the guide book reccommendation, I think one of those will need to go on the list - I was quite shocked when I saw how bare the OS map is compared to the ones ive used for wales.

Depends what you are used to! I find the Welsh hills cluttered with stuff (fences, hedge rows, mine workings etc.) and like the freedom on the Scottish hills. Walking off path and setting your own routes is something you get accustomed to and, if the terrain is OK, is my preference though on many corbetts and grahams, its your only 'option'.

I recall walking with a companion more used to the Lakes and their discomfort and unease on heading up hills with no tracks other than those criss-cross ones left by sheep.

 rif 14 Jan 2022

> I was quite shocked when I saw how bare the OS map is compared to the ones ive used for wales.

Harvey maps are usually more reliable than OS for paths that actually exist on the ground. They're also weatherproof.

This one covers most of the places peple upthread have suggested:

https://www.harveymaps.co.uk/acatalog/Southern-Highlands-YHBMSH.html#SID=3

 lpretro1 14 Jan 2022
In reply to stormylolol:

Most clubs I know of offer for yuo to go along and see if you like them/they like you before joining. My own club allows 3 meets before you are asked to sign up and pay fees


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