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/ Best place in Scotland for learning Winter?

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humptydumpty - on 20 Sep 2018

Where would be the best place in Scotland to spend a Winter learning to climb winter routes, if: you had to work 40 hours a week, didn't have a regular climbing partner, and were willing to solo easier stuff?  Not needing a car would be a big bonus.  From my limited knowledge, it sees like Fort Bill and Aviemore are the two centres of Scottish winter climbing, so perhaps one of these would be the logical choice?

Fredt on 20 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

Sorry for being unhelpful but I can't resist the humorous and un-serious answer; I think it was Bill Murray, (or maybe Hamish MacInnes), who said that the Alps was a good training ground for Scottish Winter climbing.

To attempt to answer your question, the places you mention are fine, as they are more likely than any others to be in condition more often. Be prepared to travel to chase the best conditions. In all those places, the easier stuff needs carefully picking out from some very serious stuff. I can't think of anywhere with a concentration of easier stuff. A simple solo-able gully one day can be an epic the next. (Or even the same day, I recall soloing Number 5 gully in good hard conditions, had a brew on the summit, a blizzard came in and the descent was an epic surfing the avalanches). The skill you need most is assessing conditions, orientation, forecasts and their effect on any proposed climb, and descent.

humptydumpty - on 20 Sep 2018
In reply to Fredt:

Thanks, I'll add Cham to the list

Eric9Points - on 20 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

Aviemore definitely.

Minneconjou Sioux on 20 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

Aviemore. BUT please get either an experienced partner or do a course at Glenmore or both.

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UKC Forums - on 21 Sep 2018
This thread was started in the DESTINATIONS forum and has now been moved.
Please could you try and post in the correct forum, it makes life easier for both users and moderators.

Winter Climbing
From Scottish gullies to Rjukan ice falls, this is the forum to discuss everything involved with winter climbing. Conditions, what's in and what's not, avalanche risk, recommended routes plus accounts of your exploits.

More Forum descriptions - http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/info/forums.html
Tom Ripley - on 21 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

If not needing a car is a benefit, consider doing a course with Martin Moran, based in Strathcarron. Food for the week, accommodation, transport and instruction is included.  There is also the added bonus that the mountains around Wester Ross are some of the most beautiful in Scotland and you’re unlikely to see another soul. A far cry from the chaos of Ben Nevis and the Northern Corries.

Plus you’ll learn a great deal. Teaching yourself to Scottish winter climb solo doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. 

Tom

 

(I occasionally work for Martin Moran.)

 

 

 

 

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ScraggyGoat on 21 Sep 2018

Surely its for HumptyDumpty to choose how he/she wishes to learn to winter climb, whether they want to go down a formal taught route, learning from more experienced partners, a journey of self discovery, or a combination thereof.

There is no 'right' or 'wrong' approach. Obviously some approaches may result in skills and techniques being advanced more quickly, and other approaches might result in lessons being harder won, but better 'learn't'.

The 'go on a course' advice is in part the 'industry' associated with climbing promoting a self-serving message........

HumptyDumpy - without a car, and for a whole season; definitely Fort William, because you have a greater geographic area to play in, a wider range of terrain to play on, and more easily accessible differing aspects (N,S,E,W) to choose between depending on the weather, wind and snow conditions. N. Cairngorms is limited in the amount of lower grade terrain particularly in terms of 'alpinesque' narrow ridges and wandering buttress, plus lacks complex descents and cunning link-ups, with the solo-able lower grades being predominantly gullies, at least when starting off (excluding the few exceptions e.g. fiacal ridges & angels ridge). At Fort William you have plenty of variation and choice in the lower classics ridges; CMD, Ledge, NE ridge Beinn Dearg, Anoach Eagach, Castle, Curved to name but a few, before you move onto steeper ground (should you wish to).  Plus it has wandering buttress , and lots of gullies and slopes (of different aspects as mentioned above).

Furthermore in the Northern Corries climbers get more quickly concentrated, thus potentially people climbing above you, or you soloing above other people...both of which is a bad recipe. Without a car from Aviemore you are limited to a handfull of venues predominantly of the same aspect, where the routes are relatively short, which you will end up back to time and time again.

The down-side is if its a 'warm' winter, it will probably pee down far more Fort William and be a bit (very) depressing.........

 

Post edited at 12:54
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Misha - on 21 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

Without a car, Aviemore is a good bet as you can get the bus to the Cairngorm ski centre car park and walk in from there. I’m not sure what the public transport connections in Fort William are like. There are long distance coaches but not sure about regular bus services for the Ben and Glen Coe.

Also you can go skiing if the snow is good! That’s also possible if you’re based in Fort William but again check for bus connections to Nevis Range.

I would echo what Tom says about getting some instruction, unless you can get some experienced people to take you under their wing. There is a lot to think about with Scottish winter climbing - avalanche and weather conditions, placing good gear and the climbing itself, among other thingw. Although if you already have decent rock, alpine and ice climbing experience, you may be fine to venture out on your own.

There is a FB group for Scottish winter partners which may be helpful but you have to judge who you are getting out with. 

Kevin Woods - on 21 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

My feeling on winter is that either way it'll happen in the presence of other people, whether that is through instruction or meeting folk. Might sound obvious, but there are so many subtleties of weather and condition it's worth it to go with folk in the know.

humptydumpty - on 22 Sep 2018
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

Thanks for a really informative post.  I've not had formal training for other parts of climbing (except for first aid), so wasn't something I'd considered for Scotland either.  I'm glad to hear it's not 100% required!

Lots of helpful reminders in this thread though that Winter in Scotland is a lot more involved than a walk on the South Downs.  I'd certainly be happy hooking up with other people with more experience - for me this is the ideal situation.  However, it's not always possible, and when partners and conditions don't fall into perfect synchronisation I'd rather get out in the hills alone than sit on my hands at home looking out the window.

Also in my experience there's not always a good supply of competent, experienced people looking for car-less beginners to take out.

Interesting that no one's suggested any other places than Fort William or Aviemore (or Chamonix ;) ).  Glad to know I was on the right track.

 

humptydumpty - on 22 Sep 2018
In reply to Misha:

> Also you can go skiing if the snow is good! That’s also possible if you’re based in Fort William but again check for bus connections to Nevis Range.

That's a good point; perhaps I should also be considering the ski touring opportunities.

> There is a FB group for Scottish winter partners which may be helpful but you have to judge who you are getting out with. 

Thanks, this sounds useful - I'll check it out.

Paul Clarke on 24 Sep 2018

In the old days people joined a club and teamed up with more experience climbers. That's still a good option.

 

Post edited at 11:21
Jim Fraser - on 24 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

Your first priority should be the winter environment and not routes. The ski suggestion is a good one if it's an option for you. The cold, the wind, and the conditions under-foot can all kill you. Get that sorted. No point in soloing Dorsal Arete and not being able to get back down safely. 

There is nothing like being with someone who is really good at this. You can learn more in one weekend that way than a whole season of solo epics.

humptydumpty - on 24 Sep 2018
In reply to Paul Clarke:

Yes, but doesn't answer the question of where to be.  Are there particular clubs you'd recommend?

CurlyStevo - on 24 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

If you can afford a course I would. You'll struggle to get partners willing to take someone out with no skills at all and most clubs aren't even insured to do so.

If you had a friend who could teach you the ropes it could work, and you may find some MIC trainees offering their services for free too as they need to log experience.  But my guess is you'll waste a lot of time getting not much done and learning from a pro will be much more efficient and you won't need as much kit or transport!

If you can take a course that will get you to grade 2 winter climbing along with all the other skills you need, I would. That would leave you in a position where you could ask for partners willing to winter walk / climb to grade II (or perhaps if you are seconding a bit higher).

As for location, early to mid season Caringorms (Aviemore), later west is best (Fort William or there abouts makes sense)

Post edited at 19:38
Fiona Reid - on 24 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

Many clubs will ask that you have at least done a basic winter skills course before allowing you to join winter meets. Doing a winter skills day/ weekend should ensure you know how to use axe, crampons etc for walking in winter which will in turn enable you to do some solo walking days but also be able to join others without them needing to worry that you don't know these basics.

Clubs tend to have meets in different locations each time and thus if you're based in a single location then each club may only visit the area once or twice over the winter. If you're close enough to where a bunch of club members live then you may be able to join meets, share lifts etc but see above re. having some basic skills first.

Personally,  I'm quite fussy re. who I'll go out with in winter. It's cold, the weather can quickly go from perfect to utterly hideous and if something goes wrong it can get very cold and very scary very fast.  Because of these things I want folks I winter walk with to have a reasonable level of competence so being able to use ice axe and crampons appropriately is essential. If the weather goes belly up you've often got enough of a problem getting your own crampons etc on without worrying about someone else. For climbing I'll generally only climb with people I know to be competent and I usually prefer to have walked with them in winter first as it gives you a good idea of their basic mountaineering skills and how they look after themselves on the hill. 

YMMV but I suspect gaining some basic skills via a course at the start of the winter will greatly increase your options both personally (as in you'd have the confidence to head out for solo winter walks) and also greatly improve your chances of hooking up with other walkers or climbers. 

Location wise I'd be inclined to say Aviemore over FW as you can get the bus to the ski area and start high up such that you'd usually not have to go too far to find snow. There's lots of options for short winter days and plenty longer ones too. There are also a lot of climbs accessible from the bus. 

Post edited at 21:44
Paul Clarke on 26 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty: I would check for local clubs. Great for arranging lifts, access to club huts, meeting new people, etc.   Where you climb might depend on wher people are heading or staying. Nothing like a bit of variety!

 

Post edited at 10:52
humptydumpty - on 28 Sep 2018
In reply to Fiona Reid:

Thanks, loads of really useful information there.  Do you have any more specific thoughts about the following?

> Many clubs will ask that you have at least done a basic winter skills course before allowing you to join winter meets. Doing a winter skills day/ weekend should ensure you know how to use axe, crampons etc for walking in winter which will in turn enable you to do some solo walking days but also be able to join others without them needing to worry that you don't know these basics.

Are clubs looking for a tick in the "done a basic winter skills course"?  Or do they just want some reassurance that people aren't totally clueless?  E.g. I've done a couple of weeks in the Alps in Summer, trudging up and down sweaty glaciers and peaks, and a week of ice climbing.  I appreciate that neither of these are the same as Scottish Winter, but certainly covers what you list above: "know how to use axe, crampons etc for walking", at least once the suffix "in winter" is removed

 

Fiona Reid - on 28 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

A winter skills course isn't a requirement for the club I'm in. Being able to use axe and crampons appropriately is though if coming out with us in winter. We basically want someone to have those skills so they can walk safely with other members. We don't care how you got the skills so long as you have them, so alpine or high altitude trekking experience is fine providing it covered axe and crampon use. Basically being able to self arrest with an axe, knowing how to use an axe for walking on different gradients of snow/ice, how to cut steps, how to put on and walk in crampons etc etc.

We'll usually recommend someone who's never used axe and crampons does a winter skills course as being taught in a course using the best current practice in a controlled environment is likely way safer than one of us trying to explain it in rubbish weather.  Plus although we may have the skills ourselves none of us feel particularly qualified to "instruct" someone. 

TheAmateurAlpinist - on 30 Sep 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

Glenmore Lodge (I think) run a scheme whereby you can live on site, working as a general dog’s body, and it allows you lots of time and opportunity to be around mountaineers/instructors etc. By the end of it I’m guessing you’d be a pretty clued up winter mountaineer. Working at the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe for a season is a good way to earn a crust, with on site accommodation, and some great winter climbing literally on your doorstep. Work evenings and nights, climb mornings and afternoons. 

I learned the basics of winter walking/mountaineering by reading extensively and watching hundreds of YouTube videos, then going out and practicing self arrest etc. In one season you can easily move through grade 1 into grade 2 territory if you’re soloing. Grade 2 can be a pretty condition dependent grade though, so it’s worth being pretty confident in the grade just in case you catch an apparent grade 2 route in lean, icy conditions, or covered in horrible, unstable powder. Wouldn’t solo grade 3 without being pretty confident and competent at the whole shebang. Although I’m thinking about it this season, once I’m through a few more grade 2’s... I’d personally choose to base myself in Glencoe for a winter, with frequent overnight excursions up to Ben Nevis and Creag Meagaidh, if I had the option. 

I’m looking to solo a fair few grade 2’s, and to push into more technical grade 3’s this winter, if you fancy joining or seconding on a few outings. 

CurlyStevo - on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

Problem with Glencoe is it’s not particularly reliable. On mild winters I’ve seen it not even come in to condition before now.

If the op took a 5 day course it would be expensive but he’d be at grade 2 by the end of it, have a better chance of still being alive, also have a good grounding in the various risks and accessing them. Personally I wouldn’t advise to learn winter climbing solo. Grade 1 and. 2 ground typically takes you in to contact with more avalanche prone slopes and cornice issues too as it’s often in gullies. It can often take couple of seasons and some epics before you really start to get to grips with the risks involved with winter, climbing with as many different partners can help to gain knowledge faster too.

Reading your profile worries me somewhat. IMO You shouldn’t have been on avalanche prone slopes after a big dump of snow soloing. Typically after a big dump of snow (or just snow transportation) you should be avoiding slopes in lee of the wind and sticking to scoured slopes or at least less high risk aspects. If you had been avalanched and buried or injured, who do you think was going to help you?

Post edited at 08:21
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TheAmateurAlpinist - on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Glencoe isn't as reliable as Ben Nevis but it's a great and convenient place to be in winter without a vehicle. 

Obviously it goes without saying that researching the conditions of every climb in advance is a must, but I'll give the benefit of doubt to most keen winter mountaineers ans assume they're not total idiots and are aware of this, and use services like sais and up to date weather reports. I also learned how to dig an avalanche pit on YouTube, but each to their own really. Not everyone has the money for multi day courses, so picking up the requisite skills for grade 1 and 2 winter is doable by other, free, means. 

If if you read my profile, you'll see it was Sron na Lairig, mostly ridge with some exposure to steep avalanche prone slopes, which after 2 seasons of winter climbing in low grade, av prone territory, I decided to climb anyway. Going by the fact one of the best guides in the country was leading a client on the same route just behind me, I'd say I was in good company. Thanks for the helpful advice, funnily enough it's advice I've read extensively on, watched tens of videos on, and have some experience of. I'm only one grade ahead of the OP so thought I'd impart my very recent experience of going through the very same low grade journey. 

Barrington on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

I think you are missing the point:  Low grade does not necessarily equal low risk & getting up things doesn't necessarily mean the risk has been well judged. Certainly, youtube does not make an ideal tutor.... Just my take on it as an old git, who's never got above Grade IV/V & only nudged E grades occasionally over then last four decades, but at least I'm still around to talk about it. 

CurlyStevo - on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

But do you have sound judgement and are you making good decisions? I know for a fact I didn’t always at your experience level and also most likely I had read at least as much material and was climbing with experienced people that would have accelerated my learning curve. Also I was rarely soloing, especially in poor conditions. Solo learning winter is in my experience massively increasing your risk and slowing down your learning curve. Also what if you can’t walk out and have no phone signal, or get avalanched etc, or just slip when a rope could have saved you?

Perhaps the slopes you were on weren’t very avavanche prone at all if a guide was on them, perhaps this further highlights holes in your knowledge and approach! I was just going by what you had written. In any case If they were you shouldn’t have been there let along been soloing them and if they weren’t you don’t seem to know how to assess snow slopes. Either option isn’t great.

Post edited at 14:26
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TheAmateurAlpinist - on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

It's a perfectly reasonable and sensible aspiration and approach to solo grade 1, learning the most basic winter skills as you go. And if you feel bold and have the basic climbing skills already, after a number of grade 1 routes, why not move on to solo grade 2? The OP was looking for advice on locations for potentially taking this type of approach to winter mountaineering this season. Like summer scrambling, some of the most exciting days in the mountains can be on low grade routes if soloed. Clearly there's a learning curve that necessitates ropes once grade 3+ territory is encountered, but that's no reason to act as if soloing grade 1 and 2 isn't a perfectly sensible, and enjoyable way to start out on the winter climbing adventure. And the avalanche risks can be adequately mitigated against with a bit of prior research on conditions.

As for my own outing, going by the massive overnight dump of fresh powder tumbling off the ridge as we went, and the no go, corniced up descent options once we topped out, I'd say Glencoe was pretty avalanche prone that day. Maybe we have different conceptions of 'fun' but I don't mind a bit of heightened risk. And the guide clearly had expertise way beyond mine, so probably felt safer than me, as I trudged along in my ignorant joy.

(Being roped up didn't much help Ueli Steck, and he was one of the greatest ever solo climbers...)

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TheAmateurAlpinist - on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to Barrington:

So long as the risks are researched and mitigated against, there's no need to overly dwell on them or heighten them unnecessarily. As was said, the main risk at grade 1 and 2 is avalanche, which can be easily researched and tested on location pre climb. Everybody is free to learn in whichever way suits their budget and their mindset. I like researching things and going out and practicing. Someone else might pay £600 and spend a few days at Glenmore lodge. Soloing is a great option for some, not so much for others. I prefer to climb with others as a rule of thumb, but I also don't want to be held back by an unambitious or overly cautious approach. So sometimes I solo things.  

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Misha - on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

I would never advocate soloing to someone I don’t know, for any type of climbing (except bouldering with a mat, a good landing and at a sensible height). Especially when someone is a beginner in that type of climbing. Just because you yourself didn’t come to harm soloing doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.

As you say, avalanche risk is a major consideration in winter and especially so for approaches to routes and on/in grade I and II gullies. They hold a lot of snow and are at a perfect angle for it to accumulate before avalanching with lethal effect (human trigger, sheer weight of snow, temperature change, cornice collapse, etc). Two of my friends have died that way and another two got away with a bad scare. You read about such accidents every winter unfortunately.

Now you might say that you’ve done your research, know the basics and always have check the avalanche forecast and observe what’s actually on the ground and in the sky. However other people might not do that. They might just take your advice to go soloing or go up because someone else has been or is going up, without making their own assessment.

When starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know. There’s only so much you can learn (and remember) from books and YouTube. There’s no substitute for going out with someone experienced (doesn’t have to be a guide or instructor).

On the technical side, grade I gullies can have very steep and/or unstable exits, while grade II gullies can have several shortish steep sections with big runouts below them, which you need decent technical skills and conditions to negotiate. You need to be able to judge conditions before getting engaged on a route which you might not be able to reverse safely. The other thing is that conditions and hence difficulty for a given guide book grade in winter can vary by +/- a grade (with a minimum grade I of course), so just because you can done one grade I on a given day doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do another one on another or even the same day.

If you want to solo grade IIIs (which are pretty technical) when that’s your top grade, that’s your choice but I wouldn’t if I were you.

This probably comes across as a rant but I think it’s important to convey the reality of the winter game. It’s pretty serious and urging beginners to head out soloing is pretty irresponsible.

Also by soloing you aren’t learning anything about placing gear in winter (a whole different ball game to summer rock), so you’re limiting your future progress as you’ll need to start leading at some stage if you want to climb harder routes. 

Post edited at 22:44
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CurlyStevo - on 02 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

How does Ueli Steck’s tragic death somehow back up your viewpoint. Personally I think it’s disrespectival to bring that event in to this, but he was soloing when he died wasn’t he?

If you choose to disregard the opinion of other winter climbers on this thread some of which are pretty experienced, that’s your choice, but I’d urge you to refrain from advising others to take unnecessary risks.

I’d else echo what Misha said about the sort of terrain easy winter routes tend to be on and the increased risk which can often be associated with these climbs.

Post edited at 06:24
TheAmateurAlpinist - on 03 Oct 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

The OP expressed a wish to solo low grade. I'll trust he's not an idiot. I'm offering up my recent experience of doing this, not 'urging dangerous activity'. He's keen, I'm saying go for it. Scary stuff. 

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planetmarshall on 03 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

> Going by the fact one of the best guides in the country was leading a client on the same route just behind me, I'd say I was in good company.

Beware the "expert halo", one of the cognitive biases that can contribute to poor decision making. Making risk assessments for yourself is one of the essential parts of a successful Scottish Winter, and being an expert is no guarantee of immunity to summit fever - as recent events will attest to.

In fact climbing with a guide, or a significantly more experienced partner, can be counter-productive in that you may end up deferring most of the decision making to someone else and not learning to do these things for yourself. If you go to a neurologist with a headache, they'll diagnose a tumour. Go to an optician and they'll prescribe an eye test. Similarly, ask someone who works as an outdoor instructor or is part of a climbing club what the best way to learn Scottish Winter Climbing is, and I'm pretty sure I can predict what answer you'll get.

I'd suggest another way. Find someone like minded, of similar ability. Start small, err on the side of caution and learn to do risk assessments and make decisions for yourself.

 

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TheAmateurAlpinist - on 03 Oct 2018
In reply to Misha:

The OP expressed a desire to solo low grade stuff and was looking for advice on locations etc. I see no risk in advising that soloing grade 1, moving eventually into 2, as a perfectly safe undertaking if conditions are researched etc. Most folk wouldn't rope up on grade 1, so why is it 'dangerous' to advocate soloing? And there are plenty of grade 2 routes that with good gear and a bit of experience are pretty straightforward. Soloing can and should be embraced as a valid and exciting means of climbing low grade stuff. Seems people get a bit holier than thou around the touchy subject of solo or un-roped climbing. In my opinion it livens up what could be a bit of a dull snow plod. Personally I'd prefer to leave the ropes stowed for more technical terrain and focus on the heightened excitement of solo climbing on low grade routes.  

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TheAmateurAlpinist - on 03 Oct 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:

That's the exact approach I'm taking. Working up slowly with a regular partner of a similar ability. But I also like the freedom of soloing grade 1 and 2, with an eye mebbe on 3, eventually. We seem to live in a world of 'hire a guide/book a course' mentality, forgetting that it's perfectly possible to teach ourselves new skills by getting out and just 'doing'. With a bit of research and planning obviously....

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Misha - on 03 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

Soloing is for people who are suitably experienced. Hence advocating it to a beginner whom you don’t know is irresponsible - even if they are asking for soloing recommendations. 

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timparkin - on 04 Oct 2018

Ignoring the support that comes from having another person to raise help if an accident does happen, how much different is a low experience person soloing to two low experience people going together? 

I live in Ballachulish and want to get out into the hill a lot. I already have had four days of winter mountain training and yet I know I'm not experienced really. How many times do I need to go out with someone more experienced before I can go out on my own (or with my wife)?

There's a sort of catch 22 situation trapping a lot of people from climbing if we say that you need experience before you should. Unless a lot more experienced people are offering to take unexperienced people up for free (or nominal cost) then that's a real cost trap to get experienced. I've already spent £600+ on winter skills, how much more do I need?

Tim

p.s. This isn't aimed directly 

Nathan Adam - on 04 Oct 2018
In reply to TheAmateurAlpinist:

Glencoe is not a good place to be in winter without a vehicle. The nearest housing is in the village itself or the Clachaig which are both too far to get to any reliable climbing at lower grades really, you could maybe chance it at hitching but I'd only do this in the summer. The A82 isn't a road to be wandering around verges in the dark. 

The only reliable place to get to winter climbing in Lochaber without a car is Fort William itself where it's possible to walk up to the Ben in a variety of ways from the town but speaking from experience, this isn't fun and probably adds a few hours to the day overall and the Ben isn't a great place to learn the trade on your own. You can make do with a bike to get out to the NF car park or up Glen Nevis but you either want to be able to drive or have a few partners that can. Failing that you can get buses to Nevis Range for the gondola but again it's limiting what you can achieve each day, especially if the whole thing is new.

Eric9Points - on 04 Oct 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

I think it's important to point out that trying to learn winter climbing by soloing stuff on the Ben is an extremely bad idea.

I suggested Aviemore because the Northern Corries are winter climbing's Shepherds crag, there are plenty of climbers in Aviemore and it's centrally situated. In winter, especially if you're working, you need to follow the conditions and Aviemore is about the best place to do that from.

Going on a course is by no means essential and doesn't substitute for going out with people who are experienced. The trouble is finding them.

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ogreville on 04 Oct 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

I'd vote for Fort William. 

Speaking as a winter walker, rather than a winter climber (who's dabbles in some graded stuff), Fort William might give greater access to a broader range of stuff, a lot of which is very accessible from the A82.

The West coast has the advantage of a lot of shortish walk-ins starting straight from the road. With some shrewd study of the bus and train timetables, everything from the Crianlarich hills, Ben Lui, Bridge of Orchy, Glencoe and Nevis are all public transport accessible, as well as the Mamores and Craeg Meaghaidh, with a bit of creativity.  

drsdave - on 04 Oct 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

I have to put my two penny’s worth in here, mainly because I do solo for a number of reasons. So here it is. In many of the above comments lots a SOUND  advice has been given most of which is advising GOING OUT WITH SOMEONE WHO IS HAS EXPERIENCE, this is very very sensible and preferable even if it costs you a mint. I soloed because I learnt to climb on rock first then got taken up a Gully then I thought “I can do that, on an easier one but I bet I can do that” well F’me...I had some really tense and type 2 experiences. Has it put me off, no, I am always concerned about soloing, always. 

I was up Raeburns in Lochnagar (roped up on this occasion) and this guy comes up soloing, up to the cave on the right and there in he stopped and froze and got freaked out by the prospect of soloing the ice bulge...guess what. He bailed and a team had to bring him out.

some of the pitfalls have been stated above but unless you’re used to being at height, being in a potentially changing environment, and you understand that you’re totally self dependent coupled with the fact that you may not handle the experience that is now developing before you, DONT SOLO.

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CurlyStevo - on 04 Oct 2018
In reply to Nathan Adam:

Are the first buses to Torlundy from Fort William starting too late? 

Yeah a car would be best but you'd probably find partners willing to pick up in fort william for climbing on the Ben

 

Misha - on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Join a club, though I imagine they are based around the bigger towns and cities.

Another option is looking out for trainee MICs and guides looking to take people out for free to build up their guiding experience.

There’s a FB group called Scottish Winter Partners which can be useful.

 

1
Misha - on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to drsdave:

Sound advice and a great example. You can’t always see what’s in store from the bottom or what might look innocuous from the bottom can turn out to be pretty challenging on close inspection (winter routes have a way of looking easier than they actually are). A route starting with a grade I snow plod can feature a grade II steepening which in poor conditions could be grade III. 

Post edited at 01:22
1
Nathan Adam - on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

You can get away with the buses just about, first one running north to Torlundy is about 7:30 if I remember correctly. But that still leaves you a few km the wrong side of the walk in. And then you need to get back at the end of the day, the walk down past the smelter and into town is painfully long after a big day. 

Aye, living in the Fort will get you partners for sure and definitely a good place to meet with people who are able to drive. If there’s one thing that’s held me back in winter climbing the 6 years I’ve been at it is that I’m lacking in a driving license and a car. Thankfully I’ve managed to get by with partners who do and the odd long walk up and off the hill but I wouldn’t want to make a habit out of it. And that’s not from a lack of enthusiasm, more a been there and done it too many times. 

Post edited at 02:31
Minneconjou Sioux on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to humptydumpty:

The problem with soloing in winter is that the medium on which you are climbing is more likely to fail and no amount of skill or experience will help when that happens. I watched a young man fall to his death in the Northern Corries, not because the climb was particularly hard and not because it was beyond his skill level but because, when he got to the top there was a cornice and when he tried to break through, it gave way.

1
CurlyStevo - on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to Nathan Adam:

"You can get away with the buses just about, first one running north to Torlundy is about 7:30 if I remember correctly. But that still leaves you a few km the wrong side of the walk in"

How so? The north face car park is virtually at Torlundy, its what a 10 min walk from there right.

Mostly likely your partner is driving and can drop you off in Fort William at the end of the day, either that or blagging a lift shouldn't be too hard from the NF car park. Either that or just get a bus back as a last resort, typically winter days are not late off the hill days!

Post edited at 08:56
Misha - on 05 Oct 2018

> Mostly likely your partner is driving and can drop you off in Fort William at the end of the day, either that or blagging a lift shouldn't be too hard from the NF car park. Either that or just get a bus back as a last resort, typically winter days are not late off the hill days!

That rather depends on what you do but probably fair to say that most easier outings won’t be late off the hill days, as long as you start early enough.

CurlyStevo - on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to Misha:

My experience is most people whatever the grade tend to start early and finish before dark, normally walking out in daylight. The one time I was late off the hill on the Ben there was no one else about at all!

Post edited at 14:05
planetmarshall on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> My experience is most people whatever the grade tend to start early and finish before dark, normally walking out in daylight.

Really??

CurlyStevo - on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:

Sure, most people want to be first on the route (or at least no where near last). It's not unusual to see people leaving the NF car park at silly o clock. I guess most my experience on the Ben has been mid to late season though. 

 

Post edited at 16:43
Misha - on 05 Oct 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

You might be right that most people walk out in daylight most of the time (most being more than 50%). Especially in the Northern Corries and late season ice on the Ben. However it's far from unusual to finish a route in the dark, never mind walking out in the dark!

Do you mostly climb ice routes? They can be done fairly quickly if you're happy at the grade, whereas mixed tends to take time even if you have a grade or two in hand, unless conditions are really good.

It's pretty rare for me to walk out in daylight but that's probably because I prefer longer mixed routes and mostly climb early to mid season. It once got light as we were finishing the walk out but that's not quite the same thing!

If a route is mixed and has several technical pitches, I tend to think that it's pretty good if the leader gets to the top of the last hard pitch in daylight, good if the whole team tops out in daylight and excellent if we get back to the car park in daylight.

May be I'm just crap? Or I should start earlier... but it's hard to get up before 5-6am when you've driven up from Birmingham on a Friday night.

Post edited at 19:40
planetmarshall on 06 Oct 2018
In reply to Misha:

> May be I'm just crap? Or I should start earlier... but it's hard to get up before 5-6am when you've driven up from Birmingham on a Friday night.

I don't blame you, Misha. If I lived in Birmingham I'd find it difficult to get out of bed too.


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