Scotland’s mountains offer the best opportunities for summer and winter mountaineering in the UK. Magnificent cliffs, gullies and ridges abound. While Scotland does not have permanent snow cover on its hills, there are many opportunities in the Scottish mountains for mountaineering.
But what is ‘mountaineering’? And what separates it from walking or rock climbing?
Mountaineering is defined as: ‘The ascent of hills and mountains where the use of technical equipment is essential for either hands or feet’.
One way to look at this is when the use of technical equipment – crampons, ice axe, rope etc – becomes required in summer or winter for protection in case of a fall, then you have strayed into the realm of mountaineering.
With mountain cliffs up to 2,000ft in height, long complicated ridges and peaks with rugged rocky sections which cannot be bypassed simply on foot, mountaineering skills are required.
Mountaineering obviously encompasses climbing skills which are integral to the activity and many of the rougher parts of the Scottish hills offer great summer scrambling opportunities. These pages will look at scrambling, winter mountaineering, Alpine mountaineering, and winter climbing.
Scrambling is often seen as a halfway house between walking and climbing, but it's important to remember that, although the thrill of moving easily over rocky terrain is hard to beat, the risks - with no rope - can be even greater than with rock climbing, so it's important to learn what you're doing and develop safe practice.
Under a covering of snow and ice, hills that provide walking ascents in summer can become real mountaineering expeditions, with a whole suite of extra skills as well as equipment. Our section on winter mountaineering looks at skills, equipment and opportunities.
Winter climbing often starts as an extension to winter mountaineering, but is a sport in its own right. Physically and technically demanding, the rewards are generally held to be well worth the risks. Our section on winter climbing gives a useful introduction.
Alpine mountaineering is a natural progression for some, moving from Scotland's mountains to the additional challenges of the Alps and Greater Ranges. Learn more about the skills required and the assistance being a member of Mountaineering Scotland can offer.
The basic skill sets are even more important when tackling the more technical aspects of scrambling and winter mountaineering or climbing. Check out some of our information pages.
Mountaineering Scotland runs a number of courses which can be invaluable to anyone taking up these activities or wanting to hone their skills. Check these pages out for a course to suit your needs.
Knowing what the weather is likely to do, and - if in winter - what the snow conditions are likely to be - is vital when going scrambling or winter mountaineering. Check a range of resources here.
ScotRock is the fortnightly podcast bringing climbers and mountaineers together to share some of their amazing stories.
Hosted by Calum and Robert from our ClimbScotland team, the podcasts take an often irreverent but always informed look at the people and the issues that matter in Scotland’s mountains and climbing walls.
Available on Podbean, Itunes, Google podcasts, Spotify and all other major podcast apps – just search for ScotRock