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Winter climbing

When the summer rock climbing season ends, people from all over the UK and the world sharpen their axes and dust off their crampons, in preparation for the Scottish winter climbing season.

The Scottish mountains are transformed into a white playground, for people looking to challenge themselves in the art of Scottish winter climbing. Scaling climbs with sharp spiky bits of metal attached to your hands and feet, in conditions that are not always favourable brings a new set of challenges!

When can you do it?

The season can extend from October to April. However as this is Scotland, the length of the season is unpredictable. There are no set dates, itís all about the climbs being in condition.

There are thousands of climbs across the country, from roadside to remote, involving snow, ice gullies and mixed routes.


Photo by Colin McGregor

From summer to winter

An experienced summer climber will be able to transfer many of their skills to the winter environment. Climbers setting out in winter will have the same climbing equipment as summer with the addition of extra gear to place, such as ice screws, as well as two technical ice axes and a pair of crampons that are rated for climbing.

Like summer climbs, the routes vary in length; some will be single pitches and many will be multi pitch. Depending on the type of route, whether it is a snow or ice gully, or a mixed route, the techniques you may have to deploy will differ. Climbing steep ice can be completely different to climbing a mixed route. One of the many brilliant challenges of winter climbing is that within one route you may have to use many techniques in your toolbox.

Knowing your stuff

Whether you are flicking your ice axe pick into lovely neve or cranking on an axe that is wedged in a crack, it is best to practise these techniques first before deploying them in the Scottish mountains for the first time. Joining someone more experienced or gaining some training is advisable. As rewarding as winter is, it is a whole different ball game in terms of seriousness. If you have little or no experience of winter climbing in Scotland, you should refer to our Get Started page and our advice on Style & Ethics.