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Think Winter

Getting started in winter climbing

There are many ways to get your winter climbing career started, here are a few suggestions:

  • Mountaineering Scotland offers courses in basic winter skills and courses for more advanced mountaineering skills. As a member you can get yourself a place.

  • Glenmore Lodge is the National Outdoor Training Centre and they provide winter courses for all abilities.

  • Many climbers simply start on their own, learning through their own experiences and sharing knowledge from their friends.

There is additional equipment needed for winter climbing: not only your climbing rack but other personal clothing and not to mention ice axes and crampons. A good way of learning what works for you can be to try different types out. A few of the technical additions you’ll need are:


  • A stiff boot with a mountaineering sole is recommended for winter climbing. When you are looking at these, make sure they match up to the crampons you are going to purchase. Any outdoor shop will be able to advise you on the differences.

  • The harness you use for summer might be of use but just remember it still has to fit well with all your layers on.

  • You’ll also need ice axes which again it is worth seeking advice as to which ones you get, as there are so many to choose from.

Photo by Colin Wells

Having all this equipment is a good start but it is important to know how to use it all! Previous summer hillwalking experience is essential for winter climbing, and experience of rock climbing - particularly familiarity with rope work - is a great advantage. Being confident on your feet in the mountains and having the fitness levels required are both key to having a good winter experience.

From choosing the right kit to using it wisely on the route, winter climbing requires new skills, even if you have a background in summer rock climbing. These videos from Glenmore Lodge will give an idea of some of the basics.

1. Gearing up for a climb

2. Transition from soloing the apron to starting the climb

3. Using a bucket seat belay when climbing

4. Placing wires in winter

5. Placing pegs in winter

6. Placing an ice screw

7. Making an ice screw belay

8. Making a V-thread/Abalakov anchor

9. Using an Abalakov anchor for abseiling

10. Using an Abalakov anchor for belaying