Scottish Winter Climbing

The winter climbing in Scotland is absolutely unique. The nature of the mountains, weather systems and altitude mean that the conditions are like nowhere else in the world. When climbing in Scotland you will encounter one of three types of route. The route will either be mixed, where you will be climbing on iced up rock and some snow ice, a snow ice route, where the ice consists of refrozen snow, or the least common type, water ice.

There are specific locations where you are more or less likely to find routes in each category. Equally there are crags where you can find all three within a few metres of each other. This type of information is a lot to do with local knowledge and the knowledge you can take absorb from the climbing guidebooks on each of the areas.

As you would expect the equipment and techniques that you need for each of the different route types vary slightly. If you are climbing a water ice route then it is likely that you will be using primarily ice screws for protection. This may also include the belays so you must ensure that you have enough. Snow ice route, often enclosed within a gully will be a mixture of ice screws, in situ gear and traditional rock protection. On these types of routs you will need to be persistent and be able to spot a good gear placement from a bad one. These are the routes when you will be carrying the most gear. Mixed routes are different in that although they may contain a small amount of snow ice, the main form of protection will be from traditional rock protection like nuts and cams. This can mean that the protection is often very good once you have found it.

The most difficult thing about climbing in Scotland is predicting the weather and conditions. Knowing which conditions re best suited to which route is a skill which takes years to get to grips with. When the conditions are poor, climbing in Scotland is very demanding. However, when it is good it provides some of the best climbing in the world.