Our Scottish ice and mixed climbing course is a special week for dedicated winter climbers looking to push their grade to the next level. The emphasis is on climbing high-quality ice and mixed routes, with some coaching in steep ice and technical mixed climbing techniques. 1:1 guiding gives complete flexibility to select appropriately challenging routes, and make the most of prevailing conditions.
Please visit our Covid-19 Climb Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
Our preferred venue is Fort William on the West coast of Scotland, with an amazing variety of climbing within 30 mins drive, and some of the most reliable venues in Scotland including Glencoe, Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor.
In poor weather the climbing conditions can be better on the East side of Scotland, in which case we will focus on the Cairngorms and the granite mixed climbing of the Northern Corries and Loch Avon Basin. This can be done in a day trip from Fort William, or by basing in Aviemore instead of Fort William. If at all possible, please leave your travel and accommodation plans until the last minute so we can make the most of the conditions.
Available on dates of your choice throughout the season.
This is an advanced level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 4+ (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You should have ice and mixed climbing experience up to grade 4-5, good endurance, and be used to long Scottish days in all weathers.
One IFMGA guide working with 1 person.
In terms of added value, climbing with an IFMGA guide is a great option if you want to learn from someone with the widest possible range of experience, or you aspire to/are already obsessed with winter or Alpine climbing! IFMGA guides work worldwide on rock, ice, glaciers and ski – so we can offer training, advice and recommendations for all your future plans, whatever and wherever they may be.
Included in price
- 5 days of guiding and instruction
- All guides expenses
- Local transport in guides vehicle to complete the itinerary
Excluded from price
- Food and accommodation
- Travel to Scotland
- Equipment hire
Our preferred base is the Highland centre of Fort William – the ‘Outdoor Capital of Scotland’, under the shadow of Ben Nevis. The course runs on a guiding & instruction only basis – your own food and accommodation must be paid for separately. Fort William has plenty of bars, shops and restaurants and a wide choice of accommodation. Aviemore is similarly situated on the East side of Scotland, with bars, restaurants, and good rail links to the South. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
Start/finish days are flexible on this trip, but typically we’d aim to start on a weekend.
Meet in Fort William for course briefing and weather check.
Saturday to Wednesday
Ascent of classic ice/mixed routes, depending on your objectives and conditions – up to grade VI or above.
- Slab Route VI, 7 – Ben Nevis
- White Magic VI, 7 – Northern Corries
- Tilt VI, 7 – Glencoe
- Fallout Corner VI, 7 – Northern Corries
- Minus One Gully – Ben Nevis
- Orion Direct – Ben Nevis
- Gargoyle Wall – Ben Nevis
- Logistics – planning the day and what to carry
- Equipment selection – rack, tools, boots, crampons, clothing systems
- Venue choice – weather influences, ethics and conditions
- Movement skills – footwork, axe placement, using knees… & other body parts
- Finding protection
- Resting and general strategy
Wed pm/Thur am – Depart
Your initial meeting points are Fort William – the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ situated at the foot of Ben Nevis, or Aviemore, in the Cairngorms National Park. You should arrange outward travel in order to meet your guide at the agreed venue at 7am on the first day of guiding. Return travel should be arranged after 5pm on the last day of guiding.
- Fort William is approx 2 hours drive north of Glasgow via the A82, or can be reached by train directly from Glasgow.
- Aviemore is approx 2 hours drive north of Perth via the A9, and is also on the main Edinburgh – Inverness rail line.
- Use the RAC or AA online route planners online for your best route by car.
- Both venues are also served by sleeper trains from the south of England. Use the Travel Line website to plan your journey.
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 3, and Tech Level 4 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 40-50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 / alpine peaks at AD – D standard. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Scottish Winter Equipment List
Equipment can take a real hammering in winter-time, so a substantial hardshell is preferred, rather than lightweight summer waterproofs.
- Waterproof Jacket – full weight breathable model preferred
- Waterproof trousers – durable model with 3/4 or full length side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material
- Wicking thermal baselayer tops – synthetic not cotton!
- Softshell Jacket – mid weight, wind resistant, light insulating layer (or a mid weight fleece jacket)
- 2nd fleece – or equivalent insulating mid-layer
- Belay jacket – synthetic insulation is best for Scotland
- Powerstretch tights or warm mountain trousers – should fit comfortably under your waterproof trousers
- Thin inner gloves
- Warm mountain gloves – Goretex or equivalent water/windproof model
- Second pair of mountain gloves as above – one pair will often get wet
- Hat or balaclava – must fit under a helmet.
- Spare mittens – especially if you suffer from cold hands
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
- Rucsac 40-50l – to handle extra winter kit
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch icefall routes (optional)
- Rigid 4 season mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 120cm sling and locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Technical ice axe and ice hammer
- Crampons – vertically orientated front points are best, or sharp new mountaineering crampons are also fine
- Snowshoes or ski mountaineering equipment for Winter Couloirs/Norwegian ice climbing trips – please contact us for advice
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Otley offer an excellent walking boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For UK residents – we strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.
For non UK residents – search and rescue is currently free in the UK, but you may be charged by the NHS for certain treatments, and you should also consider the need for emergency repatriation in the event of a serious illness/accident. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.
Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please find further details on our insurance info page.