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.
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 3-4 and Tech Level 4-5 (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/MIC guide climbing with one client.
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.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training guidelines.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip suitability requirements.
Tech Level 1
Hillwalker/scrambler. You have UK hillwalking and perhaps summer UK scrambling, or European via ferrata experience – but no rock or ice climbing, or previous alpine climbing experience.
Tech Level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking, trekking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 or equivalent alpine terrain / familiar with multipitch abseil descents.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 or equivalent alpine terrain. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.
Tech Level 5
Very experienced climber. Regularly lead multipitch E1+ trad rock / ice and mixed routes at Scottish 5+/WI5 or equivalent alpine terrain. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have very extensive experience climbing at this level.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!).
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of training/cardiovascular sport per week. Eg: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs.
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.
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, 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.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable.
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!
- 2 fleeces – or equivalent insulating mid-layers
- 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 Ilkley offer an excellent mountain boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
We 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.
Insurance for UK residents
If you use another insurance provider, then please check terms and conditions very carefully to make sure your activity is covered.
Insurance 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.
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
Details of your insurance must be sent to us before the course starts, and brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
Does Alpine Guides climb with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
How do I book a climbing trip?
For scheduled climbing trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
How do I rent mountaineering equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens to our plans if the weather is bad, or climbing conditions are poor?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and select different objectives more suited to the prevailing conditions, or travel to a neighbouring area or sometimes even further afield.
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.