Scotland in the colder months offers a wealth of winter climbing, in a variety of styles: from blue-green water ice, to routes mostly relying on frozen turf, to cutting-edge mixed climbs. The conditions and weather are notoriously fickle, meaning nothing is guaranteed, but some of the north-facing gullies are the best bet for reliable climbing.
Though small in stature compared to other mountainous regions, the Scottish highlands are a seriously challenging environment, with all the hazards of any alpine range. Don't underestimate the potential for avalanche, cornices, storms, etc. The most reliable weather forecast is the met office mountain weather forecast and an avalanche forecast for major regions is provided by the sais
The most popular areas are the North face of Ben Nevis, Glen Coe, Crag Meagaidh and the Cairngorms, and there is enough in just these areas to keep you busy for a lifetime! Further afield (and mostly further North), isolated corries reward the more intrepid climber.
Like trad routes in Britain, the Scottish winter grading system (used throughout the UK) can seem a bit of an enigma on first acquaintance. It again has two parts, with similar meanings to the trad counterparts. The first is a progression in Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV,...), denoting the "overall severity" of the climb. This can be increased not just by technical difficulty, but by sustained sequences, poor protection/belays, or high commitment. The second is a progression in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3,...), and denotes just how technically difficult the crux of the route is. It makes no concession for a short vs. sustained sequence, or the protection at the crux: it is simply the technical difficulty.
You can fly into Inverness (very close to the Cairngorms) or Glasgow, then drive. If driving from South of the border, the M6 and M74 take you as far as Glasgow. From there, the A82 takes you North to Fort William (the main hub for Ben Nevis/Glen Coe, or the A9 takes you over to the Cairngorms
There are two guidebooks by Cicerone, one for Ben Nevis and Glen Coe, the other for the Cairngorms. These give good coverage of the most popular areas. In addition, the Scottish Mountaineering Club publishes a select guide and definitive guides for most of Scotland.
The standard maps (as for most of Britain) are produced by the Ordnance Survey in 1:25000 and 1:50000 scales. Since a lot of Scottish winter climbing is very remote, it is recommended that every party should carry a 1:25000 scale map and compass.
A big route. The closest thing to an alpine North face you're going to find in the British Isles, with all the excitement and challenges. It weighs in at 420m of climbing (8 pitches), and deposits you abruptly on the summit plateau of the Ben, within a few hundred feet of the trig point. Orion Direct has quite a formidable reputation, as ice cover is rarely fat, and the belays leave much to be desired. Despite the name, the route winds an intricate way up the Orion face, linking subtle features ...[more]Browse More Classics in International