The Winter Mountaineer

In 2007 I went on a course that gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to start exploring mountains in winter conditions. Years later, I decided I wanted to advance my skills and learn how to move over more difficult winter terrain. That’s why, last week, I went back to Glenmore Lodge, the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre, to do a winter mountaineering course.

This course gave me an improved understanding of how to read the mountain environment and so make better judgments on the safest route. I’ve looked at avalanche and weather forecasts in the past before going out in winter, but the instructors gave these more depth and meaning by teaching how they related to the landscape I was going through. They emphasised being attentive and pointed out how to spot clues in the snow conditions under foot and in how the snow changed with the terrain.

Sam descending the rope hand-over-hand on Fiacaill Coire an t'Sneachda, with Bill keeping an eye on him.
Sam descending the rope hand-over-hand on Fiacaill Coire an t’Sneachda, with Bill keeping an eye.

The course also included a refresher of winter movement skills (e.g. cutting steps with your boot or an axe) that I probably really needed. However, the most interesting sections of the course, and the ones that pushed me the most, were those in which I learned how to protect myself and others using a rope, bucket seats and snow anchors. Practicing dynamic belaying from a bucket seat I had dug in the snow and abseiling down a snow-covered, rocky rib were fantastic experiences that will really stick with me.

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It was a fun, brilliant and physically challenging five days.

12 thoughts on “The Winter Mountaineer

        1. It was five full days of instruction.

          I don’t think the rate is unreasonable when you think that you get instruction over that number of days, accommodation, food, use of equipment (depending on what you need to borrow, this could include, for example, avalanche transceiver, probe, ice axe, waterproofs, snow shoes, climbing equipment) and transport during the course. I also think it’s in keeping with the market rate.

          I look at it as an investment.

          Best wishes,

  1. Good stuff, lets hope the winter conditions prevail although I think you live a distance from the mountains. I’m lucky in that I can just pop up to the Lakes on a good forecast. Did my last ice climb a few years ago and my hands and feet are just thawing out. For me now winter climbing involves a flight to Spain!! Best wishes.

    1. Thanks. I’m hoping that the conditions do prevail for a while yet. I do live some distance from the mountains and so it’s only if winter is around for a while that I get the chance to enjoy snowy and icy mountains. Over the last few years my luck has been quite bad in this respect. Every time I head to the Lakes or Snowdonia the snow has melted before I get there (even when I’m going in the middle of the winter). That’s one of the reasons I envy anyone who is able to live close enough to just head out at short notice when the conditions are right.

      Winter climbing in Spain sounds like a great idea.

      Best wishes,


  2. Nice post. Glad you enjoyed the week. Please feel free to drop an email if any questions ever come up.

  3. Sounds awesome. Was planning on attending the course last week, would have been fun to meet you there! Definitely on my list of things to do!

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