About Winter Mountaineering in Scotland
Winter in Scotland is a magical time of year, and there’s no greater outdoor adventure than winter hillwalking in Scotland.
With over 282 Munros [3000 feet plus] to choose from, Scotland is blessed with one of the most beautiful wildernesses in Europe.
Having the confidence and skills to experience winter hillwalking opens up a whole new world of adventure from late November to April: that’s six months of adventure you don’t want to miss out on!
Our approach to winter hillwalking in Scotland is based on respect, knowledge and experience.
Respect for mountainous environments
Our team have spent over 20 years guiding clients in the mountains of Scotland, both in the warmer months and winter. Our love for these wild places is matched by our respect for them.
If you don’t treat these wild mountain environments with respect, the consequences can be serious.The Scottish weather, and how quickly in can change is notorious, and for very good reasons.
What might seem a relatively calm and sunny winters day can rapidly descend into whiteout conditions, driving spindrift and wind of minus 20 degrees.
Knowledge of mountains and conditions
Over the decades our team has built up a detailed knowledge of:
- How to interpret mountain weather conditions.
- How to interpret avalanche conditions.
- How to establish safe route planning, and then adapt when conditions change.
- How to navigate in winter conditions.
- How to move safely with ice axe and crampons.
- First aid in the mountains.
- What to pack and wear for winter hillwalking and mountaineering.
We are also responsible enough to recognise that we are always learning, and gaining more knowledge.
Experience from summer days to blizzards
Experience comes with real-time spent out in the mountains; from blue bird summer days to blizzards and snow storms on the Cairngorm Plateau.
For us this is more than a job, it’s a passion and what we also do in our spare time. Being in the mountains is the life of our choice, and sharing this experience with clients is a great privilege.
How we can help
At Ocean Vertical we make winter mountaineering accessible for all levels of experience, from beginners to more experienced adventurers.
As an introduction to winter hillwalking, we offer a one-day course:
This course takes place in late October and November before real winter kicks in. It’s designed for folks looking to make the transition from hillwalking in the warmer months to winter hillwalking and focuses on the core skills needed.
For folks looking to build their winter hillwalking skills, experience and knowledge we run three courses from December into April. As with all our adventures, we provide all the equipment you will need such as ice axe and crampons, along with transport and passionate qualified guides.
These courses are:
If you have little or no experience in winter hillwalking but are looking for a more in-depth experience, we run a two-day course in the Cairngorms. The focus is on planning and preparation, route planning and weather conditions, safe use of ice axe and crampons, navigation, kit and equipment lists and avalanche awareness. This course is called:
For folks with winter hillwalking experience who are now looking to move onto steeper and more challenging terrain we run a two-day course in Glen Coe called:
And for those of you who would like to spend a winter day in the mountains with Ocean Vertical Director Mollie Hughes we run a special winter hillwalking course.
Mollie has summited Mount Everest twice and is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the youngest woman to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole for over 57 days.
If you would like to spend an inspirational day with Mollie you can see the details here:
Winter Hillwalking FAQs
Why should I go winter hillwalking in Scotland?
Because Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world!
Winter hillwalking in the Scottish mountains is a serious and highly rewarding undertaking. Reduced daylight, snow and continually changing conditions in wild and remote locations make for a real mountaineering adventure.
Where should I go winter hillwalking?
To some extent, this depends on where your starting point is. Winter hillwalking can be a long day, and keeping your travel time to sub 3 hours is a good idea. If you are in Scotland’s central belt there are many and spectacular locations to choose from: From the famous and iconic peaks of Glen Coe to the little-known mountain wilderness of Black Mount, and the Bridge of Orchy region.
Why go winter hillwalking in Glen Coe?
Glen Coe is one of the most magnificent areas of natural wilderness in the whole of Britain with many and varied summits and ridges of over 3000 feet. It’s also highly accessible, being only a couple of hours from Edinburgh and Glasgow. There is also very little “walk-in” time to get to the mountains: you start the upward ascent not far from the various car parks!
In winter it represents an awe-inspiring and significant challenge. Summits include Bidean nam Bian which at 1150m is the highest in Glen Coe and Argyle. Other iconic summits we regularly lead clients to are…
What do I need for winter hillwalking?
In short, the right experience, the right clothing and the right equipment.
What experience do I need for hillwalking in winter?
Experience and skills are gained over time, and we all have to start somewhere. So if you are new to winter hillwalking we suggest you join a group that has experienced individuals, and/or you sign up with a professional adventure company for a winter hillwalking skills course. This could be over a single day or several days.
Building knowledge in preparation, planning, weather and avalanche understanding, route choice, navigation and the use of ice axe and crampons takes time and dedication. It’s all part of the journey to being a safe, confident and independent winter hillwalker.
What clothing should I wear for winter hillwalking?
You can see a detailed list of clothing for winter hillwalking further down this page. As an overview, you need a waterproof and windproof outer shell [hooded jacket and trousers], and a layering system underneath of synthetics such as fleece and merino. Layering works because you can regulate your temperature throughout the day by adding and taking off layers.
We would always recommend you go for bright colours so you can be easily seen, and avoid cotton – when it gets wet it stays wet. We would also recommend synthetic insulated jackets over down jackets. It can be seriously wet…
What equipment should I bring for winter hillwalking?
Again you can see a more detailed equipment list further down this page. You will need an ice axe and crampons – and importantly you will need to know how to use them!
Smaller items of equipment should include goggles, the type you would wear skiing, a head torch, emergency whistle, group shelter, helmet [for rough and steep terrain], and a mobile phone.
The final item of “equipment” and one of the most important is winter mountaineering boots, which are crampon comparable. It’s really worth investing here and spending time with a company like Tiso to get…
What are crampons for winter hillwalking and mountaineering?
What are Crampons?
Crampons are an essential part of your winter hillwalking and mountaineering equipment for safe adventures in the Scottish mountains.
As an overview they are a meatal or alloy frame with spikes that fit onto the underside of your winter boots to allow you to travel safely over ice and frozen snow, often in steep conditions.
If you have a real interest in winter hillwalking and mountaineering in Scotland, then you are going to need a pair of crampons to add to your essential kit list. You can see full details of…
Are there specific challenges posed by Scottish winter weather?
Yes, Scottish winter weather can be particularly challenging. Here are some aspects to consider:
Temperature Fluctuations: Temperatures can drop significantly, leading to frostbite and hypothermia risks. Dress in layers to regulate body heat.
High Winds: Scotland experiences strong winds that can make it feel much colder. Windproof clothing is crucial.
Snow and Ice: Snow can cover paths, making navigation difficult. Ice patches can create slippery conditions. Crampons and ice axes might be necessary.
Short Daylight Hours: Daylight is limited, so plan accordingly and start early to finish hikes before darkness.
Avalanche Risk: Certain areas, like the Cairngorms and Glen Coe,…
Do I need specialised training for winter hillwalking in Scotland?
Yes, specialised training is highly recommended for winter hillwalking in Scotland due to the increased risks. Consider the following:
Winter Skills Course: Enroll in a course covering navigation in winter conditions, use of ice axes and crampons, snow and avalanche awareness, and emergency procedures.
Avalanche Safety Course: If you plan to venture into areas with avalanche risk, take a course to understand avalanche terrain, safety equipment, and rescue techniques.
Navigation Training: Winter conditions can obscure trails. Improve your map, compass, and GPS navigation skills to stay on track.
Emergency Response: Learn first aid, emergency…
What should I take Winter Hillwalking?
- Winter Mountaineering boots - quality wool socks
- Please do not use cotton clothing - it gets wet and stays wet
- Base layers
- Lightweight fleece
- Fleece or soft-shell jacket - synthetic insulated jackets are great
- Trousers – synthetic that dry quickly
- Waterproof jacket with hood and Waterproof trousers
- Warm hat – plus spare. Waterproof gloves - plus spares
- Spare fleece / warm top [Keep this in your rucksack]
- Snacks and hot liquid - snacks should be easily accessible for on the go access
- Head torch with spare batteries [Try and keep the batteries insulated / warm]
- Map and compass with your route pre planned [You need to know how to use these first]
- Mobile phone [Kept warm so the cold doesn't kill the battery]
- Ice axe and crampons [You need to know how to use these first]
- Rucksack - approximately 40 litres with a waterproof lining and ice axe attachments
- Group shelter - these are lightweight and pack small
- Top tip - get your clothing and kit in bright colours so you can be easily seen
Read more about Winter Hillwalking
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The Mountain Weather Information Service forecast is looking good. Tomorrow we leave for Glen Coe.
Group equipment check: Ice axes, crampons, winter boots, group shelter, emergency blankets, head torches, first aid kit, map and compass, spare rucksacks with waterproof liners, spare waterproof insulated jacket, energy snacks.
We had been set on a Glen Coe adventure and had been following the Mountain Weather Information Service all week. Its late October and the snow has arrived in the Scottish Highlands. Our first winter mountaineering day of the season.
We keep willing the forecast to improve in Glen Coe; 50mph gusts, sleet,…
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What people say about Winter Hillwalking with us
I was working in Edinburgh and planned to do some walking with a group of friends. A colleague recommended Ocean Vertical. I called but they were booked out, had a call-back and they coordinated a mountain trip for us!
A day later, I was standing 3,500 feet up on Stob Coire nan Lochan in snow and ice looking out over the most incredible scenery in Glen Coe, a brilliant trip that I couldn’t have accessed without Stevie and Adrian who were fabulous guides. Totally recommend!
Just back from a day with Stevie and Adrian. Both are masters of there trade. Making sure everyone was comfortable and understanding the terrain. I felt in very safe hands on my first winter mountaineering day out with the boys.
I would highly recommend Ocean Vertical to everyone thinking of winter mountaineering in Scotland. Both guys’ are very knowledgeable of mountains and the surrounding areas. I’ll definitely be back out with Ocean Vertical very soon!
Enjoyed a great day in early January with Stevie and Adrian bagging 3 Munro’s – Ben Lawers, An Stuc and Beinn Ghlas.
Great to have the knowledge to take us on the less trodden route to the top of Ben Lawers, help negotiate the atmospheric conditions on the day and give us options for climbs. Thanks, guys! Looking forward to the next winter mountaineering in Scotland trip!
Best Hogmanay Ever!!!!
Ended 2019 by climbing up Stob Ghabhar in the Black Mount region close to Glen Coe with @ocean_vertical and @etjo17 and I loved it from start to finish. The weather was clear and crisp, making for phenomenal views for miles around. Our guide @the_stevie_boyle was brilliant – full of knowledge, encouraging, and general all round top bloke! They got us there and back from East Lothian and provided us with all the kit. If you haven’t already been on an @ocean_vertical experience then I highly recommend you do…you won’t regret it!
Thoroughly enjoyed another trip to stunning Glen Coe with the highly experienced team at Ocean Vertical. With transparent and ongoing risk assessment, Stevie and Adrian strive to provide their adventurers with the best experience in the conditions available – adapting where necessary with their extensive knowledge of the area. Whether it’s been paddle boarding, climbing or mountaineering, I have always had a safe and truly rewarding experience. Can’t wait to get out with them again!
Fantastic day out with Stevie and Adrian today climbing Stob Ghabhar. Scottish winter mountaineering at its best! These guys really know their stuff and I felt in very safe hands for my first venture up to this height in winter.
Amazing experience and I learned to use an ice axe and crampons! to be repeated! Highly recommended!
Amazing day out winter mountaineering in Scotland in the snow with Stevie and Adrian yesterday. We learned loads of new techniques including how to use crampons and an ice axe! Feeling more confident in managing Scottish winter conditions and looking forward to getting another day out with them soon.
I had an incredible day out winter mountaineering in Glen Coe with Mollie Hughes and the OV team. Despite some challenging weather, I had loads of fun and the team made sure that we had the opportunity to brush up on some winter skills. 100% recommend the winter courses
About Ocean Vertical
OV - Supporting Adventures for Winter Hillwalking
At Ocean Vertical our mission is to share a passion for wild places and adventure. We are blessed to be in Scotland and have access to some of the worlds most beautiful and accessible mountains.
We offer different levels of mountain adventures, from hillwalking to more technical winter mountaineering, winter skills and climbing.
We also provide all the equipment you will need, from ice axe and crampons, to winter mountaineering boots, travel to and from the mountains, and expert qualified guides, who are passionate about Scotland and mountaineering.