Winter Climbing in Scotland

Winter Climbing in Scotland

In between soloing Great Gully Ridge and a one-day round trip to inspect the slushy snow on Howling Ridge, Dave Keogh managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Scotland, cramming in an impressive array of climbs.
He doesn’t even enjoy climbing apparently and only does it to annoy Ken. But what a fine job he’s doing. Over to Dave…

Scotland Winter Jan 9-13

So after 2 canned trips during the Christmas period due to pish weather I made a last minute trip to Scotland.  Colder weather was forecast and things looked promising.

€8 flights to Glasgow ➡️ Bus to Fort William ➡️ Bus to the north face car park ➡️ 2hr walk with provisions for 5 nights & 4 days ➡️ CIC hut.

Situated at 680m and just below Ben Nevis’s north face it provides an ideal base for a few days.

I had 4 quality days, 2 of which I spent with a climber I met through the UKC website after an 11th hour shout out for a partner.

Day 1
Climbers on Good Friday

•Tower Scoop (III** ice climb)
•Good Friday Climb (III*** ice climb) – Down Gully no. 3 (I**)
•Gully Buttress No. 3 (III,3*** ice & mixed) – Down Gully no. 3 (I**)

Day 2 (with my UKC blind date)
Lost The Place (V,5*** mixed) – Pitch 1

•Lost The Place (V,5*** mixed) 3 pitches 40,25,40m located high on Coire na Ciste. A really good route with a memorable top chimney pitch.

Day 3 (2nd date)
Cutlass (VI,7** mixed)
Horrible slab pitch to start Cutlass
P2 Cutlass
Cutlass – Pitch 2
Coming up P2 Cutlass
P3 Cutlass
Cutlass – Pitch 3
Setting out P3 Cutlass
Setting out P3 Cutlass
SW Ridge Douglas Boulder
Cutlass-2016-01-12 14.49.32
Finishing up Cutlass

•Cutlass (VI,7** mixed). A lot of snow and a couple of other factors had us setting our sights low on the mountain. An excellent route which went in 5 pitches to the top of the Douglas Boulder. The climbing on pitch 2&3 (corner/chimney) is so good.

Day 4 (dumped)
1934 Route (II/III**)
Looking up at Tower Ridge ice pitch
TR Ice pitch
Tower Ridge ice pitch
TR little tower
Tower Ridge – Little Tower
Tower Ridge – Eastern Traverse
Tower Ridge – Fallen Block
A tight squeeze, but fun

2016-01-13 13.21.11

TR top
Tower Ridge – Nearing the top
Parties behind negotiating Tower Gap

2016-01-13 13.29.20

2016-01-13 13.31.57

TR finish to summit
Tower Ridge – Finish to summit

2016-01-13 13.38.06

2016-01-13 14.13.22

•1934 route (II/III**) up onto Tower Ridge
•Tower Ridge (IV,4****). Snow has yet to really consolidate so it was well banked out. Being first on the route this meant a lot of clearing ledges and cracks for axes. A real shoulder workout.
•CMD Arête (I**)

Tower Ridge was a day to remember. One of my best. Cold (minus 6 on top), no wind and blue skies made things perfect.

A good start to winter!

2016-01-13 14.04.11
On the summit of Ben Nevis

Just a week later and Dave returns, to mixed conditions, this time with Cearbhall…

Scotland Winter: Thaw & Storms Jan 20-31

Myself and Cearbhall Daly had an interesting 8 days or so Winter Climbing in Scotland. It was a real mixed bag of thawing conditions, wild weather and some excellent climbing. We got to see a few new venues and even had a first attempt at some dry tooling down in the cave at Dunkeld. All the climbing was mixed as the ice routes haven’t formed at this point. Below is a list of the routes and areas we got to.

  • Cairngorms
    • The Seam IV,5**
    • Savage Slit V,6***
    • Hidden Chimney Direct IV,5*
  • Ben Nevis
    • No. 2 Gully Buttress III***
    • Wendigo IV,4**
    • Thompsons Route IV,4***
    • No. 3 Gully Buttress III***
    • Jackknife V,6
    • SW Ridge Doulas Boulder IV,5***

I stayed on a for a couple of days after Cearbhall left and climbed with a friend of a friend at Stob Coire nan Lochan and yesterday we did Scabbard Chimney V,6***, Twisting Gully III,4*** and Dorsal’s Arête II/III***

I learned a fair bit more about Scottish weather and climbing conditions which play a big part in dictating your route choice.

Wednesday 20th Jan – The Seam
Coire an t’Sneachda
Climbers on Coire an t’Sneachda
The Seam
Looking across to Fiacaill Ridge and climbers on The Seam, probably David Keogh [Photo: Alistair Hurst]
Midway point on The Seam
Midway point on The Seam
Nearing the top of The Seam
Nearing the top of The Seam
Thursday 21st Jan – Savage Slit




Friday 22st Jan – Hidden Chimney Direct
Thawing conditions on Hidden Chimney Direct
Top out after Hidden Chimney Direct
Wednesday 27th Jan – The Wendigo
Toping out on Wendigo
CMD Arete from the top of Wendigo on a rare calm day
CMD Arete from the top of Wendigo on a rare calm day
Sunday 31st Jan – Scabbard Chimney
Parties climbing at Stob Coire Nan Lochan
Scabbard Chimney
Pitch 2 Scabbard Chimney
Pitch 3 Scabbard Chimney

Where next….?