Adventures / Adventure School

Intro to Winter Climbing in Scotland

Learn essential skills in the Ben Nevis massif - the birthplace of UK ice climbing

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Trip Ref #10337

Adventures / Adventure School

Intro to Winter Climbing in Scotland

Learn essential skills in the Ben Nevis massif - the birthplace of UK ice climbing

DURATION

3 nights

LOCATION

United Kingdom

ANNUAL LEAVE

2 days off work

SEASON

Dec-Apr

GROUP SIZE

Up to 8 people

MEETING POINT

Ellis Brigham in Fort William

ACCOMMODATION

Guesthouse

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

This is a real challenge with some full-on sections in potentially tough conditions, but the views and good vibes are well worth it

Don your crampons and ice axes and head to the Scottish Highlands to master ice climbing and winter mountain skills

Tackle an epic winter ascent up Tower Ridge, the crown jewel of Ben Nevis and one of the longest routes in the country

Learn from local expert instructors, with a guide-to-climber ratio of 1:2, side-by-side guidance and soft words of encouragement

All our reviews are verified

We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

Lara, January 2022

A brilliant weekend. It was exactly what I was hoping for and pitched perfectly at my level so grateful to Matt and Malcom for arranging to take me out 1:1 for a bit more of a challenging climb as i had a bit more experience than the others in the group. The website says for tower ridge but can't promise that if that's what you are hoping for due to previous experience or weather. I climbed number 2 gully which was perfect. Looking forward to doing some more soon!

Arthur, January 2022

Cannot recommend this trip highly enough. This was my second MBA trip through Conor and his team, I did the Isle of Skye Mountaineering Course in August, and both have been faultless. The guides were very knowledgeable and able to accommodate everyone's different abilities and goals. The fact that the trip is left open to changes meant that even though there was a lack of good snow in most areas, we still got to do 3 good winter routes. I was originally disappointed that Tower Ridge wouldn't be possible but its replacement, 3 Gully Buttress, was an amazing adventure in the mountains so that disappointment did not last long.

James, December 2021

This was a really awesome trip - and one of my favourite MBA trips so far! I would highly recommend it. We did a mixture of scrambling, climbing, and ice climbing, making three summits in three days. Including two routes up the north face of Ben Nevis (Tower Ridge and Gully 2), and up Buachaille Etive Mor. The low client to guide ratio (2:1) meant that each day’s itinerary could be closely matched to each persons aspirations and abilities - there were plenty of options for us to choose from. Guides Malcolm, Ali, and Matt were all extremely experienced and professional - helping each of us get the most out of the trip.

Included

Guides

Local, certified mountain guides (1:2 ratio)

Accommodation

3 nights in a guesthouse or hotel

Meals

Proper breakfasts to fuel you up the mountain

Equipment

All technical equipment, including helmet, harness and ropes, ice axes and crampons

Not Included

Some meals as described

Travel to and from the start point

Personal expenses

Travel insurance

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports store in Fort William

17:30 on Day 1

Ends

Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports store in Fort William

18:00 on Day 4

Transfers

The start and endpoint of this trip are at the Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports store in Fort William; you'll need to make your own way there. The group will meet here at 17:30 on Day 1, although you are free to check into your accommodation from 14:00 onwards.

Travel options

Regular trains run to Fort William from across the UK. You can also drive directly to the accommodation in Fort William if you wish. Inverness is the closest airport, with Glasgow Airport also an option. There are regular city link buses from Glasgow and Inverness to Fort William, these are quicker and more frequent than the train. If you're travelling from Southern England, the sleeper train from London is a great option. The adventure finishes in time on the last day if you need to catch the sleeper train for your return trip south.

Day 1

Guesthouse · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 3

Guesthouse · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

For breakfast expect a typical Scottish buffet-style cooked breakfast. You will be able to sort packed lunches out before heading out each day and dinner will be in the town where you can find a good cosy pub and local ales. Most dietary requirements can be accommodated, including vegetarian and vegan diets.

What is the accommodation like?

Fort William

You'll be staying in small locally owned guesthouses or hotels in Fort William, likely either the Alexandra Hotel or The Ben Nevis Hotel. As this part of the highlands can be very busy the exact accommodation will be confirmed closer to the time of departure. You will stay in a twin or triple share room depending on the group size and gender split. The aim is for twin-rooms where possible.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for an extra charge. Prices start from £45 per person per night but can be as high as £200 for last-minute requests. Please request this when booking.

Day 1

Meet up and gear check

Your Scottish climbing adventure begins. Meet your guide at the Ellis Brighams store in Fort William and have a full kit check to make sure that you’ve got everything you need. Any hire equipment you need for the trip will be sorted in the shop. You'll chat through your experience and aspirations with your guide to make sure you get the most out of the trip. All that’s left to do now is settle into your accommodation, grab some dinner with your fellow adventurers and get ready for the challenging days ahead.

Day 2

Gone climbin'

Hiking

4-5hrs · 12-14km · 850m up · 850m down

Ice Climbing

4hrs · 4-6km · 350m up · 350m down

Shoulder your pack and walk up through the trees, catching your first glimpses of the north face of Ben Nevis en route to the Charles Inglis Clark (C.I.C.) hut - the highest mountain hut in the British Isles and steeped in winter climbing lore. Layer up at the hut before starting the ascent to the base of your climbing route. You will be coached in how to use your ice axes and crampons properly as you transition from steep winter walking into climbing terrain. Your first pitch is an icefall at the base of the route, you’ll climb the frozen waterfall under the watchful eye of your instructor. Next up, tackle a tricky rock corner above, learning how to use ice axes to hook and torque your way upwards. Once at the top it’s a hike back to the car, and then off to the pub for a well-earned pint and some grub.

Day 3

National Ice Climbing Centre

Ice Climbing

5hrs

Head over to Ice Factor in nearby Kinlochleven - the National Ice Climbing Centre and home of the largest indoor ice climbing wall in the world. You will have some coaching on the 14m high ice wall, giving you lots of time on steep ice using two tools to really focus on your movement skills. Spend the rest of the day learning how to build belays and create anchors to progress your climbing further, as well as doing some 'dry tooling' - using ice axes on climbing holds. Come away from today with a really good mix of climbing techniques to take back into the mountains tomorrow.

Day 4

The big one - climbing Tower Ridge

Hiking

4-5hrs · 12-14km · 850m up · 850m down

Ice Climbing

4hrs · 4-6km · 350m up · 350m down

Repeat your hike-in from day 2 to get to the CIC hut before gearing up at the Tower Ridge, the crown jewel of Ben Nevis, if not Scotland itself! You will test everything you have learnt on the previous days, from how to climb frozen rocks, belay your climbing partners, build anchors and how to navigate safely down. It’s a long day but when you’re back down and looking up at Ben Nevis you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Time for a hot toddy before you head back to Fort William to bid farewell to your new climbing buddies. Note that depending on conditions, you may be climbing an alternate route to Tower Ridge, since snow and ice conditions in Scotland are notoriously unpredictable!

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • Pair of climbing crampons c2-3 rated
  • Pair of technical climbing axes
  • Leashes or lanyards
  • Belay device and carabiner
  • Ropes and all other climbing gear
  • Climbing harness and helmet
  • B3 rated winter boots

Your host will carry essential group equipment such as a first aid kit and a group shelter.

Please bring your own helmet, harness, B3 rated boots, crampons and ice axes if you have them. Always best to use your own gear where possible.

What do I need to bring?

  • Rucksack (we recommend 40 litres) with liner
  • Waterproof hiking boots (not shoes)
  • Thermal base layer
  • Fleece top – not cotton
  • Polyester, fleece or woollen trousers and tops (no jeans)
  • Heavy-duty waterproof jacket and waterproof over trousers
  • Hat without bobble so helmet can fit
  • Ski goggles
  • At least 3 pairs of warm ski type gloves or mitts
  • Thin gloves
  • Neck buff plus spare
  • Head torch (not handheld) and extra batteries
  • Flask or water bottle
  • Energy snacks
  • Whistle
  • Sunglasses and sun cream (seriously!)
  • Towel
  • Emergency survival bag (6’ by 3’ orange poly bag available from any outdoor store)
  • Walking poles (if you like to use them for hiking sections)
  • Approach shoes (these will be useful if you have them already, if not your hiking boots alone will do)

No optional extras are available for this trip.

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 111kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

Pretty fit! You will be out in the mountains for up to 8 hours each day, with plenty of ascent and 16km on average carrying a rucksack full of your climbing equipment. It is hard work but totally worth it. Bring your big legs, a head for heights and a love of adventure. You do not need any previous technical climbing experience. You will have a mountain guide for every two climbers (2:1 ratio) - this gives the flexibility for the group to break up into smaller units if needed, allowing everyone to go at their own pace as you learn the skills. You'll need to be prepared to carry a share of the kit, for instance, a rope or some of the rack.

There is a preferred route if the conditions are fine, however, as the mountain weather in the highlands is very unpredictable, your guides will be making constant decisions regarding alternative routes to take and which climbs to tackle based on safety considerations. The itinerary is totally flexible and the routes are not fixed.

Nope! This trip is perfect for people with no experience, as well as for anyone progressing from summer rock climbing or from climbing indoors.

This adventure is also a perfect follow on from two of our other Scotland climbing trips: Summit Ben Nevis and Learn Winter Mountain Skills and Intro to Mountaineering on the Isle of Skye

Each guide holds the Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor Certificate - having been assessed and approved by the British Mountaineering Association. This is the highest professional certification for Mountaineering in the UK. They all hold First Aid certifications as well.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

The weather can easily offer all four seasons in one day so you should be prepared as such. Your guides will be assessing the weather constantly and will pick routes based on wind and wet weather predictions. Weather is important in the Ben Nevis massif with wet rock taking twice as long to cross as dry rock so this will be factored into the plan for the day. Expect and prepare for subzero temperatures.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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