5 Day Winter Skills Course

Winter Skills in the Cairngorms - ice axe & cramponing skills, winter navigation plus a whole lot more

These 5 practical days are the passport for the aspiring winter mountain-walker. Learn how to use your winter boots, ice axe and crampons. Know how to avoid avalanches - we cover all the skills required for safe and efficient movement across snow and ice covered terrain. Mountain weather is as varied as the snow & ice it creates - be prepared for anything it may throw at you. Our navigation teaching in dealing with winter white-outs is unsurpassed. Suitable equipment, mountain weather, emergency snow shelters are all covered, plus a whole lot more…


What the price includes:

There are no hidden extras. 5 days instruction, accommodation, delicious home cooked food and transport are included along with:

1. Transfers between InvernessAirport / Aviemore Station* at no extra charge
2. An evening meal on arrival – a chance to meet the rest of the group before the course begins.
3. Dinner, bed and Breakfast at the end of the course before you depart the following morning

4. Cake O’clock - homemade cakes/biscuits and tea on our return from the mountains each day

  • Those who travel by train or bus to Aviemore qualify for our £15 Green travel discount.


Personal expenses such as alcohol. Our home base is not licensed so we can't sell you alcohol but you are welcome to bring a bottle to the dinner table, just request a bottle shop stop off on the way back from the hill.


No pets.
No previous winter walking experience is required for this trip but it is an advantage to have done some summer hillwalking in the UK.

Please note

• Waterproof jacket (old one if you have it for self-arrest) - a duvet jacket is no substitute.
• Waterproof trousers/sallopetes (avoid Paclite Gortex if you can as it isn't robust enough - we have spare overtrousers to put over the top if need be)
• Gaiters - large enough to go over winter boots - essential to prevent snow getting into the top of your boot.
• Winter boots* (B2 or B3 rated) which are compatible with crampon use
• Head torch
• Crampons*
• Ice axe* preferably no longer than 55cm
• Walking Poles (optional)
• Ruck sack - minimum 30 litres, ideally 40 litres i.e. one that can take all the gear within including a helmet & crampons
• Fleece jacket/tops
• Warm Hat & spare
• Warm Gloves & spare
• Warm trousers (not jeans and not made of cotton, preferably fleece or salopettes)
• Walking socks
• Sun block (optional)
• Ski goggles - double lens, anti-fog (essential - sun glasses aren’t adequate). For those who normally wear glasses you may want to consider contact lenses. Anticipate wearing contact lenses for 8hrs plus alternatively you might want to spray your glasses with de-mister.
• Sunglasses (optional)
• Water bottle/flask preferable (Hydration bladder hoses readily freeze - fill with warm drink & empty hose after each drink)
• Thermal underwear
• Towel
• Slippers/indoor shoes
• Outdoor shoes for bus, etc
• Helmet - for winter skills refreshment day, bring if you have one.

  • These items can be hired. Please call to check for hire rates.

Clients are advised to avoid wearing clothing made out of 100% cotton for mountaineering since cotton loses a lot of its thermal potential when wet. It is far more versatile to opt for a number of thin layers, as opposed to a few thick layers with regards to warm clothing.
If you have any doubts on the suitability of your kit please don’t hesitate to contact us: 01479 831 331.

Full itinerary

The course is based from the homely and friendly atmosphere of Fraoch Lodge in the Cairngorm National Park.

Days 1 & 2: After a boot and crampon adjustment check, a good look at the weather and avalanche forecasts and a talk on the equipment that should be carried, we head out into the winter hills. Continuing the ongoing process of avalanche hazard evaluation, we cover the various step kicking and cutting skills. We then move on to the technique of self belay (preventing a loss of footing developing into a sliding fall) and then the various self arrest techniques, both with and without an ice axe to stop a sliding fall. Day 1 is rounded off by ascending the remaining 150 m to Cairngorm's rime ice encrusted summit (1245m) and panoramic views across the plateau.

Over the first 2 days we make a logical progression through the techniques approaching from a perspective of prevention, rather than one of cure. This is coupled with training in 3 different crampon techniques and their appropriate use along with route planning as well as adequate time being put aside for practise. You get to dig your own emergency snow shelter as well as looking at other types of shelter and their relevant use in an emergency situation.

Day 3 is a low level navigation day covering a lot of techniques. It acts both as a bit of a physical rest day as well as introducing flexibility into the week to accommodate winter storms. Early on the difficult skill of contour interpretation is introduced and its importance related to attaining a high level of accuracy. Along with looking at compass techniques and micro-navigation (timing and pacings) a whole number of other skills are covered. As well as improving your accuracy in all these techniques we also look at the highly important tactical approaches & techniques that either minimise or negate the effect of error. Your given the right approach and understanding to deal with winter whiteouts.

Days 4 & 5: The last 2 days are spent consolidating and furthering what we’ve learnt in the context of a mountain journeys across the high tops of the Cairngorms. Many regard the Cairngorm plateau as being featureless. It isn't but the features tend to be a lot more subtle. Under you're instructors expert guidance and for each leg of the days route you practise compass bearings, timing and pacing as well as the vital skill of contour interpretation both in terms of confirming your direction and distance as well as recognising features as navigational objectives on the ground. By having more objectives you can keep the legs short and hence keep any errors small. Nothing about winter mountain navigation is rocket science but neither is it a sixth sense. It's down to repeated practise and the experience that results. Further time is given to route planning. On the last day we hope to round the week up by navigating to Sgorr Gaoith spectacular summit 2000ft above the deep trench of Gleann Einich.

This course doesn't presume any previous winter mountain walking experience though summer hillwalking experience is advisable along with a good level of fitness. Due to the focus on the vital and complex skill of contour interpretation and the repeated opportunity to practise, the course is equally suited to both the novice mountain navigator as well as those with a little more experience. By the end of the course you will have a whole array of techniques and skills at your disposal. You won’t be reliant on the absolute accuracy of just a few and you’ll have an understanding of how they interrelate. You’ll finish the course both confident and proficient in both dealing with steep snow and ice covered slopes as well as winter white-outs.

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