These courses are unique. You're paying for a guided winter trip, usually up one or more Munros, but learning as you go about the planning and decision-making. There's even an evening online planning meeting two days before. We avoid all the usual busy venues and seek out solitude and adventure, usually in the North West Highlands. Winter hillwalking is hard work; you'll need a good base of summer experience and hill fitness.
What will I learn on this course?
Is it an instructional course, or is it a guided experience? The simple answer is, it's a bit of both. I believe winter skills are best learned on a proper journey deep into the mountains. Each day is different, so nobody will know in advance what obstacles and situations we'll need to overcome. Typical skills you might expect to learn about include:
- how to plan a winter walk
- use of ice axe and crampons
- efficient movement on snow and ice
- winter navigation
- how to deal with the cold and the winter kit "faff"
- the Be Avalanche Aware process
Above all, everything I teach is aimed at you gaining confidence and independence so you can stop being a follower and find your own feet in the mountains.
What equipment do I need?
All your usual summer hillwalking clothing and equipment, but beefed up for winter to include the following:
- winter walking boots and crampons (please watch this video for further info)
- ice axe (please watch this video for further info)
- ski goggles
- good quality waterproof jacket and trousers - we stay out in all weathers
- plenty of fleece or synthetic layers - winter hillwalking can get really cold
- 2 hats
- balaclava, "Buff" or "snood"
- 3 pairs of thick winter gloves (yes, you need a total of 3 pairs of gloves or mittens)
- spare insulating jacket (ideally with synthetic insulation instead of down)
- small personal first aid kit including any personal medication
- rucksack around 40 litre capacity
- 2 headtorches, or 1 torch with spare replaceable batteries.
- Waterproof map case
- A digital watch with stopwatch function
- If bringing smartphone, it must be in a waterproof case or cover
- flask of hot drink
- water bottle
- lots and lots of food
How fit & experienced do I need to be?
You need to be able to enjoy a full 8 hour day out on the hill carrying all your own kit, wearing winter boots and wading through heavy snow! Let's be honest, winter walking does involve a bit of suffering, and you do need to have a solid base of summer walking if you're going to make the most of this opportunity. If you haven't been out in the hills much over the summer or autumn, winter might not be the time to start. We will normally try to take in at least one big top - usually but not exclusively Munros. A typical journey might cover around 10-15km and involve 1000m of height gain.
The good news: you don't need any prior experience of winter walking at all. I'll teach you everything you need to know.
Where will the course take place?
The whole group will meet online 2 days before the adventure. Only at the end of this online planning meeting will the route and the meeting point be decided. With current car sharing restrictions in place, I am very aware that me + 6 clients = 7 cars on the road. Therefore I will try to keep driving distance to the meeting point no more than 1.5 hours from Inverness.
What are the timings for the course?
Again, exact timings will be agreed at the evening planning session. Typical meeting time would be 0800 at the meeting point. This does mean an early start from Inverness. You'll soon appreciate that driving in the early morning darkness with a strong cup of coffee is in the finest traditions of Scottish winter adventures.
Exact time of return to the meeting point can't be guaranteed but should be around 4pm. Please have a warm change of clothes, food and a flask of hot drink available in your car for when we get back. You will likely be cold, hungry and tired!
How much does this course cost?
This course costs £75.
You need to bring all your own clothing and kit. Hire of boots, crampons and axe is available from Tiso Outdoor Experience in Inverness. I do provide all the maps, so no need to bring your own unless you want to.
A 10% discount is available for members of Mountaineering Scotland, Scottish Hill Running & the British Mountaineering Council. Enter code JP10 at checkout.
I am able to part-fund a limited number of places each year for participants who are either unwaged or on low income. If you would like to attend one of my courses and feel that you fit one of these criteria, please email me directly before going through the booking process.