In winter, even an easy route in Scotland can transform into an alpine epic (we recommend taking a winter mountaineering course). Here are 13 tips to help keep you safe walking and climbing in Scotland:

1. Get As Fit As You Can

It makes the whole experience far more enjoyable. You may be the first team in after the snowfall, and laying a trail is tiring before you even start climbing! And once you’ve finished you need to walk back…

2. Check Avalanche Reports

Check avalanche reports and learn how to interpret them. These are only guides, and conditions can change within hours. We strongly recommend doing an Avalanche awareness course.

3. Check Weather Reports

Check the weather reports the night before. Weather predictions are not certainties as wind speeds change and storm fronts might arrive sooner than expected. Err on the side of caution!

4. Learn How to Navigate

Map and compass skills are essential for walking in Scotland. It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with your surroundings when visibility is good.

5. Be Disciplined

Put your belay jacket and gloves on as soon as you and your bag are safe and secure at the belay stance. If you do this while you are still warm from the climbing your jacket and gloves will trap the heat. Put your climbing gloves into an inner jacket to keep them warm and take off your belay layers before climbing.

6. Keep your Belay Jacket for Belays

Resist the temptation to climb in it unless you absolutely have to. If you do climb with it on, there is a good chance it will end up damp due to sweat and/or spindrift.

7. Start Your Walk Cold

Start wearing less than you think you will need to avoid getting hot and sweaty shortly after leaving the car. Not having damp layers will be more comfortable and less likely to feel the cold when you stop to gear up. If you need to, add another layer before you start the climb.

8. Eat and Drink Regularly

Keep a mix of nuts, dried fruit and jelly sweets in an easy-to-reach pocket so you can snack constantly. Drink regularly and get into the habit of having a couple of swigs at every belay. Keeping yourself well fed and hydrated goes a long way in dealing with the cold.

9. Gloves, Gloves and More Gloves!

Take 3+ liners so you can swap them when they get wet. Waterproof gloves do not mean you won’t get wet hands. Back-up mitts or a spare pair of warm gloves are a really good idea.

10. Remember the Days are Short in Winter

Start early and be efficient. It’s better to overestimate how long a climb will take. Always have a head torch with spare batteries just in case.

11. Topping Out

Try and see whether the end of your chosen route is corniced. If it is, check to see if you can exit without having to burrow through or attempt to climb over it. If there is no escape route, do another route. Never underestimate the possibility or risk of cornice collapse. The wise old climber walks away and lives to climb another day!

12. Try Not to Rack up on a Slope

While you might rack up below a climb in summer, it’s better to do this on a flat spot in winter as it’s far less awkward than doing so on a slope.

13. Think About Where You Belay

There is a greater chance of stuff falling on you than on a summer climb. Ice hurts as much as rock…


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