1st Scottish Winter Mountain Walking Course This Year

With just one booking for this course by Christmas time last year, I was wondering if we might need to cancel. Then my friends Mike, Tig and Tim came to the rescue, joining us for the week and helping to cover the cost of the cottage. Add a last-minute booking with a week to go and we were all set.

This was the the first time we stayed in Burn Beag, a six bed cottage in Glen Coe, and we were delighted from the moment we walked through the door. It was beautifully decorated, spacious, comfortable, homely, warm with energy-efficient under-floor heating, equipped with a brilliant kitchen and had plenty of space for drying wet kit.

Our first day was a fairly easy introduction to the winter mountain environment and a chance for Roger and Chris to get to grips with an ice axe in a beginner-friendly setting…

Mike, Roger, Tig, Chris and Tim on the way up Buachaille Etive Beag.


Tig and Mike climbing Buachaille Etive Beag.


Day two was most definitely magical. We walked through a Narnia-like wonderland to ascend Stob Coire nan Lochan’s north ridge with stunning views across the Highlands. Descending the east ridge was a great opportunity to gain experience with crampons on more technical terrain.

Roger approaching the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan.


We thought we had seen Scotland at its best but day three on Buachaille Etive Mor was one of those memorable mountain days that stay with you forever…

Chris preparing to ascend steep snow with ice axe and crampons for the first time.


With a considerable avalanche risk on north facing slopes, we played safe and avoided the potentially dangerous Coire na Tulaich by climbing the steep spur that bounds it on the west. Keeping close to the rocks we climbed a slope of firm snow that gave Chris and Roger a good taste of winter mountaineering on steeper ground. Weaving through rocky outcrops on the upper half of the spur, we found ourselves breaking trail through much softer snow that sapped our energy and slowed us down. The effort was well worth it as we climbed into the sunshine with views that touched the soul and a sky that invited spirits to soar…

One of Stob Dearg’s resident ravens.


Looking north to Ben Nevis.


After some time on the summit of Stob Dearg, we turned into the sun and thousands of snow crystals reflecting its golden light. As the sun descended in the sky and its angle of light refraction hit the sweet spot, the snow crystals began to flash hints of pink, green and blue as we approached them.

Walking into a magical sunset.


On day four, the amazing weather began to change and our legs were feeling tired from the deep snow stomping of the previous day. We enjoyed a slow walk up a peaceful stream bed to the ever changing sound of its playful flow, climbed onto the gently sloping ridge to the east of the Aonach Eagach and strolled easily towards the West Highland way under an atmospheric sky…

Looking south towards Buachaille Etive Beag.

With wet, stormy weather and legs ready for a rest, we spent our last day climbing indoor ice at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. It was a great opportunity for all of us to learn and improve the techniques for climbing steep ice in a safe environment.

It’s weeks like this that remind me time and time again how lucky I am!

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