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Ice Climbing in Scotland

Ice Climbing in Scotland

 Out of all the places in the world you could visit to enjoy a spot of ice climbing, Scotland may not be a country that comes at the top of anyone's list, or even on that list at all. Well, once reading this article hopefully we will have convinced you otherwise and you'll be on your way to the Highlands to enjoy a fantastic winter climbing experience.

First of all, you should know that ice climbing in Scotland is only available during certain parts of the year as the climate is much more varied than that compared to the Alps, for example. However, when the Highlands are in the correct condition for ice climbing, there are several locations that combine together to offer one of the best overall venues in the world.

Those of you who have been ice climbing before will most likely have been to locations such as, the Alps, Ireland or Rjukan in Norway and in these destinations you are surrounded by steep inclines. However, this is not the case in the Highlands. Characteristically, the inclines in the Highlands are much more open, but this does not mean you can not test yourself against some steep gradients. The various rock climbing locations dotted around Scotland will seriously test your winter skills, while other routes are more suited to beginner climbers.

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Scotland's Top Five Winter Climbing Locations

If the idea of ice climbing in Scotland sounds appealing to you, then get your axes and snow boots ready as below we take you through the top five locations to brave the snowy conditions in Scotland.

Ben Nevis

It is no surprise that Ben Nevis is the most popular destination in Scotland to enjoy some ice climbing when it sits at the highest point across the entirety of the United Kingdom at 1,344m above sea level. This collection of tall rugged ridgelines will have you marvelling at the view whenever possible. Ben Nevis offers some of the steepest gullies available in Scotland along with a variety of winter routes throughout the mountains. In total, you can find around 375 routes, making it the perfect adventure for all climbers.

For the best ice climbing experience, you will want to book your trips to Ben Nevis starting in January and shortly afterwards. By this time, there will have been plenty of snowfall and the ice will have had a chance to properly form throughout the Scottish winter. Since Ben Nevis' peak sits 1,344m in the sky, you can often find suitable ice climbing conditions in early June.

If you want some guidance on which winter route to pick, then we advise either the Prion Face Direct (Grade 5) or Tower Ridge (Grade 4).

Creag Meagaidh

Although Creag Meagaidh is often snubbed by rock climbers during the summer seasons, it is a whole different story once the snow has settled and the ice has formed. Creag Meagaidh is mostly known for its water ice lines, which are routes formed when the snow melts and then freezes as it falls gracefully of the side of the cliff faces. Although Creag Meagaidh offers some spectacular climbing lines, conditions in this area of the Scottish Highlands are incredibly unpredictable.

Those tempted by the climbing lines offered by Creag Meagaidh will need the area to go through several cycles that include the freezing and then thawing of the ice.

Our suggested routes in Creage Meagaidh include Smith's Gully (Grade 5) and Fairy Godmother (Grade 4).

Stob Coire Nan Lochan

Stob Coire Nan Lochan is a North-East facing peak in the beautiful Scottish Highlands that sits around 1,115m above sea level. This fine ice climbing location can be accessed directly from the A82, where climbers can begin the ascent from the base of the mountains. Due to the altitude that Stob Coire Nah Lochan offers, it presents itself as a great ice climbing location throughout the majority of the season.

Another highlight of this location is the varied climbing routes which offer a selection of different gradients, technical requirements and challenges. In total, there is 57 routes and the ones that make our top picks include; Central Groove (Grade 7) and Dorsal Arete (Grade 2).

The Northern Corries

Now, if you are looking for a location in Scotland that offer ice climbing routes early on in the season, then The Northern Corries should be at the top of your 'To-Do List'. The Northern Corries are located in the vicinity of the Cairngorm Ski Centre and can be accessed via a short walk making them highly accessible to climbers. The Northern Corries are not just a single crag, but instead two crags that are parted by a ridgeline. The two crags are named; Coire a t-Sneachda and Corie an Lochan.

Between the two crags, you have access to a total of 318 climbs which vary from beginner routes through to professional routes. The two routes that we advise having a go at if you are lucky enough to go to The Northern Corries are; Aladdin's Mirror Direct (Grade 4) and Fingers Ridge (Grade 4).

Lochnagar

Around 20 miles from Braemar, you will find the beautiful location of Lochnagar which is one of the less popular ice climbing locations in Scotland due to the poor accessibility. We advise heading to Lochnagar towards the end of the season as this is when you will find the best conditions. With that being said, with routes that stretch over 200 metres long, you will find that the conditions on the different pitches vary.

If you are determined to endure the long walk to Lochnagar, then you can take advantage of the 145 climbs that are available. We suggest giving either Raeburn's Gully (Grade 2) and Eagle Ridge (Grade 6).

Last modified onWednesday, 19 May 2021 17:43

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