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Like it or not, winter is well and truly upon us! For some, the temperature drop is a solid sign that it’s time to head inside for indoor climbing or nights in watching Netflix, but for some, those rimed-up rocks and snowy peaks are calling.
Have you got winter climbing aspirations this freezing season? There’s nothing quite like hot aches and head torch approaches to really give you that thrill of adventure (or maybe just Type-2 fun), get you outdoors and making the most of everything UK winter has to offer. It’s a fickle beast, with unpredictable conditions and inconsistent weather patterns, so sometimes you’ve got to act on instinct – when those crisp, bluebird days rock up, you’ve got to grab your axes and go!
So, you’ve got some solid climbing and scrambling skills, a taste for heights and a cool head? We’ve racked up a handful of our favourite UK winter climbs that are totally attainable with a bit of pre-planning, some basic safety precautions and the necessary kit to keep you warm and comfy for a day out in the white stuff. Read on for our top five epic UK winter climbs for first-timers…
Alright you lot, listen up. While this lineup should give you a flavour of the easier routes available in the UK, none of these climbs are to be sniffed at. Winter climbing comes with big risks attached – many factors are entirely out of your own control. Always check the avalanche forecast and mountain weather report, have the necessary equipment and importantly, listen to your instinct! If something feels sketchy, call it. More often than not, it’s far safer to bail than to push on and hope for the best.
If you have any doubts as to whether you are prepared with both the skills and equipment necessary, we HIGHLY recommend hitting up a qualified mountain guide to show you the ropes.
Got it? Right, onto the fun stuff…
Always check the avalanche forecast and mountain weather report, have the necessary equipment and importantly, listen to your instinct!
Helvellyn is a popular mountain with hikers in the summer and shoulder seasons, but its famous ridge lines offer some seriously exciting exposure for winter climbers too. Following the usual summer route of ascending Striding Edge and descending via Swirral Edge, you can complete a circuit which takes in Red Tarn en route and offers just enough challenge to get a feel for winter mountaineering. Helvellyn is the third highest fell in the Lakes – keep an eye on your altimeter to see that elevation clocking up!
With some tricky notches and down-climbs to navigate, you should be a competent mountain walker and comfortable using crampons and an axe should you need to.
It’s a big day out, so be prepared to set off in darkness to get the most daylight hours possible
Fancy climbing the UK’s highest mountain? If you’ve done this one in summer, you’ll likely have an idea of the ascent, but winter makes the Ben a whole different beast! You’ll need substantial mountain experience and strong winter walking skills to take on the CMD arête, plus a good amount of stamina too – this route has just enough altitude that you might even see a change in your pulse ox levels.
It’s a big day out, so be prepared to set off in darkness to get the most daylight hours possible. A pretty long and arduous approach takes you to the exposed ridgeline, where you will traverse an exceptional line of sharp rock with epic views on either side. Having completed the ridge, make a final push to the summit, being mindful of cornices and gullies.
Descending Ben Nevis is typically done via the zig-zag ‘tourist track’. Allow yourself plenty of time for a well-earned pint at the Clachaig Inn to complete a truly Scottish mountain day that you’ll never forget!
This 3-star ridge is a firm favourite with scramblers in the summer months, and packs a real punch in the winter. This route takes on the east ridge of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), to the west of Crib Goch. Following the PYG track until you reach an obvious path leading to the foot of the ridge, you’ll tackle a tricky traverse with plenty of exposure and knife-edge peaks of rock before reaching the summit of Garnedd Ugain. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Llyn Llydaw and Eryri National Park.
The route can be treacherous and icy with steep terrain and large drops, so you need to be well prepared with winter kit (and know how to use it!).
Here’s one for the ticklist-ers, you can bag yourself a Munro AND take on a spicy ridge traverse on Liathach (the grey one). The difficulty in this route lies mainly in the descent, which traverses the Fasarinen Pinnacles.
A little harder in grade and demanding a bit more technical ability than the previous climbs, you’ll be thoroughly rewarded for your efforts with insane views of Loch Torridon from Spidean a’ Chorie Leith (peak of the grey corrie), and a super early start will often yield an incredible sunrise over the highlands. Head to the Beinn Bar in Torridon for a wee dram to reward yourself after all that exertion.
a super early start will often yield an incredible sunrise over the highlands
The Grade varies a little here depending on conditions, so it’s important to check in with the MWIS before embarking on an ascent of Tryfan. You’ll cover steep, rocky ground that is often covered in ice, adding a new dimension to this popular Snowdonia scramble. Be prepared to put in the work in order to gain some serious elevation before you reach the ridgeline, for which you will certainly need an ice axe and crampons. At the summit, you’ll find the famous monoliths of Adam and Eve.
Tryfan is situated in the Ogwen Valley and makes up part of the Glyderau group. Take in the rugged and beautiful scenery of Snowdonia in winter before descending via Llyn Bochlwyd and back to the valley floor.
You’ll cover steep, rocky ground that is often covered in ice, adding a new dimension to this popular Snowdonia scramble
Check out the BASE in-depth review of the Garmin Instinct 2 watch if you haven’t already, it’s right here. If you’re also in the market for gifts that will bring a smile to the face of the (other?) adventurer in your life, we have a handy stocking filler guide all set for you below too.