FAQ's

Restricted to time off during school holidays.

Let me know when your holidays are set. I will always run a course during school holidays and can be flexible to suit your schedule,

Which Course

Would you recommend the first winter course that is listed on your web site or perhaps the introductory to intermediate one? I'm 31 years old and pretty fit but no experience really.

The intro to intermediate is a winter climbing course with ropes. If you have not used crampons and axe or rock climbed before I would recommend the winter mountaineering course as a good starter. This does include some very simple climbing. All the technical kit is supplied and you should supply your own personal stuff.

AND

Just a question about Winter course choice. I've got 2 summers experience in the Alps including an alpine intro course with jagged globe and various ascents including Mont Blanc though I haven't been to the Alps for two years and have no winter experience. I'd like to do a winter course but don't want to get too bogged down with the basics again (i.e will only need a brief refresher) I'd like to get on to more technical graded routes in preparation for undertaking more challenging mixed routes in the Alps in future. Would you suggest the 'Intro - Intermediate' or 'Intermediate to advanced' winter course?

kind regards,

Jon

Hello Jon,

Intro to intermediate ice climbing would be okay. The technical grades on that course extend up to grade IV. The advanced course is more for people who have already climbed at grade III/IV and wish to experience what the more sustained grade V routes are like, or try some leading. I hope this helps, but feel free to fire away with more questions.

Alan


 

Kit Supplied on Courses

As for the equipment list, for any given course the helmets/ice axes/crampons etc would be available from West Coast Mountain Guides. Everything else, head torch, rucsac, gaiters etc. etc. should be supplied by the participants.

Some equipment is available for rental or purchase, during the course.

Minimum numbers on a course and Weather

What would be the price for a single person and what is the minimum number of people required for the course to run? What level of experience is required for this particular course? On past experience, what are conditions like in January for this particular course? (I notice that most of these courses typically run
Feb/Mar).

Thanks for your enquiry concerning the winter mountaineering course. No minimum numbers are required to run the course. The course cost is as per the web site The mountaineering course would suit someone interested in tackling the more adventurous scrambly routes in winter conditions. Examples elsewhere in Britain could include Striding Edge or Snowdon Horseshoe in winter.The grade of difficulty is no more than winter II. Simple ropework is involved and the course is more than just a hillwalking one. Even for a person with limited winter experience these courses are okay, as the basics are also taught at the start of the course. What sort of experience have you in the mountains?

The weather at that time of the year can be as fickle as in February and March. The days are certainly shorter and snow build-up can sometimes be less than later on in the winter. It has always been possible to run this course at that time of the year.

Equipment - Boots

I've not been to Scotland in Feb so I have been looking at your kit list and want to ask a few questions.
I am on the introductory course and I am wondering whether my B1 Scarpa SLs are not going to be up to the job. Should I definitely be using B2s?There are two of us on the introductory course, can we share maps or is it essential that we arrive with our own set of both? What do you mean by lightweight outer shells being inadequate? I have a very decent pair of trousers but my jacket is fairly lightweight. What should I look for in a jacket to ensure its sufficient?

Answer

I do have boots to rent if your lighter boots are not up to the mark. Bring your boots and we will have a look at them. B2 boots are normally better. Whilst on the course you could share maps, but I recommend that everyone in a group has everything, so they can be independent if anything goes wrong and you get split up. Material such as Paclite can get easily damaged by crampons, axe or just hard snow. Please consider buying tougher stuff in future for winter work. All of your questions are valid and part of the learning process hopefully. Just fire away with anything else which comes to mind.

Mont Blanc Training

3 of us (early, but fit, mid 40s with good walking and some positive winter experience are looking at doing Mont Blanc next year, 2009. This year we are doing a winter overnight route in the Cairngorms, North East Ridge, Angel's Peak and in early summer looking at doing Mulhacen, Spain's highest point.

What I would like your advice on is in doing Mont Blanc, could you offer us a personal winter introduction, safety skill course, say 3 or 4 days in Scotland, and also would it be worth providing us with a guide during the ascent next year.

I have done a winter course myself, some years back, but my 2 friends are new to it, but are very keen.
We did an over night on the summit of Ben Nevis last winter but I don't know if to get some basic training and then do Mont Blanc on our own, or to arrange a guide.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Answer

Hi Nick,

A good Scottish winter training course would be very useful towards the Alps. You could also include an overnight if you wish, but it would be more important to get the axe, crampon and rope skills sorted first. After doing the Scottish course we would know better if you were ready for Mt Blanc. Please keep in touch with any more questions you might have. I have attached both a Scottish and Alpine kit list for your information.

Crampons

Hi Alan ,
Thanks for the confirmation and i look forward to February... been thinking about getting some new crampons and was wondering if you have any favorites..?actually the ones i have used for the past 8 years or so (Stubai Tyrols) were also suggested by you and they have been great.


Answer

Try Grivel or Petzl Also try Barkers of Ringwood for advice. Steve Barker comes up here a lot and knows a thing or two about winter climbing/mountaineering in UK and farther afield. I'm going to be using Cyborg crampons (CLIP) this winter, but only for ice climbing. They are a more specialised model. The models I have shown first are good for anything, as well as climbing, mountaineering and the Alps.

Another answer

All the leading brands of crampon are very good and, to be honest, are much of a muchness. Unless you are intending to climb Scottish winter grade Vlll with one arm tied behind your back my advice is to focus on the crampons that fit your boots best as this is the most critical factor. Some crampons fit some brands of boot better than others. Take your boots to a shop with a good range and get them to fit them for you. The crampon should go on easily and if they are of the step in type then the heel clip should close with a reassuring snap. There should be good contact between the sole of the boot and the crampon along the full length and especially at the heel and toe. If you have large boots then remember that most good manufacturers have extension bars for the crampon.

Hope this helps

Steve Barker
Barkers of Ringwood
 

Hi Alan,

As I don’t know anything about crampons and ice axes would you mind having a look at the attached link and give me an idea of what use they would be please?

http://www.elitemountainsupplies.co.uk/product/897_petzl-glacier-walking-set.html
 

Answer

I would not recommend that selection for winter mountaineering and climbing. Glacier walking ok as mentioned in the advert. A better long term investment for Scotland, for mountaineering, and simple climbing (also outside Scotland) would be Vasak crampons, possibly Flexlock version so they fit many boot options. They have 12 points.
A better winter mountaineering axe, and up to grade 1-2 climbs, would be the Summit.
The lighter weight walking axes like the one in the link you sent are designed for simple winter and glacier walks but not for swinging above the waist or head.
 

Gloves

Hi Alan,
Love your web site, really informative! Can you help me with a small request? I've lost an excellent magazine article by you in which you mentioned the brand/type of industrial gloves you use for mountaineering work. I've been going mad trying to find a decent pair that really work for ML / climbing instruction. Can you help me with this?

Answer

Hello Bob,

I didn't mention a brand, but the gloves I often use can be found in most builders merchants. They are heavy duty yellow cotton material with a plastic rubber mesh type coating spun on to them like a spiders web. They are not waterproof and I usually put a pair of 'thinnies' underneath in order to add a little warmth. They cost very little and when they wear out are cheaply replaced, unlike gloves you buy in an outdoor shop. They offer a very good grip on ropes and rock and are really useful on Skye Gabbro and simple Alpine ridges. I propably would not use them much in a wet Scottish winter.

Also, visit either a hardware store or a garden centre and you might find some good leather gloves in these places. The ski patrol teams in Chamonix use them a lot! I'm not keen on leather gloves as they tend to slip badly on icy rock.

Equipment - Boots

Alan
Hope all is well and you had a good break. Just a few quick questions:- I am about to purchase some new walking boots, the style and brand on this link have been recommended. Do they look reasonable for the task in hand: Trekking Boots
Thanks Alan, sorry to be a nuisance.
Cheers
Sion


Answer

Sion

At Barkers of Ringwood we have one of the largest selection of outdoor footwear in the UK and regularly get customers coming in asking for a specific model of boot. Less than 1% leave with the boot they originally planned to buy (even though we have it in stock!!). You must go to a good retailer with expert fitting facilities. visit our web site to read what correct boot fitting entails. You will need the correct fit for your feet. By the way Zamberlan tend to be on the narrow side so if you have wider feet then they will probably not fit.

There are some bargains on the internet at the moment but your feet wont thank you on your 3 peaks trip if you get the fit wrong. If you let me know where you live I will give you the name of a good boot fitter.

Good Luck

Steve Barker
Barkers of Ringwood

Food Requirements

Dear Alan,

Many thanks for your newsletter.

I wonder if you can help, I'm starting a Introduction Mountain course with you at the beginning of March and wonder if you can let me know approximately how far we're likely to be walking each day? The reason I'd like to know is to help me work out how much food, what types of food and water to prepare for.

Best wishes,
Gordon

 

Hello Gordon,

Each day starts at around 0800 and return at approximately 1700. The distances involved can vary but most days visit the top of a 3000 – 4000 ft mountain and cover anything up to ten miles. The water in mountain streams can be drunk confidently, but I normally take a flask with a hot drink of some sort and a variety of sandwich and flapjack. It’s worth having a chocolate bar or two tucked into your pocket. Stopping for a bite to eat, can be short, especially if the weather is poor. It’s often a case of snacking quickly through the day. A big bowl of porridge in the morning usually sets me up, whilst pasta type food in the evening and plenty of non-alcoholic liquid is advised. Obviously a few beers can help, but drink lots of water as well.

Hope this helps.

Alan
 

Which Course

Alan/West Coast Mountain Guides.
At the risk of repeating one of your FAQ's
Myself and my friend are keen mountaineers; we are both in our early thirties and have done a number of scrambles up to grade 3 in the summer and some winter climbing at grade 1 and 2. Most of what we have done has been self-taught, however everything we have done so far has been done solo/unroped. Examples of stuff we have done in full winter conditions include Crib Goch, Bristly Ridge and North Ridge of Tryfan as well as spending time in the Scottish mountains last year summiting a number of Munros in full winter conditions.
I am aware that to progress and also that inevitably we will get into trouble at some point we need to have the experience of roping up and having the ability to safe guard climbs. Subsequently your introduction to intermediate course is very appealing, but due to our lack of rope work experience I worry that you may feel this is too much for us. Conversely I feel that the introductory course may be too restrictive in terms of where we want to get to and the amount of money/time we have available for such courses.
What can you recommend? Would it be possible to tailor a course for our needs, or do you think it would be possible for us to attend the introduction to intermediate course?
Kind Regards
James


Answer


Hello James & Oliver,
As you say this question does crop up a lot. However, it is easily solved as the ratio on the course you mention  is two people to one instructor maximum and it will be simple to ease you towards a level of climbing that suits your aspirations and abilities. You may end the week climbing only grade II but that will also come with plenty of instruction in rope work, stance management and selection and belay building. Also, you will be given the chance to experience more difficult climbs if that is what you wish to do at some point during the course. A weekend course is possible but I recommend a little longer if you can afford the time and funds.
Regards,
Alan