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Scottish Highlands – Winter Training – The first step transitioning from hiker to amateur mountaineer!

Mountain Training and Scottish winters combined … inevitably the first step when transitioning from hiker into mountaineer!  I spent my first 3 Scottish winters learning the basic skills of crampon use, ice axe skills, understanding weather conditions and self-arrests!


And .. I was absolutely terrified !  I went from the lovely roaming hills of Wicklow and beyond where don’t get me wrong, our winters are tough too.  On top of being so far out of my comfort zone, part of our mountain training, our guide wants us to take our back packs off and start sliding down the mountain to practice a self arrest , which for those who aren’t aware of this .. you are basically stopping yourself from sliding all the way down the mountain by anchoring yourself into the snow with your ice axe. 

The first couple of trips I went with was with Jagged Globe. I would highly recommend them. Their guides were so experienced and I felt in such good hand. In the last few years, I have done a lot of training with Adele Pennington Training. I would highly recommend both for all types of mountain training. 

The harshest weather conditions

You get to experience some of the harshest weather conditions when in Scotland. The experience will let you know what you are made of.

On my first trip, my companion at the time, bowed out after the first day, saying not for him.  Whilst I shared the same fear as him, there was something inside of me that didn’t want to stop.  We were definitely a long way from the Irish hills and so far out of my comfort zone, I didn’t know why but something made me keep going. 

My Top Tips for transitioning over from hiker to amateur mountaineer

  • Bring the right gear. A reliable and professional guide won’t bring you onto the mountain without it. Beg, borrow and steal. My first few climbs, I borrowed so many pieces of gear whilst I built up my own. Check out my article xxx on xxx to see what gear to bring for Scottish winters. 
  • Put the training in before you get there so that you can enjoy the experience. I’ve seen a lot of people “wing it” and they don’t get to learn all the skills as they spent so much energy just on the climb up
  • Research the guides you want to go with.  I’ve always went with referrals and you want to be in safe hands up there.  I’ve gone with Adele Pennington and Jagged Globe, I can’t recommend them highly enough!
  • Be honest with your guide about how you are feeling. I’ve always been completely honest. They are trained guides, they know what they are doing and they adapt to ensure you still learn everything.  Although I probably didn’t need to tell them, its always written on my face!
  • Understanding weather forecasts is key to survival.  Absorb this information when you are there
  • Bring tissues – runny noses are inevitable

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