A Visitors Guide to Scotland
STYLE & ETHICS:
Scottish winter climbing has a long and continuing history of adventure
It is the accepted practice to climb on-sight and ground-up, whether as new routes or repeats.
This ethic helps maintain the adventurous nature of the climbing, on what are generally smaller cliffs (in comparison to Alpine length routes). The technical difficulty achieved climbing with this ethic is not as great as that of drytooling sport routes elsewhere in the world, but in terms of seriousness, adventure and commitment Scotland’s climbs are at the forefront of what is possible on-sight.
- It is assumed that a good range of modern leader-placed ‘nuts’ and ‘camming’ devices are to be used as well as specific ice protection such as ‘Ice Screws’, ‘Drive-ins’ and others. It is accepted that the use of ‘pegs’ be extremely sparing. The use of ‘bolts’ is regarded as unacceptable under any circumstances.
- It is also now agreed that any new winter routes should not be claimed unless they have been lead without rest points, either on gear or on axes.
- A very recent development has been that of sport-style climbs on very steep and hard sections of smaller crags with only winter interest. In-situ protection has been from a mixture of pegs and nuts. To what extent this will develop is uncertain at present.
To help safeguard the adventurous ethics that make Scottish climbing unique, and to help protect the fragile environment in which it is practiced, the MCofS has drawn up some guidelines based on the views of leading practitioners as follows:
Winter Climbing – A Code of Good Practice
Winter Climbing in Scotland traditionally takes place when the hills and watercourses are under snow and/or frozen conditions. The ‘season’ can extend from October to April (and sometimes beyond on the higher cliffs). However, there is no set date limit, but rather the definition of a winter ascent concerns the conditions encountered on the cliff during climbing. What constitutes a winter ascent is an ethical question.
Many of the best winter climbing venues in Scotland are north-facing cliffs, which hold considerable amounts of vegetation. At some of these venues can be found rare alpine flowers, which are not to be found elsewhere in the UK. Hence it is important for conservation reasons that vegetation is well frozen to minimise damage.
Since great variation is possible across Scotland, from almost snow free to a heavy covering and with variable degrees of frost when low-level watercourses to high-level mixed routes are frozen, winter climbing involves the following different styles:
Discretion should be exercised as to choosing the best style and route for the prevailing conditions. The following voluntary code is a guide to allow for an accepted ethical ascent that has minimum impact on the natural cliff environment: