Rob Johnson
Mountaineering Instructor (MIC)
& International Mountain Leader
Photo: Heading towards Stob Ban, 5 day winter skills course

Scottish Winter Skills 5 day course

Location: Scotland - Fort William
Price: £375 per person
Ratio: 1:6
Length: 5 days

Who is the course suitable for?
Learn all the skills necessary to travel safely through UK mountains in winter, focusing on giving you the confidence to venture out independently and avoid being another avalanche statistic! The ideal course for beginners and those keen to brush up on winter skills for hill walking and graded winter climbs. The course is also ideal preparation for overseas mountaineering trips to the Alps, the Himalaya or other similar adventurous locations.

The normal 1:6 ratio allows us to give each client proper personal attention and allow you achieve far more during the week.

What does the course cover?
The course aims to cover all of the essential skills that you require in winter to be a self sufficient hill walker and enjoy this wonderful time of year safely and confidently. The big benefit of a 5 day course is that we will experience different snow types throughout the week which is really valuable from an avalanche avoidance and axe and crampon skills point of view.

Skills covered include:

- Five full days of practical instruction in the mountains
- Choice and use of equipment for the winter environment
- Movement skills on snow
- Use of the ice axe
- How to fit and use crampons - when to put them on and take them off
- Use of the rope in winter (winter belays, snow bollards and as a navigational tool)
- Emergency snow shelters
- Mountain journeys putting all of the skills into perspective
- Mountain navigation
- Planned snow shelters
- Avalanche avoidance & snow analysis
- Diet & nutrition for winter walking
- Cold weather injury avoidance
- Emergency procedures


"Despite the seriousness of the subject it was important to remember we weren't on the course to do anything was all about learning how to stay safe whilst enjoying the winter mountains" Oli Reed - Trail Magazine, Jan 2014 Issue


Sample Programme

Day One: Kit check & discussion 
Each day we will use weather and avalanche reports to make route plans for that day. This helps you to develop your own self sufficiency. This first day concentrates on moving on snow, use of the axe and use of crampons if appropriate. We will probably use a chairlift to gain the snow line quickly and are likely to cover self arrest with an ice axe towards the end of the day.

Day Two:
We will head out into the mountains to look at weather, snow and avalanche awareness including safe travel and route choices. We will progress your skills in using crampons and look at using the ice axe for cutting steps. We will also look at how we use the rope in winter to manage the risk of cornice collapse, winter navigation and approaching a scarp slope.

Day Three:
As day two but with the addition of navigation for the winter mountaineer, emergency avalanche procedure ie how to cross a suspect slope, what to do if you see someone get caught & what to do if you get caught. 

Days Four & Five:
We will head out into the mountains to look at weather, snow and avalanche awareness and choose an appropriate location to build emergency and planned snow shelters. We will also take in some of the finest summits that the West Highlands have to offer dependant upon group fitness, options include Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and many more in Glen Coe.

Course Video
Have a look at the film below to see what we get upto over the winter months:


Get a clients perspective on this independent blog post from someone who attended this course in January 2016.

Course Staffing
I run all of these courses myself and I hold the MIC. Not sure what this means - follow this link.
I aim to give you a fun week with lots of learning and taking in some beautiful summits along the way. I also occasionally have trainee instructors observing my courses and you can feel free to pick their brains too!

Where is the course held?
We run the course in the Highlands of Scotland from our winter base in Fort William. We are very handy for Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and Glen Coe and will often make the most of the ski centre chairlifts on the first day to maximise the time spent on the snow.

What about accommodation?
Accommodation is not provided as this allows us to keep the course cost low and you can then arrange accommodation to suit your budget. For a range of accommodation options visit this link.

What equipment is required?
You will need your own mountain clothing and crampon compatable boots. When you book you will receive a set of course notes and a comprehensive kit list that includes examples of what I use.

We have a limited range of ice axes and crampons which can be lent out on a first come first served basis but if you have your own then thats great. Crampon compatable boots, ice axes and crampons can all be hired in Fort William if required. If you are looking to buy your own kit for the course then this article I have written may be of help.

Travel to Fort William
There is a mainline rail station at Fort William and it is an easy walk into town. You can also fly to Glasgow and there is a link here for our travel options page which gives details of airports, coach and train companies and road links.

Previous Experience & Fitness
This is not a winter climbing course, you do not need any climbing experience and we will not be entering into steep ground that would require the use of a rope. These courses are strenuous and you need to be physically fit to get the most from them, you need to be a regular hillwalker in summer and have current mountain fitness. A little bit of training in the form of cycling, running or swimming beforehand will pay dividends!

Meeting Place & Time
Once you book we will send you a comprehensive set of course notes and a letter of confirmation, this will include a detailed kit list and details of where and when we meet. The first day normally starts at 8:30am in Fort William and finishes in the same place at about 5:00pm.

Read an independant review of this course
In January 2015 the online retailer "Simply Hike" paid for one of their employees, Shaun, to join our 5 day winter skills course. He then wrote an independant review of the course on the company blog. You can read it here.

When does this course run?
You can view the dates of all of our courses throughout the year on the diary page. For 2015 this course has availability as follows:

5-9 Jan - Full
9-13 March - 1 space due to cancellation

The 2016 winter dates are now on our diary page.

Other Questions
If you have any questions that you can't find answers to on the website visit our contact page for details on how to get in touch. We look forward to meeting you!


Book this Course

If you have any questions about booking a course then please just email. Booking is a simple two stage process:

1. Choose a date.
Individuals - visit the diary page for details of open course availability

2. Book the course
Online: You can book online securely by clicking on the "buy now" button
Download a postal booking form from our booking page.

If you are booking more than 8 weeks in advance you can choose to pay a deposit of £100 to secure your booking. Click here to pay a deposit.

Course type Location Price Quantity  
Five Day Winter Skills   £375 per person


Useful Links

Trail join Rob for a winter skills weekend in Scotland

Refresh your winter skills with Rob & Trail in Snowdonia



Check out conditions and where I am now with my Blog


Choose an axe and crampons

Read how to choose the right boots, axe & crampons


Request a Brochure

Request a brochure


Instructors Tips

View Photos of this course


Hi Rob,

Thanks for an excellent course, new skills introduced in an informative and enjoyable fashion . My thanks to Tarquin for his company and instruction.
Time spent in the winter hills have confirmed my desire to continue and progress in this fantastic mountain environment, will be booking another course for 2017. Hope to meet up again sometime over the summer.

5 day winter skills - March 2016

Thank you once again Rob for an amazing informative week, hope to see you again very soon, Sam and Shamaila xxx
Winter Skills 5 day - Jan 2016

Hi Rob, thanks very much for a great week, enjoy the rest of your time in Scotland and catch up soon. Mike - Winter Skills 5 day - Jan 2016

Amazing week in the scottish mountains learning winter skills. Stunning scenery, first class instruction from Rob and Huw and a great group of people. Looking forward to coming back to the highlands soon to play in the snow!

Oli - Winter Skills 5 day - Jan 2016


Hi Rob
Thank you for taking me on with the group at Fort William on 9th - 13th March. It was an amazing experience - one that I have always hoped for and never quite achieved. You were so supportive towards the whole group that we were able to achieve more than we had expected was possible. I particularly loved getting up on to the icy snow on Aonach Mor and using the ice axe and crampons. I am looking forward to exploring more mountains in winter next year!
Rachel sent me your film of Ben Nevis - well done! It is very exciting. It must have taken you quite a time, with climbing the Ben as well as all that filming. I have sent it on to my sons and they are very impressed! They have both climbed the north face of the Ben, one in winter.

Keep up the good work!

Best wishes
Elspeth Brien - Winter Skills Feb 2015

Hi Rob,
Thanks for the photos and even more so for such a cracking week! We haven't stopped grinning since we got home – we were hoping to learn new skills and to stretch ourselves in a winter environment, but I don't think either of us had anticipated having so much fun in the process! Your technical skills speak for themselves, but you also have a special talent for creating a warm, inclusive culture in the team – it really did feel like a bunch of mates going for a great walk, despite the fact that we were all strangers to begin with! That's something that can't be taught – I suspect it has a lot to do with your evident passion for what you do and a complete lack of ego. You're one of the few people out there making a living doing something you truly love – how many of us get to do that?!
We're looking forward to doing a scrambling course with you.
All the best,
Natalie & Mike. Winter Skills Week, March 2014

In less than 48 hours we had mastered ice axes, crampons, avalanche awareness, winter navigation and a nervy piece of ropework and we had loved every second of of the most enjoyable weekends I had ever spent in the mountains...get it booked today. Its your golden ticket to a magical new world. Trail Magazine, Jan Issue 2014

Hi Rob, Thank you very much for the the last 4 year,s of tuition / guidance and most of all friendship.
I have enjoyed every part of it from winter skills to the Isle of Skye to ice climbing in Scotland & Norway and most recently the Picos . But most of all to the top of Island Peak ( LIVING THE DREAM!).I've met so fantastic people along the way & seen some fantastic places. Thank you very much Martin
(aka THE LORD) Sept 2013

Afternoon Rob, Hard to go back to work after such a great time last week! Thanks for everything and I look forward to coming on another course in the future. Best regards, Alistair Winter Skills week, March 2013

Hi Rob - Alex here, just invested in an exercise bike and some personal training . Definitely enjoyed the Glissade descent - highlight of my life as well as week - working on a short video - thinking Blur for the music - will send you copy in a week. Rob - you are a top bloke and I thank you again my friend. Alex" Winter Skills week, March 2013

Hi Rob, I am so grateful for your tuition/guidance/company in the hills last week, me & rich had a belter of a week, a cracking start to the year, just have to maintain the momentum now & hone our skills! Been out with James & Charlie over Striding Edge last week, we'll be over to wales in the next week or so I reckon. Thanks again. Al - Winter Skills week, Jan 2013

I would just like to say many, many thanks for the fantastic week in Scotland on the winter skills course, even if the snow was a little sparse on the ground at the time! As usual I had a great time , learning new skills and building my confidence and experience by putting them into practice in such a stunning location. As ever, I really appreciated the time and care you put in to make sure everything was just right for everyone each day - perfect again! I look forward to another opportunity to learn from you some more... Keith - Winter Skills week, Jan 2013

Read more testimonials here.





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