The British Isles
The Scottish winter hills are the best training ground imaginable for the climber who eventually plans to go to the Alps, Andes, or Himalaya. They are also rewarding in their own right! Spending a day on one of the fine gully or buttress routes of Ben Nevis, occasionally being engulfed in spindrift or buffeted by the storm while grappling with a bulge of snow-ice, or trying to delicately frontpoint up a rock slab that is thinly veneered in verglas, you get a sense of being in bigger, more remote, and serious mountains, In the evening at the pub in Fort William, the day's lessons on the hill are rehashed over a pint, and plans for even greater things on the morrow are made. No place in the world is more conducive to absorbing the essence of the ice experience than Scotland, with its long history, adventurous traditions, resident masters, and beautifully harsh winter weather.
The huge variety of Scottish winter ice climbing includes the traverse of the Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye, the big walls in remote corries of the Northern Highlands, and the superb climbs of Craig Maigheadh, such as Smith's Cully, South Post, and North Post. Among other gems, the Cairngorms boast Shelter Stone Crag, looking like a mini-Dru from below and giving hard, 1,000-foot mixed climbs such as Sticil Face, Citadel, and Needle. But beware the Cairngorm blizzards; they have proved lethal for several parties. Lochnagar, on the east side of Scotland, gives climbs from grade I to IV in gullies and buttresses, and harbors the famous chimney of Parallel Gully B.
If Scotland has more than its share of fantastic winter climbing, in a good season England can lay claim to a smaller number of equally fine itineraries in the Lake District on Scafell Crag and others, and in North Wales on Craig yr Ysfa, Snowdon, Craig y Rhaeadr, the Black Ladders, Cwm Idwal, Lliwedd, and Clogwyn du'r Arddu. The Black Cleft, Central Gully, Devil's Appendix, Western Gully, and the Somme are names attached to climbs of excellent character. Furthermore, as English climber Rob Collister said, "The essence of Welsh winter climbing is glinting frozen water against a backdrop of blue sky; axes wobbling in improbable pockets on booming icicles It's too bad winter here is so short and inconsistent!"
The Irish winter scene, compared with Scotland, Wales, and the Lakes, is very limited. However, there are routes up to WI4+, mainly on fleetingly frozen waterfalls. The Mourne Mountains provide some of the most consistent conditions, along with the Wicklow Hills.
Although Norway has no alpine ice, it does have some of the best frozen waterfall climbing in the world. The most famous of these fosseit are the Vettisfossen and Mardalsfossen in the Romsdal region. Local and visiting climbers continue to discover wonderful new frozen secrets each season, and a trip to Norway must rank high on the list of priorities for waterfall ice specialists. Norway also has some of the longest, best, and hardest Scottish-type winter climbs yet done. For instance, the 6,000-foot East Pillar of the Trollwall provides a multiday route at a technical standard similar to the Orion Face of Ben Nevis.
Norway has so much excellent waterfall ice on a large scale that up to now less emphasis has been placed on mixed routes. After all, with climbs the quality of the
Bridalveil-like Vettisfossen, the 600-foot-high and 400-foot-wide Hydne fosse n, and the twenty pitches of high-standard climbing on Dontefossen (with other major jossen still unclimbed), climbers in Norway have little motivation to make the move onto mixed terrain.
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