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A winter ascent of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis - 1,344m (4,408ft)
For a few months each year Ben Nevis is virtually free of snow, but this doesn't last for long. Each winter “The Ben” is blessed with many feet of snow, so much in fact that it is not unusual to find the 17 foot Summit Triangulation Point almost completely buried by the accumulated snowfall.



As we will be starting the event on Friday morning, most people choose to arrive on Thursday evening, although if you live in Scotland or the North of England, you may decide to arrive on Friday just before the start.

Itinerary.
If you decide to arrive on Thursday evening you will have the chance for a good night’s rest before we set off, just before Friday lunchtime, for a training session which it is vital that everyone attends. We will be heading into the upper reaches of Glen Nevis to the area around Britain's tallest waterfall, “The Steall”. During this time we hope to cover all the techniques necessary for the group to safely navigate around the Summit Plateau the following day. At the end of the afternoon we head down to the store to collect the more specialised items of equipment required for walking around the highlands of Scotland during winter conditions. Obviously if you already have your own Ice Pick, Plastic Boots, Crampons, etc. please feel free to bring them along.
On Saturday we rise bright and early for a hearty breakfast before setting off for “The Ben”. We will start from the Glen Nevis YHA and follow the Mountain Track as far as the 4th corner where we will hold another training session, which will cover walking in crampons (not as easy as it sounds) and the use of the Ice Pick. This is a vital Winter Mountaineering skill, as it is vital that each group member is able to arrest their descent in the event of a slip, by using their Pick.

We hope to reach the summit just after lunchtime. The experience is not over when we leave the summit, as we still need to navigate safely down between the many gullies. Normally we don’t take the standard route down. From the 4,000ft cairn we usually head slightly Northwards towards Carn-Dearg-Northwest. As this route is much steeper than the Mountain Track it is here that we are able to use our new Ice Pick skills to their fullest, with a rapid descent down towards the Waterfall near the halfway marker.
On arrival back at the hotel you will have the opportunity to enjoy the hotel’s leisure facilities - swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, etc before dinner. After a brief certificate presentation ceremony it’s into the bar until the wee small hours. We depart on Sunday morning after a continental breakfast.

This is a walk, there is no climbing involved.  Winter mountaineering requires a certain amount of fitness although any normally active person should have no problems. We CAN NOT guarantee that you (or even the whole group) will reach the summit. We will start off with the intention of reaching the top but if, in the (non negotiable) opinion of the instructors, the weather or snow conditions means that it would be dangerous to continue, will we turn back. 

There is only so much we can achieve over a weekend such as this. So on the Winter Ascents we have a theme to the weekend. The theme this year will once again be navigation, this is an essential aspect of winter mountaineering.
The weather can change very quickly
Corner 1
11:10am
Cloud
Corner 3
11:25am
Quite clear
Corner 5
11:50am
Blizzard

We have split the event down into a series of sections with each section being reliant on the others. What do we want to achieve during the weekend?  The picture below shows the wire traverse on the Friday afternoon training session.

1 We want to walk safely during winter conditions on Ben Nevis with the option of going all the way to the summit if conditions allow.
2 We want to achieve item 1 up the normal mountain track.
3 Even though the track will be under many feet of snow we still wish to follow it so as not to put ourselves in any danger from the surrounding cliffs.

To complete sections 1,2 and 3 we need to be able to navigate competently. This leads to the need for an aim; this being what we hope to achieve during the event, and an objective; this is what completing the aim will enable us to do.

Aim - We want to learn to navigate
Objective - To gain skills that will enable us to navigate competently on other hills and reach the summit of Ben Nevis.

Equipment
It must be stressed that a winter ascent of this major peak can not be approached as simply "a summer walk with snow".  It is vital that each participant is correctly equipped with all the paraphernalia of winter mountaineering. We will supply all equipment required i.e. Ice pick, Plastic Boots, Crampons, Rucksack, Waterproofs, etc. More importantly we will train you to use the specialised items.
Items that you MUST bring:
A thermal layer for under your waterproofs. A thick jumper or better still a fleece jacket. 
A vest or some T shirts. Polartec gear is great for winter walking.
A warm hat
Pair of gloves (VERY warm) - ski gloves are ideal
Winter walking kegs (trousers)
Warm pair of socks
Torch (preferably a head torch)
Small first aid kit (inc. blister pack)
A Note-pad and pen/pencil
A good quality flask (metal flasks can be obtained in the hotel - £7.50)
A good quality compass (Silva type are best) Vital
A 1:25,000 map covering the whole of the Nevis area Vital
If your map is not laminated, you will map a map case.
Note on Maps.  Please get an Ordinance Survey map, not any other type - there are many shops in Fort William selling these and they tend to be cheaper than in other parts of Britain.
Items that you may loan from us (free) or bring your own: Items that it would be a good idea to bring:
Pair of winter plastic boots with a separate inner liner
Set of crampons
An Ice Pick
Water proofs
Rucksack (about 35 litre)
Normal Walking boots for Friday afternoon.
Pair of snow gaiters
Walking poles (with snow bucket bases).  Or lend some from us (free)
Beer money
Swimming Cozie (there is a leisure centre in the Hotel)
A Pair of sun glasses.