Scotland's mountains are the most challenging and exciting in Britain, especially in winter. There are plenty of opportunities to pit yourself against the elements but be warned: you will have to face extreme conditions, including sleet, snow, rain and high winds. Make sure you hit the mountains with a trained instructor at a recognised outdoor centre and they will make sure you come home in one piece. Here are some of the activities that will satisfy your inner daredevil this winter.
Absolutely not to be undertaken without experienced supervision, climbing a frozen sheet of ice is still one of the most rewarding winter sports. As well as a hefty dose of courage, anyone trying it out will need to be physically strong and healthy, and comfortable with undergoing strenuous activity for long periods of time. More than that, common sense is essential – as with regular mountaineering, don’t take any unnecessary risks and keep an eye on the weather. Outdoor climbs are graded from levels I (easy) to VII (very tough), but beginners could do worse than start at indoor centre, the Ice Factor.
Where: The Ice Factor, Leven Road, Kinlochleven, Lochaber, 01855 831 100, www.ice-factor.co.uk
The line between embarking on an adventure and just staying alive can be a fine one, but snow-holing takes things a stage further. Although it’s now become a recreational activity, the practice essentially developed as a survival technique for those trapped in a winter wilderness, and involves scooping out a small cavern from the snow which is big enough to sleep in. All the gear necessary for winter climbing – ice axe, crampons, very warm clothing – will be required, as well as a team in which to do it. You don’t want your sleep interrupted by an avalanche, after all.
Where: Wilderness Scotland, 3a St Vincent Street, Edinburgh, 0131 625 6635, www.wildernessscotland.com
Each of Scotland’s five ski centres also offers the cooler outdoor set the chance to go snowboarding. Runs aren’t quite as challenging as the prime European locations, but those with experience and the will to find the best won’t be disappointed. Of course, beginners and visitors from hotter climes can also find their snow legs, with each centre offering training sessions on their nursery slopes which can stretch from one day up to a week. But be warned – it’s neither as easy or as risk-free as the pros make it look.
Where: See page 69 for full details of Scotland’s five ski centres at Cairngorm Mountain, Glenshee, the Lecht, Glencoe and Nevis Range.
Essentially a version of downhill skiing which involves walking up hills rather than using a ski-lift, ski touring (also known as ski mountaineering or wilderness skiing) allows for the same exploratory thrill as hillwalking. Experienced guidance is essential for beginners, while the Cairngorms are recognised as having some of the best conditions for this in Scotland.
Where: G2 Outdoor, Dalfaber Industrial Estate, Aviemore, 01479 811 008. www.g2outdoor.co.uk
Otherwise known as winter mountaineering, depending on just how strenuous you want your trip to get. It is more popular than other Scottish winter sports due to the fact that fresh skiing powder isn’t essential to get going and walkers of all experience levels can participate.
Where: West Coast Mountain Guides, Calluna, Heathercroft, Fort William, 01397 700 451, www.westcoast-mountainguides.co.uk