Finlay Johnston

Winter climbing course:  April 2018.

Finlay 3

On Thursday 5th April I met my guide Dave at Fort William ready for a day’s winter climbing. I was lucky in my choice of day – the weather was sunny, not too windy although the night before had put down lots of deep, fresh snow.

We drove up Glen Nevis and parked just under the Polldubh Crags. We walked through show which was at least up to our knees, sometimes deeper, for two hours before crossing a river and reaching our ‘gearing up’ stance. We donned our crampons, harnesses and helmets and headed across a steep slope choosing our path carefully to avoid the potential of avalanche. We then arrived at the first pitch of the East Ridge of Stob Ban and climbed a short section of technical mixed climbing. There followed a slightly easier pitch, which led the start of an arete which became increasingly narrow. Here Dave showed me how to take mountaineering coils and taught me about moving together. Using these techniques we crossed the ridge and up a rocky section of a steep slope which led to the base of third pitch.  After going round an edge there was another short technical corner which led to the final slope before the top. We used another technique called short roping to get us to the top of the route.

The challenges however were not over. After eating some lunch and taking photos of the stunning views we descended via an exposed rocky ridge where we continued to short rope. This took us to a small plateau where we were able to take off our ropes and harnesses and begin the final walk down. The loose and unstable snow at one point gave way under our feet meaning part of our return journey was the express route!

After this day in the hills I cannot wait for next Winter to come. This has nothing to do with Santa Claus but the chance to develop my skills in more days of ice and mixed climbing. I got the chance to learn lots of new techniques, spend some time out in the Scottish hills in Winter, and simply had a fantastic day. I want to say thank you to Dave and Abacus Mountain Guides, and to the Neil MacKenzie Trust for helping me fund this adventure. I am now hooked on getting out and about in the Scottish Winter.


Finlay Johnston, Aged 14.

For link to more photos of Finlay’s course: