Snow Shelter Adventure
A night in a snow shelter is a fantastic experience and should be on everyone’s to do list. All you need is a sense of adventure, the support of experienced professionals and some snow. Come and find your inner Eskimo with us!
Maybe you’ve watched Ray Mears build one, heard about Scott of the Antarctic living in one for months, or just fancy being an Eskimo for a night. No problem… our popular Snow Shelter Adventure will be sure to bring out the Shackleton in you!
On day one we pack our bags, head to a suitable location and then take time building our shelter. This first day also gives us a chance to discuss other types of shelter and make sure we are fully aware of all the relevant safety issues. Then we cook an evening feast and bed down for a real night with a difference. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we’ll use the day to take in a fine wintry walk back to civilisation. A truly unique way to experience the best of the Scottish winter mountains.
Peak Mountaineering’s Snow Shelter Adventure is suitable for everyone – all you will need is a reasonable fitness level and a sense of adventure! All technical equipment is included, boot hire is available for minimal cost and there is plenty of valley accommodation for before and after the snow shelter expedition if you wish. All you need to bring is suitable clothing, a warm sleeping bag, rucksack and the all important camera to share the experience with your friends.
Please note that we have scheduled some of our Snow Shelter Adventures so they can easily be combined with one of 2 or 3 day Winter Skills Courses if you want to extend your stay – the perfect long weekend or week away.
Who is the course suitable for?
Our Snow Shelter Adventure is suitable for anyone with a reasonable fitness level and a sense of adventure. No prior experience of operating in the winter mountains is needed.
The course is suitable for adults of all ages and we are happy to have participants as young as 16 (although under 18’s need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian).
What is the format of the course?
We ask clients to arrive the evening before the course starts if possible (full joining instructions will be sent with your booking confirmation). The next morning we’ll meet the team, check equipment and the weather forecast before heading off to a suitable venue to start our adventure.
On the route to the snow shelter site we’ll make sure you can develop the skills needed to move through the winter mountains safely. Depending on the conditions we encounter this may include use of crampons and ice axes as well as learning the skills to stop yourself on snow (ice axe arrest). We will also have time to cover some introductory navigation skills and discuss some aspects of snow pack analysis and avalanche avoidance.
Once at the site we dig our shelter for the night. The type of shelter will depend on the group size and snow conditions, but making them is great fun and there is a real sense of achievement as we see our home for the night appear in front of us. If time allows we’ll also discuss other types of winter shelter.
Once the shelter is ready we’ll organise the interior and settle in. There will be plenty of time to cook a good meal, enjoy a celebratory whisky and, if conditions allow, pop outside to enjoy the unique luxury of being alone in the winter mountains at night.
On day 2 we’ll prepare a hearty breakfast and pack our rucksacks again before heading back to base via a day’s walk through the winter mountains. There will be time to try some additional skills and experience a journey through the winter environment before we arrive back at base for a hot shower and a well deserved celebratory meal.
How fit do I need to be?
2 continuous days carrying an overnight rucksack in the winter mountains requires reasonable fitness levels. If you can walk uphill for 2 or 3 hours at a sensible pace with a few short rests you should be fit enough. A typical winter day will see us out in the mountains for over 6 hours.
Who will be looking after me?
At Peak Mountaineering we pride ourselves on the quality of our instructors and our excellent reputation. The instructor that leads your day will be fully qualified and fully insured. They will also be one of our close knit instructor team and personally known to us. We only use instructors who know the area well so they can ensure you get the most from your course.
Having said all that, we know that the views of past clients are probably your best guide to the quality of our provision. Please take the time to read the independent reviews clients have left before you book.
What do I need to bring?
We can provide all the technical equipment including ice axes, crampons, harnesses and helmets (although you are welcome to bring your own if you have them). Unlike some providers we provide these completely free of charge (more details on our policy are here). We also have boot hire facilities available locally if you don’t have suitable footwear. Infact, all you will need to bring is suitable clothing, a warm sleeping bag and a rucksack to carry everything in. Full details about the equipment you’ll need and our boot hire option will be sent once your booking is confirmed.
Other benefits for Peak Mountaineering customers
We have negotiated some great discounts with a selection of retailers for all course participants. Full details will be sent with your Joining Instructions.
All our winter courses operate from the comfortable valley base of Aviemore. We use the East Coast of the Highlands because there’s a wide range of venues, the most stunning winter scenery and the most reliable winter weather. Infact, you can’t get a better location for winter activities as a short drive gives us access to the world famous Cairngorms while we still have Ben Nevis and Glencoe within driving distance if needed.
Aviemore is easily accessible by train (the train station is right in the centre of the village) and many clients travel to the airport at Inverness and then travel to Aviemore by bus, taxi or hire car.
Aviemore is very well served with supermarkets, equipment shops and places to eat out. Even better, everywhere is within easy walking distance of the village centre. It makes a perfect winter home away from home.
Here are a list of questions clients frequently ask about our winter courses. We hope you’ll find the info you need but, if there’s something you want to know that we haven’t covered, please call or email us and we’ll be more than happy to help. In fact, if you’ve thought of it then the chances are other people have too – so we’ll add it to the list!
What equipment is provided and do I have to pay to use it?
We supply all the technical equipment you’ll need for your course completely free of charge. For all winter courses this includes ice axes and crampons and for climbing or mountaineering options this includes helmets, harnesses, climbing hardware and ropes. We can also supply maps and compasses. The only extra cost in winter is if you choose to hire boots as this service is provided externally. Details on all these different items are available on the relevant kit list for your course which will be sent with your Joining Instructions.
Do I need insurance?
We have professional indemnity insurance and for all UK courses we are all lucky enough to have free access to mountain rescue services and healthcare (although you may still consider it worthwhile purchasing your own personal accident and cancellation insurance). For overseas courses, you must purchase specialist rescue, medical and repatriation insurance and details of your insurance policy must be sent to us before departure. The following companies provide appropriate insurance:
British Mountaineering Council www.thebmc.co.uk 0870 010 4878
Snowcard Insurance Services www.snowcard.co.uk 01327 262 805
What if I have a specific objective or want to learn things not offered on one of your courses?
That’s what we specialise in! Just get in touch and we will happily tailor an itinerary to suit your requirements.
What about under 18s?
Anyone over the age of 16 is welcome to join us. Under 18s will need to be accompanied for the duration of the course by a parent or legal guardian.
Will you give my details to other people?
All information supplied to us remains completely confidential and we will never pass it on to third parties.
Why is the instructor to client ratio so important?
You will get more out of your time with us if you work in a group where the numbers suit the activity. We favour small instructor to client ratios so that you benefit from quality time and instruction, where you have time to ask all the questions you want, the routes chosen can be tailored to suit you, and we can take plenty of time to show you specific techniques and skills.
What if I need to cancel a course booking?
If you cancel over 26 weeks in advance of a course start date we refund all the money you have paid us so far. If you cancel within 26 weeks of a course start date, you forfeit the deposit, but we refund any other money you may have paid. If you cancel within 8 weeks of the course start date you forfeit the full amount unless we are able to resell your place. Please do check our Terms and Conditions page for more detailed information. To cover this eventuality we recommend you take out an insurance policy that includes cancellation of your trip or holiday.
How do I book?
All our courses can be booked online or, if you’d like to arrange a private guided option, please do contact us directly and we’ll be able to help.
Can you guarantee good conditions?
Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather. However, we do always try to plan areas and routes that should be appropriate for the activity and offer the best conditions. One of the advantages of being in small groups with flexible itineraries is that we can make the best of the conditions on the day. This does mean that we reserve the right to change the itinerary for safety reasons if required. Please follow the kit lists and be prepared for all the ‘interesting’ weather the U.K. has to offer.
What about transport arrangements?
We ask you to provide your own transport to and from venues although we can sometimes organise car sharing to minimise environmental impact and reduce fuel costs. Once we are there we will try to use car sharing to get us around during the course.
We can also easily collect you from a local station if you are travelling to your course via public transport.
How do you try to reduce your environmental impact?
We are passionate about protecting the natural environment. Please take the time to read our Environment Page to discover more about our ethos.
How fit do I need to be?
It goes without saying that arriving fit and well is important if you want to get the most out of your course and good fitness is essential for succeeding on many of our objectives. The Syllabus for each course offers guidance on the relevant fitness needed for each course type.
Do you need to know about medical conditions?
It is essential that you let us know about any medical condition or injury when booking and that you also let your instructor know on the starting day of your course. This information will remain completely confidential but is essential to allow us to tailor our activities to suit you and to ensure the safety of other group members.
Here is a suggested kit list for our 2 day Winter Snow Shelter Adventures. We are aware that to the uninitiated this list may seem complicated and technical, but we don’t want you to be put off a great adventure before it’s even started! If you look through and need to discuss something in more detail please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You might also read it and think you have to spend lots of money but we can often loan you gear or suggest less expensive options.
At the end of this list there is some specific advice on winter boot selection and we’d ask you to take particular note of it because having suitable boots is essential both for comfort and safety. If the cost of winter boots is prohibitive we do have boot hire facilities available through our friends at Graham Tiso. Details on this option are also at the bottom of this page.
It is also well worth printing off a copy and bringing it with you to check you have everything each morning.
- Rucksack – around 60 litres. It is worth buying a durable waterproof rucksack liner bag too. We may ask you to carry some group kit and so please try and have about 10 litres of spare capacity available once all your personal items are loaded up.
- Waterproof jacket and trousers – durable breathable fabrics are essential and a knee length zip on the trousers will make your life a lot easier
- Suitable boots and socks – please ensure you have read the additional advice on boot choice below.
- Gaiters – essential for keeping snow out of your boots
- Thermal base layer – synthetic fibres rather than cotton
- Fleece mid layer
- Mountain trousers – synthetic fabrics are essential. Please don’t wear cotton leg wear
- Hat and/or balaclava
- Insulated waterproof gloves
- Spare insulated waterproof gloves – essential in case the first pair get wet
- Liner gloves – very useful to add extra insulation when worn under shell gloves and will help to protect hands when main gloves need to be removed.
- Lunch and drink bottle or flask
- Headtorch and spare batteries
- Spare food – something high energy like a few extra choccy bars or flapjack
- Spare warm layer – another mid weight fleece or a lightweight synthetic insulated jacket is great.
- Sunglasses and sun cream
- Ski goggles – essential when the Scottish wind whips up – we have some of these available for you to borrow but please do let us know in advance as supplies are limited
- Personal first aid and medication – including stuff to treat blisters and lip salve
- Compass (Silva type 4 is perfect if you’re buying one) – we can lend you one of these but do inform us in advance.
- Maps of area we will be visiting (Ordnance Survey OL36 Grantown and Aviemore 1:50000 Landranger). We can lend you one of these but do inform us in advance.
- Map case – it is essential that your map is weatherproofed and so please either choose the OS weatherproof version when purchasing or use a map case (a ziplock bag works quite well as a cheap alternative)
- Mobile phone (in a sealed plastic bag or waterproof case)
- Trekking poles – not essential but certainly useful
- Sleeping Bag – 4 season rating essential
- Sleeping Mat – Foam or inflatable
- Waterproof and breathable bivvy bag
- Spoon, mug and bowl
- Food for the duration of the trip
- Stove, fuel and pans – we may be able to lend these to you or share these items but do let us know in advance if you need help with this
- Spare set of clothes to sleep in
- Toilet paper
- Personal toiletries
- Helmet – we can supply this for you but please let us know in advance
- Crampons – we can supply these for you but please let us know in advance
- Mountaineering/hillwalking ice axe – we can supply these for you but please let us know in advance
Buying suitable boots is probably one of the biggest expenses for new winter hill goers and, while we want to keep your outlay as low as possible, nothing beats having your own well fitted boots and this will certainly be the best option if you are planning to get into the winter mountains regularly. For others it is often worth hiring boots for your first winter adventures which, as well as keeping your expenditure down, will allow you to see which are the key features to look for.
Winter boots need to be well insulated, able to keep out moisture effectively, have sufficient stiffness to allow users to kick into snow and also to have good ankle support. For our winter skills courses a stiff soled B2 boot is ideal (a well established example of this is the Scarpa Manta).
We recommend you visit a specialist outdoor shop and try on a range of boots by different manufacturers as the fit can vary considerably (even in the same size!). When fitting your boots wear a pair of good quality thick socks and a thin pair of liner socks – usually the shop will have some that you can borrow but ideally try them on with your own socks. It is never a good idea to buy boots mail order unless you have tried exactly the same boots beforehand. Please ensure you wear your boots as much as possible before your course so they have a chance to ‘break in’ and make sure you come along to your course with them proofed.
If you prefer to hire boots there are several places in Aviemore where you can do this. Our favourite option is Graham Tiso’s and, as this is also the meeting point for your course (details about this will be sent with your joining instructions), it is easy to collect them on the first day of your course. Alternative hire options in Aviemore are available at Nevisport and Cairngorm Mountain Sports. Wherever you decide to source them from, please ensure you book them well in advance as Aviemore is a busy place and all the retailers have a limited supply.