British Isles

About British Isles

Credit: Eifion,  Shot on 2016-07-27 Photo taken in Wales.(c) Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, licensed under:
Credit: Eifion, Shot on 2016-07-27 Photo taken in Wales.(c) Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, licensed under:

Considering how (relatively) flat British Islands are, Britan has certainly had a big impact in a development of climbing. Biritsh climbers played an important role in exploring the high peaks of Himalaya. Also, Lake District and Scottish mountains have had significant influence in the development of clean climbing and ice climbing respectively.

  • Northwest Highlands Northwest part of Scotland almost separated from most of UK by system of lakes. The highest mountain of the range is Carn Eige (1183m) but most likely the best known feature of Northwest highlands is Cuillin Ridge is Isle of Skye. The ridge consists of many peaks rising few meters shy of 1000m and sports classic ridge traverse.
  • Grampians Main mountain system on Scotland and ho0me to the highest peaks of the country. The highest and best known peaks of Grampians are located either in SW south of Fort William and Glencoe or on Cairgorms range.
  • Pennines Main mountain system of England. The range runs generally north to south. The highest peaks of the range (Scafell Pike, 978m) are found in Lake district, somewhat separated from the Pennines main ridge.
  • Cambrian Mountains Cambrian Mountains is the mountain system of Wales. The highest peaks (Snowdon, 1085m) are found in Snowdonia, at the northern part of the range.
  • Irish ranges Most of the highest peaks in Ireland are located in ranges concentrated on the southern part of the country. Carrauntoohil (1039m)

Climbing on British Isles

The highest mountains on the British Islands are located in Scotland. Scottish mountains are one of the traditional ice climbing areas of the world. Scottish ice climbing feature unique conditions because of frequent melt-thaw cycle; the temperature often hovers around zero degrees and the ice is continuously changing from gentle melting to hard freezing. A combination of short daylight hours and the danger of a break in the weather gives Scottish winter climbing an alpine like urgency.

The highest peak, Ben Nevis (1343m), is located in Scotland, close to Fort William. Together with neighboring mountains of Glencoe, it is the most famous area with long climbing routes. While the area has several long rock routes and hiking routes on the summer, it is most famous of its winter climbs. Many classic ascents that have pushed the limits of possible in ice climbing, have been made especially on the gullies, faces and buttresses of Ben Nevis. Other popular areas for "alpine-style" long climbs, both in summer and winter, are Cairngorms and Skye Islands.

Although, sport climbing is not unheard of, rock climbing in the British Isles is typically traditionally protected. If the climbing is made onsight, so much the better. Climbing is characteristically bold (as in poorly protected). Gritstone of the Peak District is probably the best-known type of British rock climbing.

  • Nisbet, Andy; Anderson, Rab & Richardson, Simon: Scottish Winter Climbs, 2nd New edition. Isbn: 9780907521983. Scottish Mountaineering Club, 2008.
  • Wilson, Ken; Alcock, Dave & Barry, John: Cold Climbs - The Great Snow and Ice Climbs of the British Isles. Isbn: 0-906371-16-3. Diadem Books, 1991.
  • Nisbet, Andy: Scottish Rock Climbs - Scottish Mountaineering Club Climbers' Guide. Isbn: 9780907521860. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 2005.


Isle of Skye

Skye Island is one of largest and best known Scottish islands. Its is particularly famous among climbers and hillwalkers for its mountain scenery. The classic climb on the Isle of Skye is Cuillin Ridge. It is a 20km long traverse with more than 3000m of ascent of continuous scrambling along exposed ridge, with rock climbing sections of up to grade Very Difficult and several abseils. The famous Inaccessible Pinnacle is climbed by its east ridge (Moderate) and descended by abseil down its shorter west ridge. There is also endless rock climbing and scrambling potential based from the valley, either Glen Brittle or Coruisk.

  • MacKenzie, J.: Skye and the Hebrides. Isbn: 9780907521488. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 1996.
  • Williams, Noel: Skye Scrambles (Rock & Ice Guides). Isbn: 9780907521556. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 1998.
  • Everett, Roger: SKYE - Rock and Ice Climbs - Scottish Mountaineering Club Climbers' Guide. Isbn: 9780907521877. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 2005.
  • O.S.: The Cuillin and Torrida Hills1:25.000


Glencoe area on the west coast of Scotland is probably the best known climbing area of Great Britain. Here lies the highest mountain of UK, Ben Nevis (1343). Main convenient center of the area is Fort William. The area has both summer and winter climbing, but is better known for the latter, as many of the legendary early ice and mixed routes are located either on Ben Nevis or nearby mountains and crags.

Beside Ben Nevis, another popular climbing destination include Stob Coire nan Lochan, Aonach Dubh, Stob Coire nam Beith and Buachaille Etive Mor.

  • Crocket, Ken; Anderson, Rab & Cuthbertson, Dave: Glen Coe - Rock and Ice (Scottish Mountaineering Club Climbers' Guide). Isbn: 9780907521709. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 2002.
  • Clough, Ian: Winter Climbs, 4th edition. Isbn: 9781852840723. Cicerone Press, 1991.
  • Richardson, Simon; Walker, A. & Clothier, Robin: Ben Nevis - Rock and Ice Climbs (Scottish Mountaineering Club Climbers' Guide), 2nd edition. Isbn: 9780907521730. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 2002.


Cairgorm mountain group is Scotland's wildest, remotest and roughest range, offering climbing potential both in summer and winter. It is the northern part of the Grampian Mountains, between the River Dee and the upper Spey. Four out of five highest mountains in United Kingdom are located in Cairgorms: Granite mountain group in Scotland, northern part of The central range includes four out of five of Britain's highest mountains Ben Macdhui (1309m), Braeriach (1296m), Cairn Toul (1291m) and Cairn Gorm (1245m). The winter snowfall is heavy, and winds are higher than normally encountered in mountain ranges on the exposed and extensive plateau. Main center is Aviemore.

Mountaineering, rock- and snow- and ice-climbing, skiing, deer hunting, grouse shooting, and angling are popular activities. Cairngorms provide some of the finest winter climbing in Britain. From the remote corries of Braeriach and Beinn a'Bhuird to the magnificent cliffs of Lochnagar and Creag an Dubh Loch and the readily accessible Northern corries of Cairngorm, every aspect of winter climbing is to be found. There are long, varied routes and short technical test-pieces; there are pure ice climbs and buttress and mixed routes to rival any in the country. During the summer there is plenty of rock climbing on granite.

  • Fyffe, Allen & Nisbet, Andrew: Cairngorms Rock and Ice Climbs, 4th edition. Isbn: 9780907521464. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 1995.
  • Fyffe, Allen & Nisbet, Andrew: Cairngorms Rock and Ice Climbs, Vol. 1, 4th edition. Isbn: 9780907521457. Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 1995.
  • Fyffe, Allen: Winter Climbs in the Cairngorms, 4th edition. Isbn: 9780902363991. Cicerone Press, 1988.
  • Nisbet, Andy; Fyffe, Allen; Richardson, Simon; Moir, Wilson & Lyall, John: The Cairngorms. Isbn: 9780907521969. Scottish Mountaineering Club, 2007.
  • Outdoor Leisure: 3 Aviemore & Cairngorms1:25.000

Lake District

The English Lake District is the home of rock climbing which is unique and spectacular from the high mountain crags down to the crags in the valleys. Climbing in the Lakes is very popular due to the fact it's ease of accessibility and the climbing within the area, ranging from V Diff to the more strenuous Extremes Climbs [E+] challenges the Lake District has to offer the beginner and the experience rock climber. During winters, there are few classic climbs as well. Scafell Crag is the England's Biggest climbing crag. Other popular areas include Waswater Screes, Dove Crag, Falcon Crag, Grasmoor and Comb Gill.

  • O'Connor, Bill: 50 Best Scrambles in the Lake District. Isbn: 9780715306979. David & Charles PLC, 1997.
  • Reid, Stephen & Ashton, S.: Lake District - Classic Climbs (100 Classic Climbs). Isbn: 9781852230555. Not Avail, 1989.
  • Club, Fell and Rock Climbing & Davison, Brian: Lake District Winter Climbs - Snow, Ice and Mixed Climbs in the English Lake District, Rev Ed edition. Isbn: 9781852844844. Cicerone Press, 2006.
  • Guide, Frcc: Lake District Climbs. Isbn: 9780850280456. Fell & Rock Climbing Club of the English Lake Dist, 2003.

Peak District


British Isles

Northwest Highlands

Isle of Skye

Sgùrr Alasdair (Cuillin Ridge)992
The highest point of famous Cuillin Ridge.
Cuillin Ridge (summer). Ridge, Very Difficult/5.2-5,3, mostly 4th class; 20km, 3000m ascent. Usually at least 2 days.
Classic. Classic ridge traverse. Via Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Bhasteir, Bruach na Frithe, Bidean Druim nan Ramh, Sgurr a' Mhadaidh, Sgurr a'Gheadaih, Sgurr na Banadhdich, Inaccessible Pinnacle (Sgurr Dearg), Sgurr Mhic Coinnich, Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr nan Eag and Gars Bheinn. First summer ascent in 1911. .
Cuillin Ridge (winter). Winter, Sco III/IV; 20km, 3000m ascent.
Rarely in winter condition. . Via Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Bhasteir, Bruach na Frithe, Bidean Druim nan Ramh, Sgurr a' Mhadaidh, Sgurr a'Gheadaih, Sgurr na Banadhdich, Inaccessible Pinnacle (Sgurr Dearg), Sgurr Mhic Coinnich, Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr nan Eag and Gars Bheinn. First winter ascent by T.W. Patey, B. Robertson, H. McInnes & P. Crabb in 02/1965. .


Western Grampians

Nevis Range
Ben Nevis56.796803-5.0060071343
United Kingdom, Glencoe. Located just outside Fort William on the west coast of Scotland, Ben Nevis (1343m) is the highest mountain on British Isles. The peak is complex mountain with numerous faces, buttresses and gullies. While the standard route is a hiking path, there is a great number of more difficult scrambling and climbing routes of varying difficulty, both during the winter and summer. From the climber's point of view, the most interesting feature of Ben Nevis is it's Northeast face. The well-equipped hut offers a good base. During the summer, the classic climbs include Tower Ridge, Observatory Ridge, The Long Climb and The Bat. Most legendary ice routes were climbed around 1960 with classic step-cutting technique and were the most difficult ice climbs of the era. There is a plethora of routes on the gullies and buttresses, the most legendary of them being Orion Face Direct (Scottish V,5, 400m), Zero Gully (V,4, 400m) and Point Five Gully (V,5, 325m).
Ben Nevis, ,
First ascent
James Robertson
Ben Nevis, ,
  • Perroux, Godefroy; Goodlad, Bruce & Blyth, Jim: Ben Nevis - Winter Climbs. Isbn: 9782951774902. JM Editions, 2002.
Carn Mor Dearg Arete
Long arete running NE from Ben Nevis summit
  • From Fort William/Glen Nevis to CIC hut or directly from Fort Willian/Glen Nevis.
Carn Mor Dearg Arete (CMD Arete). Summer, I F+; I (summer), II (winter).
Carn Mor Dearg is a summit (1220m) located to the NE of main summit on Ben Nevis horseshoe. Gain the summit of Carn Bearg Dearg, located at the northeasternmost end of the Ben Nevis horseshoe then follow the ridge over Carn Dearg Meaghonagh and Carn Mor Dearg to summit.
North face
From the climber's point of view, the most interesting feature of Ben Nevis. Highly complex three kilometer wide and 6000m high horseshoe consisting of numerous faces, buttresses and gullies. This side of the mountain features a great number of long summer rock routes and numerous legendary ice routes. Coire leis. Valley between CMD arete and NE Buttress (Little Brenva face) NE Buttress. First major ridge/buttress to the SW of CMD arete. Orion Face Observatory Ridge Observatory Gully area (Minus Face) Tower Ridge. Longest and most prominent of the ridges. Coire na Siste Carn Dearg Buttress. Carn Dearg (1221m) is the NW culmination of Ben Nevis horseshoe
  • From Fort William/Glen Nevis to CIC hut (2h) .
Coire leis
Route Major. Ice, Sco IV,5.
Orion Face
The highest face of Ben Nevis with climbs of alpine proportions.
North East Butress. Ice, IV D+; Sco IV,4/WI3 M3; 300m.
The Long Climb. Summer, 450m.
One of the longest rock climbs in UK. Straight up the Orion Face.
Orion Face Direct. Winter, IV TD; IV WI4/5/Sco V,5; 400m (2-4h).
Classic ice climb, long, sustained and serious. The more icy the conditions, the better. Follows (more or less) the line of The Long Climb. First ascent by R.Smith & J.Marshall 13.2.1960. .
Zero Gully. Winter, III/WI3+/Sco V,4; 300m (2-3h).
Classic ice climb, serious and exposed with poor protection. Located in the right side of Orion face, right next to Observatory Ridge. First ascent by H.MacInnes, A.Nicol & T.Patey 18.2.1957. .
Slav Route. Winter, IV/WI4/Sco VI.
Astral Highway. Winter, Sco VI,5.
Observatory Gully area
Observatory Ridge Observatory Buttress Indicator Wall Gardyloo Buttress Minus Face
Minus Two Gully. Ice, III WI5/Sco V; 275m.
Observatory Ridge. Ice, II TD-; Sco IV,4/WI4 M3; 400m.
Hadrian's Wall Direct. Ice, III TD-; III WI4/5/Sco V,5; 300m.
Point Five Gully. Ice, II TD-/TD; II-III/WI4/Sco V,5/80-90°; 325m.
A 'Classic Scottish Grade V' ice climb, the longest and most difficult of the mountain's pure snow and ice gullies. Located between Observatory Ridge (on the left) and Tower Ridge (on the right). Often in condition. First ascent by J.M.Alexander, Ian CClough, D. Pipes & R. Shaw in 12.-16.1.1959. .
Tower Ridge
Glovers Chimney. Ice, III D; Sco III/IV/WI3/75°; 140/650m.
Vanishing Gully. Ice, II TD-; Sco V,5.
Tower Ridge (summer). Summer, 600m.
The most famous of Ben Nevis' ridges although technically easier than the N.E.Buttress and Observatory Ridge. An excellent introduction to Ben Nevis, and to alpine ridge climbing. it should not be underestimated as the main difficulties are concentrated higher up and the whole route is long and arduous.
Tower Ridge. Winter, IV PD+/AD; Sco III/IV,3, Diff (in summer); 600m.
The most amenable of the three classic winter ridges on the mountain. Major difficulties are concentrated at the Great Tower, high on the route First ascent by J.N. Collie, G.A. Sally & J. Collier in March 1894. .
Garadh Gully. Winter, Sco Scottish II/III (early season, later I); 95m.
Ice climb, that starts just above and right of Italian Climb and separates the steep little buttress of Garadh na Ciste from Tower Ridge. First ascent by I.Clough and M.Burke 16.2.1959. .
Coire na Siste
Green Gully. Ice, III D; Sco IV,4/IV/WI2+/3/70°; 120m.
Mega Route X. Ice, Sco V,6.
No. 2 Gully. Ice, Sco I/II; 120m.
No. 4 Gully. Ice, PD; Sco I; 150m.
Comb Gully. Ice, III D; II/WI3/Sco III/IV/80°; 135m.
Ice climb with good belays but scarce protection. Crux is a 7 m corner. First Ascent by F.G. Stangle, R. Morsley and P.A. Small 12.4.1938. .
Ledge Route. Winter, II PD-; Sco II; 450m.
Possibly the best grade II ice route on Ben Nevis. The routes starts at the bottom of No. 5 Gully and ends on the summit of Carn Dearg.
Carn Dearg buttress
Centurion. Ice, Sco VIII,8, HVS 5a; 450m.
Gemini. Ice, Sco VI,6; 300m.
Castle Ridge. Ice, II AD-; Sco III; 275m.
The Bat. Rock, 300m.
classic hard rock climb on Carn Dearg buttress. First ascent by Robin Smith & Dougal Haston. .
The Curtain. Winter, Sco IV,5; 110m.
The 'obvious' curtain/sheet of ice on the left-hand side of the Carn Dearg buttress before entering No 5 Gully. Short and technical water ice climb with good belays. First ascent by J. Knight & D. Bathgate in 02/1965. .
West side
Tourist Route. Summer, Hiking; Ascent 1300m, 5,5h round trip.
Normal route. Walk up from Glen Nevis Visitor Centre, Achintee.
Aonach Mor
East face
Left Hand Twin (Left Twin). Ice, Sco III.

Central Grampians

Loch Laggan Hills
Creag Meagaidh
Pinnacle Buttress
Smith's Gully. Ice, Sco V.
The Post face
North Post. Ice, Sco V,5; 400m.
South Post Direct. Ice, Sco V,4; 400m.

Eastern Grampians

Lochnagar Hills
Mostly known for its winter climbing as the peak provides some of the most spectacular, if not always the most reliable, winter climbing in the Cairngorms. Classic routes include Eagle Ridge (VI,6) and Polyphemus Gully (V,5).
Eagle Ridge and Parallel Buttress
Parallel Gully B. Ice, Sco V; 215m.
Eagle Ridge. Ice, Sco VI,6.
Black Spout Pinnacke
Pinnacle Face. Ice, Sco VI,7; 150m.
Pinnacle Grooves. Ice, Sco VII,7; 70m.