Hannah and I (Ken) guide for Hike Pyrenees during the summer, and when working, we’re often asked “what do you do for the rest of the year?”, to which I normally reply “this job pays so well, that we spend the rest of the year on our yacht in the Caribbean.” Well, unfortunately, as much as I’m sure Phil would love to pay us enough to do so, we actually have to work and spend most of our year at home, in the Scottish Highlands, where we run West Coast Mountain Guides, a company that specialises in delivering mountaineering guiding and instruction, mainly in the Fort William (Ben Nevis) and Glencoe area, but also on the Black Cuillins on the Isle of Skye.
Working in the mountains is very season dependent, with the late autumn and early winter (I.e. now), being one of the quieter periods of the year. The days are short and conditions may be neither here nor there, however, right this minute, we’re perhaps in one of the most settled and wintry conditions I’ve experienced at this time of year. It’s been cold and crisp for over a week, and this pattern looks to continue for the immediate future, which bodes very well in the lead up to our busiest time of year, winter.
The hills of the Scottish Highlands are transformed once they’re cloaked in snow and ice, and the challenges they pose far outweigh their modest stature. Conditions can change rapidly, with clear skies and good visibility one minute to strong winds and white out conditions the next, but to the well equipped mountaineer or hillwalker, the rewards and satisfaction of summiting Munros (hills over 3000ft), successfully climbing a snow filled gully or balancing along a snow covered ridge make it all worthwhile.
We offer a number of winter courses for all abilities, from those looking to take their first steps in crampons and learn how to use an ice axe through to introducing hillwalkers to the more technical skills required to tackle steeper gullies and ridges. We also offer private guiding; these are bespoke days for individuals or groups who may have specific objectives and goals. This could be anything from hillwalkers looking to walk up Ben Nevis either via the pony track from Glen Nevis or by balancing their way along the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, through to guiding some of the finest ice climbs that Scotland has to offer.
Once the snow have finally receded, we spend our springtime on the Isle of Skye, guiding on the dramatic Cuillin Ridge, which is unquestionably the most dramatic ridge in the UK. The entire ridge is 11km along, and sports 11 Munros, most of which require scrambling (using hands and possibly a rope) to reach the summits of. We actually run courses and private guiding there right through the summer and autumn too, and will employ other Mountaineering Instructors, many of whom are close friends to run the courses on our behalf.
We also arrange private guiding on the hills closer to Fort William and Glencoe through these months too, such as along the Aonach Eagach or up Curved Ridge, both of which are excellent summer scrambles, achievable by many hillwalkers.
So that’s really it in a nutshell. Hannah and I would be delighted to see some familiar faces (and new faces too!) in the Scottish Highlands, and I truly believe that when the Scottish Highlands are good, they are amongst the finest mountainous areas in the world. Of course, the Pyrenees are too!