Best Places to go Mountaineering in the UK
The UK might not be the first place that leaps to mind for mountaineering. However, there are plenty of extraordinary peaks to scale with many offering climbing conditions as challenging as any European alpine peak. Some of the top places to go mountaineering in the UK are focused on a particular skill set; whether that’s scrambling, ice climbing, rock climbing, or mixed-ability mountain trekking.
There are two primary seasons for mountaineering in the UK, each presenting the opportunity to practice the plethora of skills required in alpinism. In the summer, you can work on your footwork and gather a head for heights on some epic scrambling routes. In the winter, you can practice traversing in snow, using winter climbing equipment, and scaling frozen walls. In both seasons you can work on rope skills and rock climbing. With that in mind, here are the 5 best places to go mountaineering in the UK!
Top 5 Places to go Mountaineering in the UK
Whether you’re in Wales, Scotland, or England, each country is graced by a top-rate mountaineering region (there are a smattering of locations in Ireland too!). Depending on your climbing goals and the season you choose to head outdoors, one may suit you better than the other. Here are a few places to get climbing.
1 . Snowdonia National Park, Scotland
Snowdonia is one of the premier places to go mountaineering in the UK. It is particularly good for mountaineers who want to practice scrambling or multi-pitch climbing. In fact, the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel near Llanberis (the hillwalking town for those climbing Snowdon) became a base camp for Sir Edmund Hillary and his climbing partner Sherpa Tenzing. They spent the winter practising cwm ascents throughout the Snowdon Massif and the Glyderau before successfully summiting Mount Everest in 1953.
Collectively, the buttresses, ridges, and crags in Snowdonia amount to many Grade I-III scrambling routes. On Tryfan, Snowdon, and the Carneddau, climbers can practice rescue & safety procedures, plotting climbing routes, and they can work on technical skills. For scrambling, there are few better routes than the Crib Goch horseshoe. If you’re into ice climbing, try your hand at Cwm Idwal in winter.
2 . Peak District, England
The Peak District isn’t known for glacial morphology and soaring ridges. Instead, it has heaps of gritstone escarpments and shaved rock faces that make for a boulder’s dream. The Peak District is the place to cut your teeth rock climbing. With dozens of climbing areas, you can practice rope skills, footwork, and climbing techniques in a relatively controlled yet suitably taxing environment.
If you’re interested in bouldering, look no further than the Roaches. This isn’t really one of the top places to go mountaineering in the UK because bouldering is much smaller scale. However, the movements and hand techniques you practice on the rock will be invaluable for mountaineering. For some higher rock faces, check out the climbing routes at Stanage Edge.
3 . Cairngorms, Scotland
In winter, the Cairngorms turns into a snow-covered wonderland. The Munros are cloaked in powder with many rock faces frozen with layers of ice. As wild camping is legal in Scotland, this makes for a great place to practice your winter camping skills. Venturing out on multi-day treks while camping in between is a great way to learn how to traverse snowy landscapes while carrying a full set of outdoor equipment.
One of the most popular peaks to bag in the National Park is Ben Macdui. From the summit, you will get extraordinary views over the other snow-capped mountains in the Cairngorms all while fighting tough winter conditions. The Cairngorms are also one of the top ice climbing areas in the UK. The Northern Corries are blessed with easy access and a mix of climbing grades.
4 . Lake District, England
The Lake District is famous for many things: Beatrix Potter, the Lakeland Poets, stone cottages, and lovely hill walks. However, it also has some of the best places to go mountaineering in the UK. The peaks aren’t as angular as those in Snowdonia or Scotland, but there are still plenty of challenging routes amongst these stony fells.
Great Gable will get your blood pumping in winter. With scathing winds and exposed faces, this is a top location to practice using crampons and an ice axe. Helvellyn via Striding Edge is another extraordinary scramble that can be completed in summer. At Scafell Pike, try out Great End for hardcore trad climbing or winter ice climbing.
5 . Highlands, Scotland
The North and Western Highlands of Scotland offer some of the best places to go mountaineering in the UK. In the summer, technical climbing routes are in abundance. In the winter, sub-zero conditions and skeins of snow make for a testing experience, even for qualified climbers.
What sets Scotland apart from other competing places to go mountaineering in the UK, is its alpine-like qualities. The long mountain climbs and exposed ridges closely resemble the climbing conditions of the Alps in Switzerland and France. Torridon, Ben Nevis (via Carn Mor Dearg), An Teallach, and Assynt are all recommended for mountaineering.
Final Tips for Mountaineering in the UK
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the best places to go mountaineering in the UK. There are plenty of other peaks to climb and many of them are astonishingly unexplored. For example, on the Isle of Skye, you have multiple Munros to scale including Bruach na Frìthe – a wonderful place for landscape photography. In the Yorkshire Dales, you can venture up the scree slopes of Ingleborough, the second-highest mountain in England.
In addition to these spots, Irish climbers can trek up Slieve Donard. This peak in the Mourne Mountains is the highest point in Northern Ireland. The granite ridges are exposed, and high winds make for a weather-beaten experience. Whatever peak you choose, summer or winter, there’s always somewhere to go climbing. These are a mere sample of the top places to go mountaineering in the UK. Get out there, get climbing, and start summiting the British mountain peaks!