Winter Open Gold Expedition 2018

Like the snow? Want to try something different for your expedition? In winter 2018 Aspen Outdoors Ltd is offering an opportunity for Gold participants to take part in winter expedition programme based in the Scottish Cairngorms. The dates for the programme are as follows:

  • Training weekend: 17-18 February 2018
  • Practice Expedition: 16-18 March 2018
  • Qualifying expedition: 2-6 April 2018

What will it be like?

So the big differences with this expedition programme are:

  • It’s happening in the winter time in February, March and April
  • You’ll be using bothies
  • There will be a big focus on expedition aim activity

Winter in Scotland brings short days, rain, snow and cold, windy weather. That means you’ll need some different equipment and clothing like winter boots, ice axe, salopettes, mittens and ski goggles. It also means learning new skills and knowledge: like kicking steps in snow, building snow shelters and assessing the risks posed by winter weather and snow conditions.

Bothies are open shelters – usually old cottages – in remote parts of Scotland used by walkers and climbers. They don’t have electricity or running water but usually have fireplaces and some simple furniture like sleeping platforms, tables and chairs. Users must use bothies responsibly and follow the ‘bothy code’. Bothies provide a great base for overnight stays in the winter time.

There will be strong focus on expedition aim activity (rather than just journeying). The distances you walk and number of hours of journeying will be closer to the minimum stipulated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition 20 conditions. A typical day will involve half a day of walking and half a day of expedition aim activity. Examples of expedition aim activity could include:

  • Bothy maintenance
  • Building a snow hole, igloo or quincy.
  • Visiting and recording the condition of howfs and shelters of the Cairngorms (Shelter stone, Fords of Avon Refuge)
  • Recording changing weather conditions (using thermometer, anemometer, precipitation gauge)
  • Recording tracks in the snow left by wildlife.
  • Dig a snow pit to analyse the snow pack.
  • Make a snow sculpture / snow man

Training Weekend, Aviemore, 17-18 February 2018

DAY 1: The training weekend will involve meeting at 9am Aviemore, collecting winter equipment, then driving to the Cairngorm Mountain ski area car park. The day will be spent practicing winter skills. Participants learn about specialist winter clothing and equipment; winter footwork techniques; introduction to crampons and ice axe; risks and hazards of winter environments. The night’s accommodation will be in a nearby hostel. In the evening we will review of weather and snow conditions and plan for the next day.

DAY 2: On day 2 we will return to the Cairngorm Mountain ski area and go on a winter journey, practicing winter navigation techniques and consolidating the winter skills we learnt on day 1. Debrief on the training weekend and overview of the practice expediton.

Practice Expedition, Lochnagar, 9-11 March 2018

Prior to the practice expedition the participants will be required to review the snow and weather conditions and undertake some planning for their practice expedition.

DAY 1: The first day of the practice expedition will involve meeting on the Friday afternoon at Perth train station at 2pm, collecting winter equipment, then travelling to Spittal of Glen Muick near Ballater. From there we will do an night time walk (led by an instructor) to a nearby bothy (5km, flat and good tracks).

DAY 2: Second day of practice expedition – Hike to and explore Corrie of Lochnagar and practice winter skills and navigation techniques. Distance travelled and route will depend on weather and snow conditions. Return to bothy and overnight stay.

DAY 3: Third day of the practice expedition – developing ideas for expediton aim then walk out from bothy and drive Braemar to review of practice expedition. Drop off at Perth at 6pm.

Qualifying Expedition, Glen Derry,12-16 March 2018

Prior to the qualifying expedition the participants will be required to review the snow and weather conditions and undertake planning for their qualifying expedition.

The qualifying expedition will take place in Glen Derry starting from the Linn of Dee. Expedition participants will use bothies as base camps, and from these undertake ‘exploration days’ and expedition activity. 

Examples of ‘exploration days’ undertaken from the bothy bases could include:

  • Walk to Loch Etchachan from Hutcheson’s Memorial Bothy (5km)
  • Walk to a snow hole site from Hutcheson’s Memorial Bothy (5km)
  • Walk to the shelter stone from Hutcheson’s Memorial Bothy return (6km)

Participants will be supported to plan their expedition, deciding upon bothies to use as base camps and deciding what ‘exploration days’ to undertake. An example of a qualifying expedition itinerary could look like this:

DAY 1: Travel from Perth to Braemar. Overnight accommodation at Braemar Youth Hostel. Expedition prep and pre-expedition assessment briefing.

DAY 2: Day 1 of expedition: Hike from Linn of Dee to Bob Scott’s Bothy. Expedition aim activity: record weather conditions (precipitation, wind speed and temperature) and write a report on the condition of the bothy.

DAY 3: Day 2 of the expedition: Hike from Bob Scott’s Bothy to Hutcheson’s Memorial Bothy. Expedition aim activity: record weather conditions and then go for a walk to study the snow conditions (looking for signs of wind transportation of snow; studying ice crystals, dig a snow pit to look for layers in the snow).

DAY 4: Day 3 of the expedition: Hike to Loch Etchachan and find a snow hole site. Expedition aim activity: make a snow shelter and record the weather.

DAY 5: Day 4 of the expedition: Hike back to the Linn of Dee. Expedition aim activity: tidy and clean the bothy and record the weather. Return to Perth.

Expedition Supervision

The expedition would be led by Alastair Ewen, Winter and International Mountain Leader with extensive experience of cold weather and mountainous environments.


If you would like more information on this winter programme please contact Alastair Ewen, Director, Email:, Phone: 07427326697


The price is £475 per participant. This includes:

  • The training weekend, including hostel accommodation
  • Practice expedition
  • Qualifying expedition
  • Hire of winter boots, ice axe and crampons


To book onto the expedition please click here and in the ‘Name of Dofe Group’ field select ‘AO Open Gold 2018’ and then in the expeditions field select the following:

  • Winter Open Gold Training weekend: 17-18 February 2018
  • Winter Open Gold Practice Expedition: 16-18 March 2018
  • Winter Open Gold Qualifying expedition: 2-6 April 2018