Archive for February, 2011

Very good snow-ice in Thuilm Right-Hand 600 ft, grade II. Sun 27 Feb.


We climbed the right hand of the obvious gullies leading to the summit today.

MikeA sharp approach from the Fairy Pools up steep grass, scree then through the defending rock band led us to the terrace that splits the upper & lower sections of these obvious fault lines in 2 hours. Once reached the old snow was in superb condition and gave 200m of easy but physical climbing on the front points of our crampons. We moved together throughout but took breaks for photos and calves to recover!

The route has superb character becoming increasingly enclosed……

….before emerging 100m from the summit

Views of the Ridge and out to the Hebrides weren’t too shoddy either…

Pinnacle Ridge Sat 26 March; testing despite the thaw.


Great weather at the end of a poor week. Chris Duckett and I did Pinnacle Ridge. Put crampons on half-way up 3rd pinnacle, 2 abseils from top of there then 3 pitches onto Knight’s peak, good snow for downclimbing then 4 more pitches up to the summit of Gillean. A couple of heavy snow showers added a wintry feel to what had started as a spring-like day. 9 hours with little break. Hopefully more wintry still tomorrow after a clear-sky night. Off to look for northern lights,


Clach Glas; not in deep snow (Sat 19th)


Heavy overnight on Friday snow clad everything above 500m in a thick layer of fresh snow. I’ve put a warning of “may be impossible in deep powder” in the guidebook description of the Clach Glas Traverse and so it proved. Approaching by Sgurr nan Each there were optimistic moments as progress was pretty rapid.

On Sgurr nan Each

This changed rapidly with aspect as soon as we started the rise from Bealach Clach Glas with everything swamped and no way of knowing what your foot was going to land on.

Our (not very) high point on Clach Glas

Lunar Corona


Matt’s Report

Last week the sun has been undergoing an intense period of solar flare activity, this apparently increases the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis. (The northern lights are caused by cosmic particles from the sun colliding with the atmosphere and interacting with the magnetic fields at the poles)

I headed out late last night to see if there was going to be a show, sadly the cosmic particles were refusing to cooperate fully! There was a brilliant full moon which was obscuring any potential light shows. We did see some white stripes across the sky for a while (possibly just clouds but they were very picturesque) and there was also a beautiful corona round the moon. This is caused by light refracting through high altitude, thin clouds scudding across the moon. Apparently a lunar corona is seen as a harbinger of bad weather, presumably because the cirrus that cause the corona are often the the start of a frontal system. The best photos of the corona I could manage are below.

Pristine Ridge, Pinnacle & Ptarmigan. Friday 18 Feb


Despite the thaw low down the Main Ridge has remained in excellent condition for fast progress. We climbed up the An Stac screes on good stable snow with no need for crampons but needed them less than 100 feet higher up.

We hardly touched rock at all from there to the base of the Inaccesible Pinnacle some 400 feet above.

The Pinn was majestic in a garb of ice flutings as it rose into the mist but didn’t entice us to tackle it one bit.

A dream descent on perfect snow into Coire na Banachdaich followed. A final bonus was stumbling across 3 ptarmigan in their white plumage. They disappeared in the snow patches only to reappear as they crossed the rocks.

Gullies, Ridges and Sea-Cliffs


Matt’s report.


Dan and I ventured into the Great Gully on Bla Bheinn, I have been up here a few times in the last week and this has given me plenty of time to look around at new route possibilities. This time I could not resist investigating a route on the left hand side of the gully. We found a line at grade II that weaved around a lot of steep ground but did take in a couple of nice steeper steps. 

Dan Mackenzie down-climbing the short gully to gain the col connecting the north and south summits of Bla Bheinn on his first winter day out.


Beth and I explored the Flodigarry area yesterday, trying to combine fishing and climbing activities. This is a stunning part of the Island with the wonderfully shaped landscape of the Quirang dominating the skyline. I managed to sacrifice another portion of fishing gear to the sea-gods but success (and a fish supper) will surely come on another visit!

Looking north from Flodigarry

Looking back towards the Quirang


I continued the Alpine skills course with Peter today. We traversed Sgurr nan Gillean going up the Tourist Route and down the West Ridge.

A view of Clach Glas from low on the Tourist Route

On only his second winter mountaineering day out Peter looked relaxed and comfortable on the mountain and conditions meant it was pretty fast going. 

Abseiling off the West Ridge of Gillean

The freezing level has been up and down and with a cold moist wind blowing there is some fantastic hoar and rime developing on the hills. There is some powder lying on top of the rock and old snow that requires some caution but, overall, conditions are good, winter scenery and low avalanche risk compared to the mainland make Skye a good bet for the weekend.

Alpine skills introduction, Thurs 17 Feb; a traverse of Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh.


Peter did a complete Ridge Traverse with Gillian as his guide last year and has his focus on the big 3 alpine peaks of Eiger, Matterhorn & Mont Blanc this year. He has asked for a course giving an introduction to the skills he will need and today certainly covered most of these areas.

Pristine snow in An Doras

For starters we covered crampon and axe work on simple slopes as pristine snow led us easily to An Doras. Only one small step was needed to gain the slopes of Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh above. We found wind-blasted hard snow on the Coruisk side with a complete contrast of softer powder on the lee slope above Glen Brittle.

Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh’s huge bulk behind us.

We moved together throughout the next 1.5km as far as Sgurr na Banachdich. Generally conditions were excellent but the knife-blade crest of Ghreadaidh was very taxing and required extreme concentration.

Yawning drops focus Peter’s concentration

Peter took to crampons superbly but also realised why the rocky ridges of his alpine objectives will need to be clear of snow.

The narrow crest section finally comes to an end.

Nova Scotia Gaelic students visit Skye. Wed 16 Feb


Sunrise at Sligachan was pretty spectacular yesterday.

Bronya & I accompanied a fine bunch of students, their teachers and Explorica guide Thea Stevens to give them a feel for their roots.Many had ancestors forced to emigrate in the clearances of the 19th century.

In addition to the usual haunts around the Trotternish Peninsula we added a walk up the Tourist Route from Sligachan as far as the second bridge.

15 Feb 2011; Good snow build-up on the Ridge crest


Tom, Sam (the tango boys) & I were out again and their final wish was granted with clear skies and views of the whole Ridge. Despite a good dump of fresh snow we made good time up the Upper Rake of Mhadaidh again thanks to the consolidation of the previous wet stuff on Sunday night.

Sam takes a breather.

We played on some steep climbing for practice before heading onto the summit of Mhadaidh once more. The difference in conditions in 3 days was phenomenal with compative swift easy progress and stunning vistas. Strong wind whipped us with spindrift but, yet again, this short section of Ridge provided one of the most memorable climbs of the whole course.

Up the narrow rib with Coruisk behind

Looking back to my belayers after crossing the slab pitch

Descending into An Doras