Archive for February, 2011

Sunshine on Skye; Tues 15th Feb


After a few days of viewing the inside of clouds it was good to see clear skies today. The views across to the mainland and over to the Hebrides were simply stunning and left me wishing for a better camera to capture it all. We also saw a couple of Golden Eagles soaring above the Elgol peninsular. Just a fantastic day for taking in the scenery.

South summit of Bla Bheinn in the background

Cairn climbing: Always use a rope for this dangerous sport!

Looking towards Beinn na Cro and Beinn Dearg Mhor.

Valentine’s Day 2011; South Buttress Gully (III) Blaven.


Hard to say why today’s route felt so good; it was probably the overnight transformation to superb snow and ice from low levels that caught me so much by surprise. The hidden gully has amazing rock architecture throughout the entire 250m length. The climbing pitches are thought provoking but well protected. III/5- always escapable but not a push-over by any means. Mike

Great Gully on Bla Bheinn. 14 Feb 2011


Matt was out with Phil and Andy today. We had a fantastic time making our way up the Great Gully to the summit of Bla Bheinn. The cold air has finally had an effect on the hill and the snow pack is really firming up now, it was so solid that we were extremely thankful for the old footsteps. We spent some time playing with the rope, digging bucket seats and body belaying on the way up the gully. Sadly the cloud had closed in when we topped out but it did provide an opportunity for some navigation practice. It was a grand day out and many thanks to the guys for good company on the hill and an entertaining natter.

Beinn Sgreithall on the mainland rising above the mists.

Andy coming to terms with the art of body belaying!

Mike was out with Sam and Tom on Bla Bheinn as well, climbing South Buttress Gully. They looked pretty happy when they passed us on the way down and Mike would not shut up about how much fun the climbing was!

South Buttress Gully is just visible to the left of the main buttress. Great Gully is on the right of the buttress 

Winter Mountaineering on Sgurr nan Gillean



Matt was out with Rich, Tom and James today. They went for the classic traverse of Sgurr nan Gillean, going up the West Ridge and down the Tourist Route. This is a great mountain day, taking in some short pitches of climbing, a brilliant exposed knife edge and an abseil. Your concentration has to be absolute for a good couple of hours but the reward is enjoying one of the best easy winter routes in Britain.

Climbing up Loose Chimney towards the pinnacles (The chimney was well frozen and not so loose!)

Crossing the pinnacles. There was just enough visibility to maximise the exposure, but Rich seemed to enjoy the view.

Negotiating the exposed crest at the top of the Tourist Route

James on his second ever abseil. Great effort!

Mike was also out on Sgurr nan Gillean today on Just a Boys Game (III,170m) with Sam and Tom. Thin low down, the ice got better after the 2nd pitch with quality conditions towards the top. Without good ice the line is sparse on protection and commitment felt pretty high.

Mike heading up towards 4/5 Gully with Sam and Tom

Just a Boys Game, III.

Pitch 4

12 February. Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh by the Upper Rake (Grade I)


Temperatures rose rapidly today after a cold morning making for a misty approach to eventually find the freezing level at 900m just as we hit the crest. Crampons had been needed from half-way up the amphitheatre for a mixed pitch in the rock band and on the neve above. Some unusual sculptures remain in the old snow I climbed back in November (see Gaugers gully report) but it is really just left in patches now. The crest to the summit of Mhadaidh made up for any impatience for excitement as Rich, Tom & James got their first taste of Cuillin exposure. It probably took us 50 minutes to reach the summit, a section which is less than 10 minutes in dry summer conditions. Icy groves lead to a narrow crest, an 8m vertical downclimb, some slabby traversing, another groove and finally the summit where the guys announced it was their first Munro.

The narrow rib between the 3rd & 4th tops of Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh.

The Glen Brittle side was clear of mist and views out to Rum & Canna showed that the sun was coming. The drift of snow would have let us walk out of An Dorus onto Ghreadaidh (instead of the usual 6m step) but will have to wait for another day.

Looking across the Thuilm Ridge of Mhadaidh into Coire na Creiche below.

Sunshine and Snow on Bla Bheinn


Matt took Beth up Bla Bheinn today. We had a footwork coaching session at the bottom of South Buttress before ascending Great Gully. There was no scree showing and the snow was reasonably firm despite the sun beating down on us. The top three hundred feet was excellent neve which bodes well for conditions on the higher crags such as the Bhasteir face of Sgurr na Gillean.

Looking down the Great Gully

At the top we popped our heads over to see the entire Cuillin Ridge spread out before us. The air quality was excellent and it felt like you could reach out and touch the mountains; it also made the drops look enormous.

The northern end of the Cuillin Ridge lying the far side of Glen Sligachan

We visited the North top first and then enjoyed the exposed col and the short crest leading to the South top.

Poise and elegance above the precipice! The awkward step is behind Beth.

Climbing the awkward step from the col to the South top. This can look intimidating from below but the difficulties are very short-lived.

More from the Winter Climbing Meet. 3-7 Feb 2011


Our merry band had some more adventures in the Cuilin yesterday with teams were out on the North end of the ridge and on Sgurr Thearlaich.

In Pinn from the Great Stone Shoot

Snowfields of Coire a`Bhasteir below Pinnacle Ridge

Triumph on Sgurr nan Gillean!

Easy ground on The Deadline (III,4) North face of Am Basteir

North Chimney, III,5 or grade I if banked

Southern Cuillin and Coruisk viewed from Bidean.

3 days of fun and more to come: Photos from the Winter Climbing Meet


Friday was stormy

Saturday was mild low down but good on top.

West Ridge of Gillean for some,

Bruach na Frithe for others,

BC Buttress of Thearliach, IV,5 in mega nick.

Andy’s first ever outdoor route; good eyes!

And an exciting descent.

Gillian on Gillean

Doctor’s Gully

Grade II my butt!

Snow on Cue, 3rd February 2011


Turning from Spring to Winter overnight for the arrival day of the Skye Winter Meet is, of course, just what we ordered 3 months ago at the start of the planning. With the popularity of mixed climbing the arguement goes that Cuillin winter climbing is possible far more often than commonly perceived. Also overlooked is the Cuillin ridges and the incredible challenges they throw up. In combination with the alpine scenery there’s all the ingredients for a heady week of exploration & adventure Skye style ahead.

Marsco’s North Face from Luib

Winter Storms forecast & Skye Winter meet


After a quiet mild period it is good to see some weather back again. Howling lashing storms with a dose of Canadian arctic air thrown in from Thursday onward looks good to me. Westerly gales like this tend to be a lot better news for Cuillin mixed than the dry powdery stuff we’ve had last year and early this season so I’m optimistic just so long as the arctic air wins out as Unysis is suggesting.

The Skye winter meet starts on Thursday too so the change in weather is pretty handy. 20 of us will be based in the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut with an aim to tackle as big a variety of winter routes as possible. This could leave me with quite a bit of apologising to my guidebook editor if the developement of new routes continues at the same rate as the pre-christmas period.

Reports will be posted on the Skye Guides blog whenever we manage to get out of Glen Brittle but may not be too often.