Archive for August, 2011

Misty week on the Misty Isle late August 2011


For the first time this summer we’ve really had some traditional Skye mist clinging to the whole island but the mountains in particular. High winds on Monday kept us off the tops but the brief was teaching ropework for scrambling.

The Lochain Traverse between Loch Lagan and the foot of Eastern Buttress is a really fun Grade 3 expedition crossing the West Buttress of Sgumain.

Mel and Andy at the start of the Lochan Traverse which follows the obvious horizontal fault above Mel’s rucsac.

Although low in the grade some of the moves are quite tricky, especially in the wet. Lots of little steps no more than 10m in length are linked by easier but exposed traversing.

High along the Traverse

This is ideal for seeing how just the rope (with no slings or gear) can be used to add a high level of safety to the team. An ideal short option for a wet day!

Today dawned clear which caught me surprise. Gill brought her walking partner & friend Layne for a Cuillin christening and hopefully the Pinn. Mist rolled in all too soon and plans for showing the ladies my favourite part of the Ridge, An Stac Direct, faded fast. No small amount of talent coupled with enthusiasm despite damp rock raised my hopes and the mist cleared just as we reached the head of the An Stac screes. 400 feet of high adrenalin scrambling followed and gave a perfect rehearsal for the Pinn itself.

Happy scramblers on An Stac Direct (Grade 3) with Rum and Eigg behind

The queues had dissipated and we were able to just motor on up despite the mist drawing in around us once more.

Looking forward to the Pinn despite the damp.

Summer returns; 22-26 August


Last Sunday had heavy showers everywhere on the island apart from on the reliably dry crags at Neist. Phil Hall has escaped Reading and booked a refresher day for leading and belaying skills to use back on the crags in North-west of England. An intense day culminated in a fine lead of Tatties (Severe) which is the easiest of the trio- Haggis (HS), Neaps (VS) & Tatties (S).


Next day dawned infinitely better and rapid changes were made to Traverse plans with Gary Came. The boat eventually dropped us ashore beneath Gars-bheinn at midday leaving 9 hours to reach our bivvy. Just as he had promised me Gary turned out to be both very fit and very at home on the Ridge despite being a Cuillin virgin.

About to board the Bella Jane

 A man in his element on Gars-bheinn!

King’s Chimney

Sexy sunset out over Ghreadaidh

Day 1 Timings-

Boat to Gars-bheinn-1hr 45mins, to reach TD Gap-2hrs, to finish In Pinn-3hrs, to summit Ghreadaidh via water collection-2hrs.

Day 2 Summit Ghreadaidh 8am, Bealach na Glaic Moire 8-50am, Bealach Harta 9-45am, Bruach na Frithe 11am Gillean 1pm

Day 2 dawned cool and overcast; not great for photography but great conditions for moving fast. Naismiths Route was surprisingly damp. More disconcerting was a large hold missing just at the crux. I took a more cautious approach than normal using the large spike runner out to the right. Gathering ourselves together once more we cruised to Gillean in a total Ridge time of 12 hours. 

Gary looking back at where we’d come from!

After a days rest I teamed up with Seamus and Orii once more to finish their trip on a high. They were most surprised to find themselves climbing the In Pinn on what turned out to be the hottest day of the fortnight. After a spot of lunch they then did superbly to climb the short west end of the Pinn too.

Seamus abseiling with Coire Lagan behind.

Gillian was also guiding at the Pinn and Robert Carr looks a very happy chappy!

North South split this week; mid August.


Mike’s report.

A souwesterly airflow off the Atlantic has left peaks at the south end of the Cuillin shrouded in mist all this week while the north end has been clear pretty much the whole time. This split is not unusual and is always worth considering when deciding what to climb.

Jeremy romping up the Pinn in the mist on Monday which was wet on the windward side but dry in the lee

Someone has unearthed these museum pices from the rocks at the fot of the Great Stone Shoot!

Tuesday was a washout but Wednesday turned out fine once more. Showers were threatened so I hedged my bets. Eventually I decided it was going to stay dry and plunged Seamus & Orii straight in at the deep end by bringing them across the narrow arete on the West Ridge of Gillean. It’s one of those places where your eyes naturally get drawn to the yawning void below and is widely considered as more terrifying than ascending the In Pinn.

Seamus concentrating  (or is it praying?) intensely on the West Ridge.

Orii’s smile of genuine happiness; now list the reasons why!

Today is a first for me on XC weather with zero wind predicted. The midgies are definitely on the increase at last but nowhere near the worst I’ve ever seen. Even considering a swim in the marble pools I’d spotted on Friday would have been unthinkable in some summers gone by. We did 2 pools; the first was a narrow deep channel with a marvelous jacuzzi effect and the second had a beautiful deep smooth white clean bowl sweeping out below the fall.

Marble pool in Allt Aigean near Torrin

The jacuzzi channel

Wet but wonderful windows; Friday 12th


Mike’s report.

I’ve been for a play with a friend Ian who I’ve not seen since school in Carlisle. Introducing him to the Cuillin and showing him what I do was a pleasure although he may not have been so impressed if the weather hadn’t laid on such a great “windows in the mist” display. The rain had become pretty intense and we opted for Sgur nan Each rather than Clach Glas once we hit the ridge. 20 minutes of exciting scrambling led to the summit where we paused for lunch and a giggle about the view inside the cloud. As we stood up to leave I pretty much yelped for Ian to turn around as a tiny window of view appeared over his shoulder. For the next 10 minutes we were treated to an ever-changing 360 degree vista that almost made you dizzy.

Ian Brown gets the reward

Looking back along where we had come from

The other noticable effect was the feeling of going from black and white to colour.

The Main Ridge stayed firmly cloaked with the exception of Sgurr na h-Uamha. Eigg, Mallaig, Knoydart, Beinn Sgreithall, Red Cuillin, Plockton, Applecross, Torridon and Raasay all popped out nicely.

At the East Top an eagle swooped past us close on the tail of a very scared (presumably) raven and was floating over Belig just seconds later. We indulged in one of the finest remaining scree runs I know to descend north into Coire Aigean, the Deep corrie.

Scree run into Coire Aigean with Belig behind

The major attraction in this rough desolate glen is the river with its stunning marble pools; I must come back and swim these soon before the first snows arrive.

Marble pools in Allt Aigean

Many thanks to Skye for laying on the display and to Ian for such great company; hope the 3 Chimneys lays on the quality for you tonight.

Quality quote


The Isle of Skye:

Conclusive proof that sometimes God is just showing off…”

Many thanks to The Skye Guide-

Raasay viewed from Luib; photo Jennie Lates

Neist Rock School; 8 August


Mike’s report.

Gill and I had a great day introducing Jack and Alia to outdoor climbing at Neist on Monday. Showers and strong winds would have stopped play almost anywhere else across the island but the driest place in Skye proved its worth again.

Jack on the sheltered nameless Severe just right of Sonamara

Alia tops out on Baywatch (HS 4b) with a stunning view behind

Alia on her first abseil.

On Tuesday I was out with Jack again, this time with parents Heather & Dan. The brief was a classic introduction to scrambling. An ascent of Sgurr an Fheadain involves only 40 minutes of approach to over 500m of continuous scrambling ascent by a route known as “The Spur”.

As skiers they all took to the scree-running descent well. Plans for ‘next time’ discussed on descent were of a step up in level and possibly an ascent of the Cioch.