Archive for April, 2013

Storms & sunshine at Elgol, 28th April


With a Ridge Traverse high on Mark’s ambitions I decided a day of intense training at Elgol was in order after 2 hard days in the snow.

First was an hour of abseiling until Mark was completely happy doing everything himself.











Next was some intense footwork on the easy slab which took Mark from a rock hugger to a smiling rock gymnast in a matter of minutes. We had to dive for cover as a heavy shower passed over us but the rocks were dry enough to climb minutes later.

After lunch we crossed the beach to the main cliff. The noise of crashing waves reverberated under the huge rooves and created a seriously intimidating feel as we perched on our tiny ledge. As we covered the important sequence of what was going to happen I watched the next shower storm across the Minch towards us but a tiny cave at the foot of Fertility Right kept us dry.

Climbing a Severe standard climb on damp rock, rucksack on back and in approach shoes gave a realistic insight into what Mark is going to find on the TD Gap & Naismith’s Route when he returns with some fine sunny weather for a Traverse:-)

Munros update-Gillean, Mhadaidh & Am Basteir. 25-27April



didn’t comment on conditions yet so here goes-
Old snow pack started to go off on Thursday but top 100m of An Dorus rock hard on Fri. Softening again Saturday. Fresh building up on the old snow but reasonably well bonded.
Fresh snow each day added interest to the ridges; quite good quantities actually made far more pleasant than expected with mostly good footings rather than squealing on rocks.
Overall you do need crampons for any of the narrower sections of Ridge for sure. Easier peaks & slopes may be okay just now but beware days following clear sky nights.
Full Traverse looking very improbable for a wee while yet…

Brief selection of recent pics; I’ll label when less busy but you’ll get the idea!

Great snow fun this week; Ann-Marie’s 60th birthday on Gillean, 20 years since we first met, aghhh.

Then Preston & Mark learning to love their crampons & axe over 2 seperate days.

Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh; 24th April


Fresh snow overnight left the hills beautiful today as the clouds cleared and sun shone.


Stuart did superbly on his first outing in crampons with an ascent of the Eag Dubh gully.


Grade I but very exciting- at one point the snow had formed into a narrow (18″) crest that we had to tip-toe up!


The ridge above to the summit of Ghreadaidh was full value excitement but with enough exposed rocks for anchors to keep us secure.


We watched Scott, Von & Graham climb partway up the In Pinn before backing off because of some gusty winds.


Descent was equally challenging but the pressure eased off once we were about 100m below An Dorus with a great glissade back to the corrie floor.


Cuillin Conditions update 23rd April. Bring crampons!


Sgurr MhicCoinnich, Sgurr Thearlaich and the Great Stone Shoot

UPDATE More up to date photos have been added  at the foot of the page from 23 April.

As the first May bank holiday approaches rapidly snow fields in the Cuillin aren’t melting very fast at all; in fact there is more snow forecast over the weekend ahead. The heavy winter has left the old snow very consolidated; nearly a week of warm wet westerlies only removed a small percentage of this with north facing snow slopes appearing almost untouched. Most of the photos here were taken last Friday 19th April. Sue, Jane and I enjoyed beautiful weather and an ascent of Sgurr na  Banachdaich.

Sgurr Thormaid and Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh in detail


Crampons will be needed for almost all of the Cuillin Munros with the exception of Sgurr na Banachdaich, Bla bheinn and Sgurr nan Eag. The In Pinn may be possible without crampons if the south facing slab to the foot of the route washes down & gets some sun over the next few days. Approach by the West Ridge of Sgurr Dearg has small snow patches but is quite well stepped.


Classic routes such as the Traverse, Pinnacle Ridge, Coire Lagan will be very serious undertakings. Linking any peaks still involves a choice of adhering rigidly to the crest or scarily traversing steep snow that is sitting on the normal ledge systems; both slow work compared to ideal summer conditions. Clach Glas is almost clear of snow but the ascent to Blaven is definitely still axe & crampon terrain. Descent from the Putting Green is possible but some caution still needed in the first few hundred feet. Kings Chimney will be way preferable to Collies Ledge for a while to come. More abseils will be required than normal so extra tat should be carried. Quite a few parties have been using snow bollards for anchors too.


We are choosing our objectives as carefully as possible to avoid long snowfield descents; going up snow slopes is a lot safer than going down! Particularly daunting are the Great Stone Shoot, Coire a’ Bhasteir, Coire na Banachdaich and An Dorus. See the close-up shot of Great Stone Shoot above. Be prepared to turn in and front point down for some quite long distances with ice axe likely to be in “dagger” position.


South facing crags were incredibly dry and snow free until the latest rain arrived. They are likely to dry rapidly again luckily, just be careful on descents. The Cioch is clear but Eastern Gully has still got some big snow patches in and may affect choice of descent. There’s always the suntraps at the coast if the hills are too cold; guidebooks for Cuillin or Seacliffs can be ordered through this website if you need them.


Pinnacle Ridge

Am Basteir

Coire a Bhasteir

Amazing Ice- The Smear 12th April 2013


We managed a perfect finish to a brilliant long winter on Friday by climbing The Smear, the longest steep icicle in the Cuillin and probably only the 2nd ascent ever.

The ice was utterly perfect from bottom to top but still needed a fantastic explosion of effort from Andy to lead the very steep start.







The climb was originally given grade V when V was the highest Scottish grade but we both agreed that it warranted grade VI by modern standards.

Two 45m pitches seemed to pass almost too quickly but the grins said it all for the rest of the day.Smiles of success

Things weren’t all glorious; a load of fresh overnight snow was sloofing off regularly from left right & centre. The “walk off” down the Upper Rake involved descending dangerous quantities of deep fresh snow lying on a very steeply banked terrace and probably more complex rope-work than the climb itself!










I first went to the foot of The Smear in 1994 but I’ve never seen it anywhere near climbable until this last week. Andy is sailing back to Australia this summer so such a notable bit of Scottish ice is a great Swansong. Looking forward to borrowing his tools & screws for the next few winters:)

The Smear was first climbed by Jim Duff & Doug Scott back in 1979.

Doug Scott below The Smear in 1979

To my knowledge the route hasn’t received a second ascent since; zooming in on Ginger Cain’s photo it looks like Doug Scott had been on the Red Bull to get up the first 10m as the icicle fringe doesn’t even appear to be touching down.

Icicle Factory (on the left) looked close but not complete in the lower sections


Cracking couple of days. 1st & 2nd April


The fine weather continues and plenty of Easter holiday folk out enjoying it. On April Fools day Andy & I headed up Coir’ a’ Bhasteir and took our time soaking up the views as we popped out to the Sgurr and up to Bruach na Frithe. Crowds of folk on their way up Fionn Choire including locals Mark & Ally skitouring! Is Mark the first person to have skied Bruach na Frithe? (I know it has been boarded)

Today we found some snow free scrambling up the West Ridge of Sgumain today. Highly recommended just now if you want some “full value” situations withouot crampons until the traverse off.