Archive for December, 2013

Looking good on the Ridge, 29th December


Beautiful calm day today for some Cuillin exploration.

Early clouds dispersed to leave us magnificent views up to the Coire Lagan peaks.P1120706 (800x600)

Sgurr Mhiccoinnich

The kids all enjoyed the boulders while waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

I love the light at this time of year with the subtle hues of dawn pretty much blending in with the sunset.

P1120713 (800x600)Rum & Eigg silouetted in the mid-winter sun

Climbers will be interested in the conditions and potential fun just now; below is my report for UKClimbing. I’ve put a zoomed picture of the top of Sgurr Dearg and the In Pinn immediately below.

“The heavy snows have been stripped out right up to 700m but, above this, serious quantities are still plastering all rocks. With temperatures up to 7 degrees or so yesterday it is very likely to have thawed to the tops and is now solidifying nicely.
Worth an attempt on a Traverse if we can get a settled period of weather but I can’t spot that window myself.
Not much ice visible and all but the steepest mixed lines likely to be swamped. Not sure it is cold enough for the plastered snow to be much use.”

P1120723 (800x600)West flank of Dearg summit plastered in deep snow; I would expect lots of rock showing through after a thaw normally.


Bruach na Frithe Blizzards, 19th December


Ben has been dealt more than his fair share of weather for his course but enthusiasm and attitude has given us a couple of excellent days.

Braes to Raasay

Yesterday we avoided the wind down on the beach at the Braes with a refresher session on gear placements and retrieving abseil ropes. We finished with a great bit of fun dry-tooling up a greasy steep corner.Dry tooling braes With nearly zero friction for the feet it was a fight to the top but great lesson (for both of us!) in trusting thin placements.

This morning winds dropped to gale force instead of storm force so we headed past the Fairy Pools toward the Spur of Sgurr an Fheadian. It looked very dry and unlikely we would need crampons so we gambled instead on heading higher, hoping that the wind gods would be kind.

A tail-wind up the Tairnilear stone shoot was most welcome.

Reaching TairnilearA good coating of ice covered almost every rock for the final 100m of ascent and crampons were a definite good move.

The view


Peace from the wind over the crest of the Ridge was made even better by the subtle colours out towards Blaven and beyond.

Snow started falling as we set off and everything turned white very soon after but the wind was steady more than gusting and we made good progress, reaching the top in about 2 hours.Maelstrom

Midst of the heavy snow shower

The descent down Fionn Choire was another matter as we were battered from every direction, slapped by walls of spindrift and pelted by hail that felt more like lead shot; strangely no pics;-)

Our routeOur route went from the V-notch leftward to Bruach na Frithe.

Enjoy the gallery-

Conditions update & forecast at 17th December.

glamaig 17 12 13Sunlit smattering on Glamaig on Monday (16th) morning
Just a quick update to say that its been cool for 48 hours with a thin covering reaching down to about 600m. It seems unlikely this lot will survive the wet thaw due tomorrow but continued gales and cold pulsing in again on Thursday. Not ideal in the short term but general wind-chill and cold snaps forecast over Xmas should hopefully see Santa leaving us a good base for the rest of the season.
Here’s MWIS outlook this morning- “Frequent severe gales and intermittent storm force winds (or stronger) on the mountains well into and perhaps throughout the Christmas period. Precipitation will be considerable on western mountains, with a series of freeze-thaw cycles on all mountain areas. Cold conditions (when snow will lie on lower slopes) will be prevalent across Scotland, less so elsewhere.”
Plenty of time for “altitude training” 😉

Harvey’s Cuillin map updates 2014.


Anyone unfamiliar with the Harvey SKYE THE CUILLIN map should treat themselves to a copy this xmas. The 1:25,000 scale map covers a huge area from Broadford, up to Sligachan, Carbost, Glen Brittle and right across to Elgol.  But it is the 1:12,500 enlargement of the Main Ridge makes it the only map of any real use to climbers and walkers wanting to explore the Ridge.

Skye: The Cuillin

It’s been an enjoyable task this week helping Peter Child at Harvey Maps with updates for the reprint in January. The project has been ongoing for quite a few years now; they reprint just about annually so map corrections can be easily added.


This year I suggested that some of the larger trails higher in the Cuillin could justify being added becuase they are comparatively easy to follow in good visibility. Pete was then able to double-check the ideas with aerial shots and produce an accurate end result that should aid a huge number of visitors.

Skye_cuillin_layout_2013_back copySgurr na Banachdaich is well recognised as the easiest Cuillin Munro to attain and the route has become well enough pronounced on the ground to mark it nearly to the summit.

Cliff numbering correlation with the SMC Guidebook

Correlating the SMC “SKYE THE CUILLIN” guidebook with the “SKYE THE CUILLIN” map has been the other major task.

Northern-Cuillin-Route-TopoPhotodiagram of the northern Cuillin seen from Sligachan; crags in red circles.

Skye_cuillin_layout_2013_back copyThe 1:12,500 enlargement orientated for viewing the northern Cuillin from Sligachan; crag numbers in red.

There are a total of 98 different crags from the book now all marked as close to the start of the climbing as possible. Previous editions of the map have, since 2004, had 55 crags marked; don’t worry these are all in the right place and match the map index. Fifty-five was the number of crags I thought the Cuillin had at the early stages of writing the guidebook. It was another 7 years before we went to print but the end result, particularly with these latest Harveys updates, means that climbers have a hugely increased chance of identifying and navigating to the cliffs they want to climb.

Signed copies of the Cuillin Guidebook can still be bought direct from us if you want another Christmas present!


Skye Trail

The most noticeable change on the 1:25,000 side is the addition of a section of The Skye Trail. Harveys also sell a map specific to the Skye Trail.

Skye Trail 2 variations are marked  in the Cuillin section for the more adventurous including a traverse of Bla Bheinn down to Camasunary and a detour into Coruisk via the Bad Step.

New materials

The 2014 map will also be the first made of the new generation of tough polyethylene that is both more waterproof but also far more resistant to tearing. Great news for all, including our guides who carry their valuable copies every day through all sorts of weather.

Finally I’d recommend browsing the Harvey maps website for a fascinating insight into how modern, high quality mapping is being done. Enjoy:-)

First Ice. Friday 6th December


Ally and I headed up into Coire Lagan today with some mixed climbing in mind but found the crag on thearlaich far too dry. We headed back to the iceflows beside the path on the outflow from the lochan.


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Ice is always a worrying medium to climb, particularly at the start of the season, so it was good to “break the duck”. Faith in the theory saw axes not ripping and crampons not slipping but forearms far too pumped; must relax more when climbing but, more importantly, start some pull-ups!

Cheeky conditions on Clach Glas



Chris and I snatched a Clach Glas crossing between the tropical rains of Tuesday and northern gales of Thursday but not without a fight. A mix of snow and dry rock allowed us to reach the summit without crampons but they were obligatory on the sketchy descent.P1120239 (800x600)

Sheltered sunny approach

The pics are a pretty true reflection of the weather, we only got hit by one heavy snow shower on the summit, but don’t do the wind any justice. Unpredictable gusts added spice and watering eyes knocked the concentration; we were certainly glad to be roped the whole way!P1120242 (800x600)

Ridge view

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Down-climb early on

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Summit view north

P1120252 (800x600)Summit view south

We happily dropped out of the maelstrom by the screes below the Putting Green and reached the car before darkness and the real storm arrived.