Archive for January, 2014

Wild & wonderful on Banachdaich, 27 January.


Exposure beneath central top


Traversing benath the Central top of Banachdaich.

A wild and stormy start to the day was supposed to clear by 10am but nobody told the Cuillin weather gods. However, despite the appalling weather, snow conditions underfoot were very good. The fresh snow still had a lot of damp in it and should harden readily if we can get a freeze before the next thaw. I’d even go so far as to suggest a Winter Traverse might be possible.

Coated crestNearing 3rd top of Banachdaich

Its the first time that I’ve ever had my group shelter out “in anger”; providing shelter to add extra layers and eat a good quantity before pushing on to the top. We would only have managed a quick bite in that weather otherwise. It was a no brainer to whip it out again when we reached the top and needed to put the crampons and harnesses on. Although we carry them every day its only in extremis that this piece of kit really proves its worth.

From the summit we traversed the ridge southward to Bealach na Banachdaich. Fresh snow had only drifted up to about a foot or so deep and I knew it was lying mainly straight onto rock (this end of the crest was virtually snow-free by Tuesday last week) so had very few worries about it breaking away.Snowy descent

With little sign of improvement we decided against ascending to look at the Pinn and fought our way down into the stinging hailstones. Again we were lucky with underfoot conditions, ditched crampons early and slid our way down deep banks of fluffy white-stuff:-)

Happy chappies

3rd Pinnacle of Gillean, 25 January


Conditions on Pinnacle Ridge yesterday were absolutely excellent but very serious at the same time. We put crampons on at the foot of 1st/2nd Gully and had great neve from then onwards.

IMG_4945 (800x600)Topping out of 1st / 2nd Gully

Sadly squeezing any routes in between the storms this month is a frantic business. Our attempt on Pinnacle Ridge was cut short but climbing the 3rd Pinnacle on its own felt like a a very full-on adventure.

A broad streak of thick snow ran straight to the top of the 3rd Pinnacle and we reached it in 2 50m pitches.

P1130080 (600x800)2 long pitches took us up the continuos line of snow from left to the very top.


The abseil from the top nearly reached the col below but not quite so a hanging belay had to be excavated.

P1130086 (600x800)Hanging belay on 3rd Pinnacle

The traverse out onto Knight’s Peak is always exposed and knarly with a swing into the void for both leaders and seconds a distinct possiblity.

Spacewalking (800x600)Spacewalking out onto the 4th Pinnacle

With time against us and softer snow on the changed aspect we decided to run away with an abseil down to the east. A particularly black cloud engulfed us soon after, lashed us with hail that created a beautiful waterfall effect as they slooshed down the steep faces above.

Waterfalls of hailstones2 (600x800)Waterfalls of hailstones

As it was we finished in the dark so twas a sound decision. Hopefully back for the full ascent tomorrow if these winds calm down!



Winter Climbing Meet 2014 photos and links.


16 of us met in the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut last weekend for the annual Skye winter meet. The weather gods were gathering payback from us for such stonking conditions in 2013 but enthusiasm got everyone out still to build up an appetite for food and beers.P1020625 (600x800)Romain gives instructions on how to fondue and raclette- Over 5kg of cheese was consumed!

Friday was excellent and all 7  of the early arrivers headed to the snowy north end. Dave and John climbed North-west Face Route (II) on Gillean, Romain and Steve the NW Ridge of Bruach na Frithe

P1120970 (600x800)

while Ian, Dave and I found some ice on Running on Numpty (II) on the flank of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.

P1120935 (800x600)

Dave and Ian after climbing Running on Numpty

Dave went back to Bruach na Frithe with Nicola the next day and won again, the only team to brave the showers and they won with a 360 panorama from the top. Link to dave Bowdlers shots-

Other activities included walks out to Macleod’s Maidens &  Glamaig. Some great dry-tooling was found just along from the beach and further out towards Ruabh Dunain and Lucy Janni and I climbed onto the Cioch for a sword fight.P1020641 (800x600)Lucy leading Slab Corner up to the Cioch

Romain’s videos-

Romain’s photos-

Thanks to everyone for showing their support, fine effort all around.

Great conditions for Eag Dubh and the Ridge crest


Temperatures dropped overnight and left us a good thicknes of snow from about 650m today. I did worry about avalanches but snow pits showed a very old layer with 2 or 3 fresher layers resonably well bonded above.

Lined Eag Dubh AnDorus

The clouds clung thinly to the Ridge almsot all day but parted frequently enough to let us appreciate the grandeur of our surroundings.

do you want to see my puppies

Hard graft  Romp to the top Rooftop finale

Recording new routes. 8 Jan


Richard Hines of St Andrews Uni MC saw reports of our new years day route on and contacted Simon Richardson to say his team had climbed the same gully back in 2012. This isn’t a surprise given how accessible and obvious the line is and doesn’t remove any of the enjoyment Jim and I had climbing it.

Picture from the actual first ascent in January 2012.

The incident highlights 2 sides of the guide-book writer’s job.

Non-recording of routes is something I was, and many others are, guilty of. Some people choose deliberately not to record but the majority, like St AUMC, just assume that such obvious lines have been climbed before. This may well be the case but recording your ascent (unless you know it has been climbed before) gives a description and hopefully inspiration to others in the future. Particularly useful for winter routes where conditions can vary enormously. If it has been recorded before it should come out in the process of writing and editing the next guidebook.

Digital photography and websites have the potential to make the guidebook writer’s job far easier. This is a perfect example where Richard recognised the gully from my photo and I can confirm this from his shot (above). All cleared up in a week. Trying to decipher descriptions of routes climbed in the past involved analysing descriptions, interpreting scribbled diagrams and a fair amount of intuition/guesswork.  The lesson and request is PLEASE do take a picture of where your climb is located. Any more detailed photos may also be useful.

Congratulations to StAUMC; any thoughts on a name?

A Torridonian Treat; 4th January 2014


Jim, Merrissa and I ended the week on a high with an ascent of Liathach over on the mainland. On Friday night we braved wild weather just to drive the 70 miles and then a 10 minute walk to the Ling Hut in the dark and driving rain. Next morning little seemed to have changed by 8am but the forecast came right just before 9.

Archive photo of the SMC Ling hut with Liathach behind; our route gained the crest at the right edge and traversed to the obvious high point called Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m)

The ascent is quite possibly the fiercest anywhere in the UK, rising from 30m above sea-level to 833m in little over a kilometre.We put crampons on at about 700m and it was obvious our descent was going to be concentrated.

our route behind us

Along the crest the snow was immaculate with just a small amount of give in a uniform covering.

Sun over Maol Carn Dearg

Roped together we wandered for the next hour in an almost dream-like manner with amazing light on the views all around.


Western Ridge of LiathachFrom the summit the ridge still stretched away into the distance but a lack of time and light meant we reluctantly had to turn heel and begin our descent.Luckily a direct slope back into Coire Liath Mhor gave a good fast start to this stage. A lip of rock below made us do a short abseil before traversing back towards our original path.

I realised it had been over 10 years since my last pilgramage to Torridon; this left me with mixed feelings of embarressment but mainly joy at rediscovering the hills I used to know so well. Liathach is 2nd only to Ben Nevis for mainland mountains I have climbed on. It won’t be long before I’m back again.

Good to be back

New year and a new route. 1st Jan 2014


See post on 8 Jan for update on this.

New year’s day was the only one with easterly winds forecast so Jim and I decided to head for a section of the Ridge and hopefully a view of the Pinn.

GGully (594x800)

Avoiding the wind in Coire na Banachdaich a nice wee gully leading directly up winked at me. I convinced myself (and Jim) it would be a brief bit of added excitement and our limited kit would suffice with a bit of improvisation. I was right but only just-

Whillans would have been proud of my pebble-wedging that made prussic loops into runners before the final vertical wall of powder. Our 480cm sling was used and recycled for all 3 belays and Jim only had to do one of the cruxes just on gloves & feet to reach the axes dangling above ;-).

Bridged at the crux (597x800)Jim bridged wide on the crux

Ignoring all the improvisation the climbing was excellent with a mix of hooks, bridging and ice placements. The final 10m section will always be steep and a bit bold. Overall I’d say 100m of one star grade IV,5 with no name yet.

Above we found superb neve running right to the top of Sgurr Dearg. The Pinn looked fearsome and the views were magnificent throughout all 360 degrees.

Iced Pinn (597x800)The top of the West Ridge gave a final 20 mins of concentrated footwork then a gentle stroll back down before nightfall. It is really amazing to already have over an extra hour of evening light to play with already compared to pre-xmas outings.

Gillean (800x592)2 Climbers on Sgurr nan Gillean way to the north of us.



Hogmanay fun; 31st December


Jim & I were on the verge of aborting today because of the rain and winds. Returning to base the red Cuillin peaks all around were suddenly clear and highly attractive with a warm cuppa in hand!

2 minutes back down the road we set off past the waterfall with the long snowfields on the North Face of Garbh-bheinn. These turned out to be very fine with crampons needed pretty much from the first patches of snow at 500m. 1000ft and an hour later we’d explored some exciting buttress terrain as well as the easy gully features to reach the summit.

Descending with N face below JimLooking down on the north face of Garbh-bheinn as we descended

Windows soon appeared through the mist as we descended. Golden light reflected off the sea at Camasunary. Gradually views into the main Cuillin appeared with mists being turned pink by the setting sun behind.