Archive for January, 2015

Skye Winter Climbing Festival- off to a good start.


There’s been some great Cuillin adventures already despite the roller-coaster temperatures.

Climbing highlight was day 1 when Michael Barnard and Tim Oates caught the last day of big ice. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow gave a big 50m pitch of grade IV,4 water ice in Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda. The name was a far too accurate prediction with almost all decent ice on the hill destroyed by Sunday’s warm wet pulse. They also climbed a good mixed route on Alasdair, possibly Central route which gave 3 pitches at V,6.

Here today, gone tomorrow

Meanwhile the rest of the team had a more leisurely intro & exploration in Coir’ a’ Ghreadaidh.



We climbed a 50m pitch of grade III ice and set up ropes for everyone who wanted to have a go.


We all retired to the bunkhouse for haggis neaps & tatties and a quiet drink & early night 😉

Monday dawned cold & clear again and the 5 of us that had stayed on all headed into Coire na Banachdaich. The missing ice was a blow but The White Line gave the best part of 1000ft of great fun snow stomping.


No need for crampons with such soft snow but the excitement was created by trying to “act like a feather” crossing the more hollow sections of old snow.


Rory easily won the competition for action when he dropped through a hole right in front of Craig and reappeared through a hole at his feet!


Annmarie has been off the hill for 2 years with surgery on her feet but you’d never have guessed; as the pics show she was like the proverbial pig in poo J

Things took a more serious turn once we reached the Ridge.



A wee blizzard made putting crampons on a real test but we were very glad of them for the next 2 hours. A thin cover of old snow & iced rocks led easily to the summit of Dearg and a cracking view of the In Pinn.


The wind was ripping into us by now and the descent of the West Ridge was very testing.


This theme is likely to remain over the coming week and choosing a good descent route in advance is going to be crucial. We made it down to the path just as darkness engulfed us but the crescent moon gave just enough light to allow us to save the batteries for a more serious occasion.


There’s very little but cold, wind, snow etc forecast for the coming week so looking forward to plenty more adventures. There’s a few spaces available still this weekend then plenty more room for the week after. Pack your goggles & Dachstein mitts!


Sublime to the rediculous, 21st Jan


After Charlie & Tom’s idylic introduction to ice on Monday the Scottish weather showed them its real teeth today. After a reasonable start to the day an impressive blizzard kicked in at lunch and tested many things over the next couple of hours.

Trawling for ice

A good 6″ or more of fresh snow fell on us as we climbed the 2 pitch grade IV Mike The Bhasteird. There was good ice there somewhere but even sweeping feet of snow off sometimes left nothing positive for the axes. Luckily the feet behaved and good axe placements arrived just in the right places above the steepenings.


Despite hotaches & consistent powder neck syndrome we avoided the temptation to run away after pitch 1 but adding another pitch above was deemed uneccesary.

Belay below

The visibility was so poor I had to use a crag photo to navigate down despite it being a 30m wide terrace!


Plenty of snow now for a good while to come; excellent.

Clear & crisp in Colditz, 19th January


Between the intense storms this winter we’ve been dealt some of the most stunning clear days I’ve experienced. The entire northern Highlands were snow-clad and cloud free for the whole morning before a weak front sent in an awesome display of special effects. Enjoy a selection in the gallery below.

P1040957 (800x600)First wisps of cloud on the weak front approaching abive South Buttress

I was back on Bla Bheinn again today with Escape from Colditz the aim as an ideal introduction to ice climbing for Charlie & Tom.

P1040967 (600x800)Waiting to escape from Colditz

Also along was dad Michael, a time-served climber still using his 1970’s kit but he more than made up for being “burnt by the kids” on the walk in. I coaxed him off his wooden tools and onto shiny curved shaft Piranhas; it’s under a decade since they were last made! He directed complex operations on the belay and coached technique to the others superbly, especially the ancient art of back &  footing.

P1040978 (600x800)

The route was good and icy and plenty climbable although the ice was never quite good enough to justify placing an ice-screw.  The route involves a wide variety of techniques so Charlie & Tom had a rapid learnig curve that they dealt with in a way that must have made their old man proud.

P1040998 (600x800)

As they ran off downhill on springy knees Michael & I exchanged climbing tales and marvelled at the sheer beauty of our world.

P1050009 (800x600)


Updates; #skyewinterfest and conditions, Mid-January


Winter feels well untruly underway today with snow on the roads at sea-level and more blizzrds forecast.

Jan 14th

Next week looks far more settled and cold right through to the start of the winter festival. Fingers crossed for more of the same.

Attendance is looking good too with numbers already booked ranging from half a dozen some nights to over 16 through the central weekend. There are 24 beds available in total each night. Plenty more climbers are weather-watching and planning to come if things are half-decent. If you fit this bracket please give me a heads up unless you have your own van to sleep in. The pub kitchens are having some work done so food won’t be available. If you are local or making own sleeping arrangements you can join us at the bunkhouse for the communal evening meal but we will need notice. Everyone needs to bring their own brekky & lunch.

Old Inn, Carbost, sits among beautiful scenery – Bild von Carbost ...

Loch Harport Oysters on sale in the village but are they good climbing food?

The meet will spill over into the pub next door (obviously just for space reasons not alcohol:-) and there will be illustrated talks or climbing videos early evening most days. Resident staff Farquhar & Seamus are preetty handy on the tunes but any musicians are welcome to join in with the entertainment. All Content © 2014 - The Old Inn, Carbost, Skye.

Bla Bheinn Bumsliding. 28th & 29th December 2014


There were some excellent days of weather over the festive period including Christmas day.


My own highlight was on Sunday 28th when Icky & I indulged in a walk up Bla Bheinn.


We spent over an hour of taking in the views on top and finished with a fantastic bumslide descent of the Great Gully that splits the north and south tops. Deep powder gave us a safe ride down half of the vertical height in just a couple of minutes. See the video here-BUMSLIDE; doesn’t get much more fun than this!

 NB. Bumsliding can be potentially dangerous; in 20 years this was only the 2nd time on this gully that conditions have been suitable to take this calculated choice.DSC07333

Inspired by the video footage 9 year old Innes climbed his first winter mountain the next day. An even faster descent more than compensated us for all the hard work and no views and he’s desperate for the next opportunity to come along. Snowballs compulsary!