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November delights.

21/11/14

No sign of winter yet but its been another glorious week of late autumnal weather.

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Mike & I were treated to a feast of light effects, warm sunshine and plenty of dry rock on a round of Coire na Banachdaich.

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Please help Lynsey & Rabbie finish on a high

21/11/14

Lynsey & Rabbie the Dog are raising money for Help for Heros by climbing all of the Scottish Munros. In little over the 2 year mark they now have only 8 left to complete. A phenomenal effort from both but Rabbie does have 4 legs! This was painfully obvious as we descended steeply from the 5 Sisters of Kintail; while our knees screamed pure murder Rabbie chased his stick up and down the slope repeatedly.

 

Lynsey & rabbie1Stick throwing gave us both a welcome excuse for a break on the 1068m descent.

If you want to follow their adventures, including one of the scariest headcam videos of the In Pinn, check out their facebook page- Lynsey & Rabbie H4H Munro Challenge or donate directly here

One final word of warning to anyone descending towardss Sheil Bridge- the old suspension bridge at the east end of Loch Shiel is very unhealthy; I had to use special spiderman powers of praying to get across safely and avoid the 3km alternative detour!

Sheil BridgeOld suspension bridge east of Loch Shiel

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Whale of a day!

10/11/14

On such a perfect windless day it seemed rude not to go and at least take a look for the humpback whale widely reported to be spending vacation time in the sound of Raasay- its got good taste because Her Majesty is also rumoured to love spending time here.

Sound of RaasayLooking down the Sound of Raasay towards the Red Cuillin

Calm seas boded well but the fantasy was flavoured with the usual mix of realism & pessimisim I get when it comes to spotting wildlife. Reports from watchers at Camastianavaig were encouraging though with minke whale apparently also adding entertainment. Leaving the village by the right exit (by the post box) was a good start but a bit of poor route choice at the first junction took us up out of sight of the shore.

Camas startIgnore the gates and go up between the fences to leave the village.

A bit of bouldering entertained us between bog stomping up to the cliff top. Half an hour later and the Sound of Raasay opened up like a jewel in front of us. Only a handful of objects broke the mirrored surface and, while I zoomed in on what turned out to be a pod of kayaks, Ben spotted a whale instantly. Probably a good kilometre away but after surfacing a few times I managed to get the x16 zoom in focus and identify it as minke whale.

Minke finThe small prominent fin makes the Minke easy to identify.

For the next hour a pod of 4 or 5 minke whales laid on a display that only started to wear thin as the warmth in the sun started to wain. As the tour boat reappeared out from Portree a larger ripple also appeared near to the minkes. Right on cue for all of us our humpback began to play.

H12First blow from the humpback

The second act happened fairly close to the boat and,  as it flicked the tail to finish we could hear cheering from the deck! A 10 minute lull in the action saw the boat heading for home and we gradually decided to follow their lead. It may have been a last glance but I think it was a distinctive blow that alerted us that our friend was back and this time heading straight towards us. Video of this is now on the Skye Guides facebook page.

H11The long white side fins clearly visible.

After another brief lull and even a few steps towards home we got our own display less than 200m away below us with a fanfare flick to finish.

H tailSay farewell :-)

A great afternoon!

Monday looks like a good option for anyone keen, later in the week the wind is picking up but dry apart from Wednesday.

You may get views from other points along the sound but, for looking down and being able to appreciate the full size, I can’t recommend Beinn Tianavaig enough.

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Grabbing Gabbro

06/11/14

The 5th of November was a day to remember with clear blue skies and even a frost on the ground. John, Iain & I enjoyed Pinnacle Ridge and the joys of rapid drying gabbro with just the occasional streak of black ice keeping us vigilant.

Pinnacle RidgeShady approach to Pinnacle Ridge

Yet again I was dumfounded to find even the shady northern aspects mostly dry; amazing after so much recent rain.

crux movesJohn & Iain on the crux slab with Marsco prominent behind.

I’ve been scuppered by black ice before so the crampons came along. Adding winter metalwork for the first time always hurts so it was also an opportunity to break myself in gently, especially as its nearly 6 weeks since I was last up on a big hill. Sadly the legs didn’t agree with my definition of “gently”.

steep finishSteep finish

With hardly a breath of wind John even had time to sketch during a relaxed summit lunch while Iain and I took on our quota of vitamin D.

sunning on the summitSummit Sunshine

 With the sun so low in the sky the colours, light and shadows gave us a visual feast all day but my lasting memory will be John extolling the joys of grabbing gabbro; I coudln’t agree more.

Stunning topoutSummit Shadows as we top out

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Invitation to join Skye Winter Meet 2015

03/11/14

SKYE WINTER MEET 2015

Dates- January 24th to  28th and February 3rd-7th

Come and join Skye Guides for an exclusive week of winter mountaineering this January or February. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain.

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Background and information Skye Winter Meet

For the past 5 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet.   With such a strong team the meet has seen high levels of activity including over 20 new winter climbs. It’s not all high-brow climbing however with many parties revelling in the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line.

The enthusiasm of all those attending is infectious so this year we are extending the invitation to paying guests over a 2 week period either side of the staff winter meet. Private guiding will be available as usual but we are also offering places on open courses. This is a chance to meet like-minded individuals and also keep the costs down.

Who can come?

Open to anyone with a good level of hill walking fitness; winter walking is hard work with extra clothing and metal-work to carry. Previous winter experience isn’t neccesary as you will receive training “on the hoof” from your guide. You can come on your own or with a friend. The meet is open to anyone with Cuillin ambitions, from wandering the dramatic corries right through to those keen on some hard-core climbing.

What is on offer?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer our Winter Activities section has 5 different pages of ideas and inspiration. Check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty more. The courses below are our suggestions but please contact us with your ideas.  The mountains always demand an open-minded approach and we’ll use our expertise and local knowledge to direct you to the right activity. Shorter stays are also possible.

Dates- January 24th to  28th and February 3rd-7th

1. Walking and easy mountaineering- 1:4 guiding ratio. 4 days, 5 nights, fully catered. £595 per person.

Based on our winter mountaineering course  the aim each day will be to reach some of the simpler Black Cuillin peaks by easy ridges or snow slopes in the corries. More than one course will run simultaneosly so groups can be “fine-tuned” so that you are with people of similar ability.

2. Climbing- 1:2 guiding ratio. 4 days, 5 nights, fully catered. £695 per person.

If you have ambitions to tackle climbs any harder than grade II guiding on a ratio of 1:2 will be available. Examples of possible routes are given on the Winter Climbing page. You should have previous winter experience and ideally experience of multi-pitch climbing but call us to discuss.

Accommodation

fonduefestThe courses will be based in the Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn close to the foot of the mountains. Skye Guides has exclusive use for a fortnight with shared accommodation available for up to 20 people. A good hearty evening meal will be cooked and waiting for you at the end of each day. Help yourself to the breakfast buffet and make up a packed lunch from a selection of items at the same time. Please ask if you would prefer to upgrade accommodation and we will make arrangements for you.

Evenings are informal; the accommodation has a spacious lounge with TV or there’s always the pub next door. There will be a short illustrated talk on the SMC guidebook “Skye the Cuillin” by author Mike Lates one evening and guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.

If you’re interested at all feel free to contact us through the website or telephone us on 01471 822 116. We’ll then furnish you with booking forms, kit lists and course notes.

Our usual winter guiding services are available from the moment the first flakes arrive, hopefully very soon.

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2014 Seasons Highlights

03/11/14

Blogging had to be dropped down the priorities this year because we were so busy. There’ve been hundreds of outings led by a total of 15 excellent guides who have been a pleasure to work with. Rough estimates of the 2 main outings currently lie at 24 successful Ridge Traverses and over 200 clients up the In Pinn!

Alone on the PinnRegular John Seal solo on the In Pinn.

Many thanks to all of our guests this season who chose to visit Skye and let us show you some of our wonderful island; our job is always made that much easier with such a dramatic and beautiful environment.Thank you for the positive feedback as well which is always passed on but I’m sure you’ll join me in thanking all of the guides that helped make so many dreams come true- Francis, Gillian, Rich, Scott, Guy, Mike T, Jonny, Lou, Ian, Iain, Jamie, Tamsin, Dave & Murdoch.

Gill Rich WedRich & Gillian lead the dancing at Bunchrew House Hotel.

Congratulations to Gillian & Rich on tying the knot (boom boom). It was a great celebration and a few folk suggested quite possibly the biggest ever social gathering of Scottish mountain guides and instructors. Also in June, Scott Kirkhope and his partner Gillian were blessed with the birth of Gracie. A list of climbing congratulations for the guiding team, with their trips to Yosemite, alps and in Antarctica, actually just makes me green with envy. Suffice to say your guides are taking their “research” and “training” very seriously.

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I’ve put up a gallery of the best shots and some to remind me of my own highlights in years to come (its the only way I can remember). Sweetest of them all was the completion of the classic Alpine trilogy with my good friend Bill. Back when he was a youngster (60yo) we’d tackled the Matterhorn, 5 years later his lifelong ambition of the Eiger (65yo) and this year we spent 3 days completing the hardest of the all, a Cuillin Ridge Traverse. Mixed in with some dry rock were bursts of heavy rain on each day. Not many would have completed in the conditions we had, let alone raved about the pleasures of bivvying in soaking sleeping bags. At 75 years old Bill is the oldest person I know of to have succeeded and I can’t wait to see what he fancies for his 80th;-)

Knife edgeBill in action on his Traverse

CAVEAnd in bivvy cave number 2.

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Scottish #Independence. Time to be serious.

29/08/14

I’ve always kept this blog for mountaineering topics but the importance of the upcoming vote justifies breaking the mould. The final catalyst to speak up has been the defection today of Tory MP Douglas Carswell to UKIP.

To me the vote comes down to culture; the social and economic outlook of the people I live with. After 21 years of living north of the border, I like Scotland. I’m sure there are other parts of the UK with an equally good case but Scotland has an opportunity to do something about it.

Political change is a natural, inevitable cycle in human nature and today’s political event, to me, summed up why I want my future to be in the hands of those closer to home. Right-wing tories moving further right to UKIP (BNP_in_disguise?) reflects a political direction as far from my own as imaginable in the UK. In a referendum on whether to stay in the EU a 100%, 4 million person, Scottish vote for staying in Europe wouldn’t scratch the surface of the UK result and yet only one seat was won by UKIP in the whole of Scotland in recent local elections.

Confused?

In order to understand why there is so much conflicting information remember that a huge amount of negotiation is going to happen after the vote before full independence in 2016. This is a referendum on where the cards are going to sit at the table. At this moment both sides are in full political mode with the main game being to undermine the other; that’s what politicians do. I’ve tried to bypass the mire and stick to some logical truths.

Oil & other assetts

We’ve just gone to war in Iraq and Afganistan fundamentally over oil. Eastern Europe is unstable and I can only see the value of safe Scottish oil increasing and every last drop being extracted. Scotland also has a wealth of other assets to sell. I can only comment with any authority on tourism and whisky but both are industries on a major upsurge.

The split

Negotiations at all levels will be intense with both sides wanting the best deal. What I am convinced about is that rUK does not want a 3rd world economy next door so I don’t fear impending poverty. I also know who I would back in a poker game between Salmond & Cameron.

Currency

If the banks & goverment in rUK create problems with Scotland keeping the pound it would be economic vandalism against their own biggest (2nd?) trading nation with stupid repurcusions at home. Darling dropped a clanger by admitting there was nothing to stop it in the last debate. What is interesting is that we would be tied to the success or failure of the pound and rUK. The only conclusion I can make is that this common interest should act as a stabaliser between the countries.

My pocket

Part of how I will measure wealth on my death bed will be the richness of far more than money. I want health, education and damn good facilities at the retirement home! I do expect to pay more tax to get what I want but the levels we pay will be more fairly balanced between rich & poor.

Can it work?

We have an enviable infrastructure in place already and many assetts to generate income. Maintaining this and budgeting for alterations in spending are all part of the negotiations that have yet to take place. Undoubtedly there will be highs and lows in the years to come but the risks are no greater than staying put in the UK and the potential benefits are far greater.

Military

I’ve long thought that “letting our boys join the British Army” is one of the concessions Salmond may make. Too simplistic possibly but fundamentally I still see there being Scottish soldiers, sailors & airforce personnel in Scotland and overseas. Trident could be a huge problem to sort out and 5.5 years (currently proposed schedule) may well turn out to be 20 but it is far less likely that a new era of nuclear weapons will end up in Scotland and even less likley to be out of the Scottish budget.

Politics

So far the best thing I’ve witnessed is that the referendum has created conversation and debate.  For over 2 years visitors have been shaken by the intensity of discussion going on in all circles of Scottish life. People young and old are interested in politics again. Modern life had become increasingly antisocial with opinions being shaped & formed by whatever the powers decided to release to our mobiles and laptops; Big brother’s perfect scenario. Whatever Scots vote for they will have chosen based on talking with those around them at least as much as what they have heard through the media. That interest in politics won’t subside quickly and the future of Scottish politics is bright.

South of the Border

The implications for rUK are big and I’m sure there will be political activity sparked as a result. I hope the result will be a similar rise in interest and political direction, inspired by a Scottish example that things can change. Talk of passports and borders is the worst spin from the No camp of the whole campaign. Its not just for currency reasons that Scotland will still retain a major interest in getting on well with its neighbours.

So Vote

We hear about fighting for independence every day in the news but peacefully negotiated independence from a sovereign state is a privelege that incredibly few people in this world will ever get. You only get one life, seize your chance to do something positive about it. Bring the decisions made closer to home, to the people around you. Most importantly make sure you get out and vote but, on a personal note, please vote Yes.

 

#indy

 

 

 

 

 

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Childsplay on the Pinn and raising awareness of a very good cause.

28/08/14

With so much work going on this summer regulars will have noticed that blogging has dropped in the priorities. One important one I should have done at the time was with the Young family who, in addition to having fun, are training daughter Nina for an ambitious plan to cross Antarctica when she is 18. She hopes to raise a huge amount of money for the Teapot Trust. Details are explained in a letter from dad John below.  Team Young

Much fun & many good lessons were learnt by the whole family over a couple of days, finishing with a full team ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Well done to John, Laura, Nina and Isla and every bit of luck with the Teapot Trust.

The Teapot Trust provides essential art therapy for chronically ill children in Scotland and is coming to London and Northern Ireland. The teapot Trust was set up by Laura and I, after our daughter Verity died at 8 years of age, to provide the treatment that was unavailable to Verity. In 2013 the Teapot Trust helped 2682 children funded entirely by donations.
Please visit the website at www.teapot-trust.org and help the great work of the Teapot trust by sponsoring us at
Many thanks, John
childsplay Helping hand Tips1

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Cioch West 15th July

15/07/14

Simon saw the Cioch on Coast last year and wanted a bit of that action. Closer investigation revealed a serious sense of adventure so I suggested some fast-tracking into a rock climbing career; “if Cioch West doesn’t float your boat nothing will!”

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Classic Misty Isle weather just now and the Cioch loomed out above our heads just to add to Simon’s “experience”.

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Yesterday’s heavy rain left some damp streaks but nothing to worry us and it was good to see Simon’s brain grasp all of the technicalities needed to follow without getting tangled or stuck :-)

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Out onto Arrow Route was a no-brainer with 200 foot of beautiful dry slab.

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The obligatory Sean Connery-style sword fight (new swords this week, who does take them away?)out on the Cioch rounded off the ascent before my favoured descent down Eastern Gully.

P1000756 (600x800)Simon floating downhill on his Cioch experience

 

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Let the good times rock….. new climb, Kilt & Girdle Traverse

14/07/14

A great few days of rock climbing recently with my good friend Lucy back again to add any keenness I may be lacking!

Thursday started with a sunny walk up into Coire Lagan with the students of Landmark College.

P1040067 (800x600) (2)Coire Lagan

After cooling the feet back in Loch Brittle we set back off up and one of the hottest walk-ins that I can ever remember. The target was a direct finish to Techno Snob- that Malcy & I climbed in 2012.

LlINED HEART BUTTRESS (800x600)Heart Buttress

All the effort was worthwhile as we were rewarded with an evening of climbing on glorious clean hot rock. The Oldest Raver on Skye finish was even good enough to be considerably easier (E1 5b) than the parent route with the crux being the stiff rockover move off the ground. A word of warning to aspirants is that the best gear on this move is very high, too high for me, so Lucy stood on my shoulders to place it!

P1040080 (800x600)Oldest Raver???

On Friday three Mikes and a Lucy headed to Kilt rock and a race to climb as much as possible before the rain arrived. Clandestine (VS) and Secret Service (HVS) were topped off with ascents of the uber classic Grey Panther. With a full ropelength of superb climbing on  a plumb vertical fault this is a strong contender for the best E1 in the UK.

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Saturday was as wet as predicted but Sunday was forecast as wall to wall sunshine. The 2 Mikes had been reading up on the Girdle Traverse of Sron na Ciche in the guidebook and Lucy and I agreed it would make a great team climb. 3 years ago we’d taken 5 hours in perfect conditions but JEB Wright, a guide back in the 1920′s recorded climbing it with parties of 4, 5 and 6 in all sorts of conditions and never in more than 6 hours.

P1040191 (800x600)Starting out in the mist

The clear tops sank back into the mist as we arrived and a cold wind nipped at the fingers as we geared up. 2nd time around and with a quality team we made good progress to the Serpentine Chimney. Lucy & I felt we had cheated last time by abseiling the downclimbs but our attempt to mirror them failed at the first hurdle with a long damp move at the foot of the climb.

P1040197 (800x600)Eastern Gully delicate pitch

Things warmed up after Eastern Gully as we sped past a continuous series of old classic routes; the Cioch, down to the Terrace and Doom Walls, another abseil, over the Hexagon Block and across Amphitheatre Arete. Gaining entry to Trap Face Route once again proved awkward and needed a few runners to keep us safe before following the trap right out to overlook Western Gully and some welcome sunshine and lunch.

P1040226 (600x800)In the Trap Dyke

We’d made it in under 4 hours this time and Mr JEB Wright now seems a little less superhuman. His first effort took only 2.5 hours though so we’ve a way to go to still!

P1040233 (800x576)My first ever Cuillin fawn

 

 

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