The snow this week came thick and fast and with no strong winds behind it, resulting in a beautiful uniform layer.
Yesterday this provided a wonderful cushion with no real need for crampons as we headed up the classic NW Ridge of Bruach na Frithe.
Very different from this time last year where sheets of hard snow gave very serious conditions.
Mara’s summit handstand was photobombed by Helen from Cioch Direct and we all enjoyed teasing glimses of the Ridge to the south as clouds rolled in and out.
Surprisingly a line of fresh prints led off ahead of us as we descended the South Ridge, others enjoying the superb conditions.
A rope kept us safe on the few steeper steps before a descent from Tairnilear and out past the Fairy Pools with some obligatory litter picking.
With such superb conditions and an even better forecast it was time to up the fun levels for today and Clach Glas seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
Phil joined me on the guiding today as Clair and Trevor started their Ridges and Routes course based at Skye Basecamp.
Far colder overnight had cemented the snow even better to the rocks. This meant crampons were compulsory but the combo gave incredibly positive footings.
My guess is that anyone on the Ridge today will have made superb progress.
The most technical section onto the Final Tower and descending the Imposter were pretty full-on, definitely grade IV climbing and a long abseil to get off the summit.
The bitter wind hit us on this side and a free facial scrub was dished out every time someone moved much in front of you!
All in all a very full-on day in some of the best conditions I’ve ever had on Clach Glas.
This year’s festival has started in great style.
Leaving Skye Basecamp this morning; snow arrived right on cue and right to sea-level.
It soon became too thin so I took to the blunt rib on the left, and just in time! The heavens opened and I watched a waterfall of snow pummel down the groove on my right. Some really good moves (with enough gear to be fun) led to the ledge at 40m and Pok followed with style.
Pok led on and coped well with the terrain and fierce stinging hail and gusting wind to find a semi-hanging stance below a final steep wall.
The joys continued on the walk-out with amazing light and the mists rolled away.
And Sgurr a’ Bhasteir had transformed into Snow White. Our line is marked in red and is called Formali Known As. 90m IV,4
Photo courtesy of James Nichols- www.jcheynne.com
2016 has been monumental in many, many ways.
In our own little world Skye Guides has expanded considerably. The number of guided days reached a total well in excess of 500. Over 1000 clients were involved in 200+ ascents of the In Pinn and 30+ successful Cuillin Ridge Traverses. An enormous thanks to clients who trust our company so much and to the incredible team of guides that make these dreams come true. Gillian, Rich, Iain, Jamie, Niels, Tamsin, Caspar, Mike, Steve, Karen, Scott. Rory, Lou, Ollie, Jonny, Andy, Iain and Emma.
Much of my year was spent developing Skye Basecamp. Creating a hub of climbing knowledge and information on Skye has been in plans for many years. Basecamp is a dedicated climbers’ hostel and realising this part of the ambition feels like a massive step in the right direction.
Huge amounts of work were put in by friends old and new to finally allow us to open in August. Apologies to anyone I miss but thank you Catriona, Lucy, Beth, Annmarie, Tansy, Kieron, Ianto, Beads, Pete, James, Tom, Derek, Conor, Lachlan, Elanor, Mike, Faith, Chris, Helen, Remus, Bob, Jim, Jancis, Alan, Morgan, Nick, Ru & his mates, Innes, Ben, Uncle tom Cobbly n all….
We were busy from the outset and are managing to stay open right through this our first winter. Highlights are hard to select but the new kitchen inspired a series of visitors to get baking and cooking; the aromas as you come in the front door are superb.
Rendezvous at Basecamp gave a chance for guides and clients to discuss the days routes over an extra coffee whilst looking out at Broadford Bay vista.
Much has been made of what a mad world we became in 2016 and few of us are likely to be unaffected. What can be sure is that Skye and the Cuillin will continue show us what a wonderful world we do have around us.
Slainte Mha, Mike
2017 Winter courses based at Skye Basecamp are filling well but we’ve still got space available.
Single place available for climber on a Ridges and Routes course.
28 January to 2 February
An advanced course suitable for guests with previous winter mountaineering experience and some knowledge of rope-work.
For those with ambitions to climb graded winter routes.
- 1:2 Ratio.
- 4 days guiding
- Up to 6 nights accommodation at Skye Basecamp
- Just £645pp
Dates don’t quite match or you have less time available? Contact us by email or call Mike on 07769221500
2 places still available on Introduction to Skye Winter course
A brilliant way to start exploring the Cuillin in winter. Suitable for guests used to full days of summer hill walking. There are some sample routes and itineraries here.
- Learn to safely tackle Cuillin peaks and ridges
- Introduction to ice axe, crampons and many other winter skills
- 1:4 Max Ratio
- 3-days of guiding
- 4 nights accommodation at Skye Basecamp
- Only £395pp
Dates don’t quite match or you have less time available? Contact us by email or call Mike on 07769221500
Week 1- Skye Basecamp Climbers’ Hostel, Broadford. January 12th to 15th
Week 2- Waterfront Bunkhouse, Old Inn Carbost. January 16th to 23rd 2017
Bonus facility- Access and beds in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut throughout.
An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an interest in the Skye mountains in winter.
It’s that time again. 2 weeks for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. We’re not expecting anyone to come for the whole fortnight but there is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had.
If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.
Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.
For the past 6 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet that has seen high levels of activity including over 50 new winter routes. Over the years only 12 days out of 50 have seen no activity so come keen and you’ll get rewards.
Guests have come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.
Over the past 6 years we’ve well untruly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2016 Skye was THE place to be with Traverses happening for over 4 weeks and legendary ice routes seeing their first repeats in 30 years! There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.
It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.
Last year’s festival had a superb first week with plenty of action. Week 2 turned tropical but those who hung around still got out for some quality adventures.
What’s to do?
Accommodation and Food
This year we are splitting the festival between the new climbers hostel, Skye Basecamp in week 1 and then moving to the Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn for week 2. Beds and and facilities will also be available in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.
Beds cost £15 per night in any of the 3 venues.
Self-catering in the well-equipped kitchen or eat in a variety of pubs in Broadford or next door in the Old Inn during week 2. There will be 2 big communal evening meals on the Saturday of each weekend at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine french fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us for these meals and let your hair down!
Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £15 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meals will cost £10.
This is very much a climbing event not a film festival but, over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.
Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL–#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebok page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.
Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.
Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.
Unsure?– The addition of weekend skills symposiums will offer a cheap way to have professional advice and leadership. Don’t worry if you don’t know th Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else. A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.
Guiding– Although officially this is a playtime for the guides private guiding will be available on request.
Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts.
An extra bit of motivation is always handy in winter so a new climbing partner, and Cuillin winter virgin at that, was very welcome.
Bla Bheinn on Thursday had shown that the snow was very powdery. As we headed into Coire Lagan I was looking for something to climb that would still have some of that rain from earlier in the week holding the snow together.
Old favourites on Thearlaich BC Buttress were tempting but the long slog up a powdery Stone Shoot was anything but.
I’ve had a long curving fault line from the corrie floor to the crest of Sgurr Mhiccoinnich on my radar for many years. It has a steep and intimidating finish that had put me off so far but my new partner has climbed with some auspicious partners and I didn’t want to disappoint.
Taking in the views from the easy lower slopes.
We soloed up some pretty rough and rocky ground for the first 60m until a short corner suggested a rope may be wise. Things got surprisingly steep soon afterwards so the 2nd rope and full concentration were the order of the day. This flip into action sadly means there aren’t many photos but here is Sophie topping out at the end of what turned out to be the crux pitch.
Another long and absorbing pitch followed with just the right combination of protection, hard won hidden hooks, turf, gymnastic manouvres and even some quality snow and ice.
Entering the bowl below the intimidating exit grooves things were getting distinctly gloomy as the light faded and wet snow drove into the face. Studying the possibilities as I took in the rope I reckoned a crack in the rock face above looked like my best hope of reaching the top and still making the evening dinner dance appointment. If it proved too hard or slow it would just have to be defeat and a multiple abseil descent.
Fortunately the rock was wonderfully solid gabbro and everything came together even better than I could have hoped. High fiving on the crest was followed by a rapid pack and scary traverse along the deeply powdered summer line. Bum sliding the An Stac screes was a brief respite but I managed to lose us on the exit from the corrie as snow drove into the face (poor excuse!).
We bid farewell, I made the main meal thank goodness and its only been through today that I’ve fully appreciated quite what a quality climb we had done.
Sgurr Mhiccoinnich- South Face
Silver Fox, V,5 235m **
Mike Lates & Sophie Grace. 19 Nov 2016.
Sophie’s own account gives a more eloquent description and more technical details for the climber. Personally I found the route “thought-provoking” the whole time!
Mike Lates and I went up Coire Lagain to have a look at an unclimbed basalt dyke line on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich.
It’s four or five pitches of superb climbing. The basalt is not always very helpful, and there was a whole lot of powder but there wasn’t a whole lot of ice. You repeatedly find yourself with your back or your right shoulder wedged into a bottomless left-facing corner, often undercut and overhanging, with plenty of right-hand hooks and placements in the depths of the corner (but careful–it’s loose in there), and bugger-all out on the sleek basalt powder-covered slabs to your left, which are only too solid. Footwork needs to be good, and tends to involve a single teetering crampon-point striking sparks out of some tiny rounded nubbin. As Mike said, it’s all about opposing forces. Bridging is your friend here. Foot-jams, knee-jams, elbow-jams, thigh-jams, pack-jams and full-body-jams were also deployed. So quite thought-provoking at times, and generally speaking much harder than it looks– till the much more user-friendly gabbro kicks in on the final pitch, which is the steepest and most fearsome-looking bit of the whole route, and nowhere near the hardest bit.
Pitch lengths were- Solo- 60m, P1-50m, P2-40m, P3-50m, P4-35m
The conditions were excellent. Not everything was frozen at the bottom, but it most certainly was at the top. There was heaps of snow already when we left the car park at dawn (8am), and plenty more had fallen by the time we got back there (7pm–so a short day in the Cuillin). While we were climbing we had two clear spells and two snow-showers.The second clear spell had actual sunshine–great for me as belayer, less good for Mike as leader. Standing on belay in the sunshine at 2500ft in knee-deep snow, looking out over Coire Lagain to Loch Brittle, over Canna and Rum and Muck, to Pabbay and Mingulay and the infinite ocean beyond: this is not something I will forget in a hurry.
Mike’s seen these conditions hundreds of times before, of course, but this is my first winter day ever in Skye. We were talking animals–he told me how when he did the Cuillin traverse in winter he was following a fox’s footprints all the way from Gars-Bheinn to Gillean. (Bruach na Frithe to Gars bheinn ML)
So it turned out the route was actually a completely brilliant day’s climbing. Not optimal conditions, sure, but way above the minimum acceptable. Mike led it like a boss, and I got up it with the odd wobble and squeak, but without actually falling off anything. And then on the walk-out we had a nice little botanical ramble in the dark. As you do 🙂
After all the pessimistic and sceptical meteorological banter on Facebook the other day about slush-covered rubble and unfrozen turf, and how there was nae chance of a decent climb anywhere this Saturday, let alone in a south-facing corrie in Skye, there was only ever one possible name for the route. After plenty brainstorming from us both during the day–slightly held back for most of it by the fact that until well after sunset we didn’t know for sure we were going to finish it–Mike finally nailed the name at the top of the walk-off… It is of course The Silver Fox**, 235m, V, 5.
Conditions went from “ridiculous to the sublime” in just 3 days this week. On Monday Juan and Miguel from Mallorca had some type 2 fun across the knife edge of Ghreadaidh in a tropical rainstorm and certainly the wettest day of the year that I’ve had. No photos that day!
On Thursday, by contrast, Jo and Dan were able to take their time admiring and photographing immense scenery throughout our sortie up and across Bla Bheinn in deep snow. A selection of shots is enough to tell the tale of a wonderful start to winter-
Dawn over Broadford Bay yesterday.
Many apologies for letting the blogging slip this season but here’s the project we’ve been working on. Many thanks to everyone for their help and support which has been overwhelming.
SKYE BASECAMP- accommodation for lovers of the great outdoors.
Skye Basecamp Climber’s Hostel is now open in Broadford and available for booking.
We welcome everyone but we do want this to be a facility for walkers, climbers and outdoor lovers. In order to create this we are publicising first to guiding clients past & present, climbing friends and mountaineering clubs. Please feel free to share our news around; thanks.
SPECIAL OFFER FOR EARLY BOOKERS
We have some special offers on for just a few more days- book 3-5 days and get your last bed-night free or 10% off booking a whole room. Just click on the availability calendar for Skye Basecamp
WHY STAY WITH US AT SKYE BASECAMP?
- The business is owned and run by Mike & Catriona who run Skye Guides, so you can expect the same high quality of service.
- 30 brand new beds in a selection of private rooms and small dormitories (max 6 per room) with linen provided.
- Prices from £20 per bed and private rooms from £90 per night.
- 800 litres of pressurised hot water for 6 showers.
- Large open plan kitchen/dining room with all the facilities and appliances you can want for self-catering.
- High efficiency drying room.
- Large living room and conservatory with pool table looking out over the stunning vista across Broadford Bay.
- Just one minute’s walk from the centre of town with the supermarket, 4 pubs and numerous quality places to eat out right on your doorstep.
- Staffed full time and open all day ( but room check-out 10am & check-in after 4pm).
- Open all year round.
- The whole building is available for private group bookings; ideal for club meets, conferences or running courses
- The guides room is reserved for our guiding staff through the summer season. They will be on hand much of the time to advise on routes and conditions.
Booking on-line through the Skye Basecamp website will show all beds and rooms available.
Look forward to seeing you all soon, Mike & Catriona
www.skyebasecamp.co.uk is part of Skye Guides Limited.
Telephone 01471 820 044
REVIEWS so far-
Great base to explore Skye. Bunkhouse is fantastic, great showers, comfy beds, kitchen facilities are really good and most importantly really friendly and helpful staff. HC 19/09/16
The Skye Basecamp hostel is brand new and excellent for climbers or outdoor minded people. The showers are excellent, so are the beds. There is a large common area with a big kitchen. From the front you have a great view over the bay!
PS: great hospitality:) JK 28/9/16
Stunning vistas, handy location, good wifi, good drying room plus they’ve nailed the perfect atmosphere for people who enjoy the hills. RP 17/09/16
A complex & unusual set of circumstances, coupled with a blast of Arctic air, gave our first Traverse of the year a very unique feel.
Basically I guided Phil on the first half of the Traverse then Scott Kirkhope took over for day 2 to successfully reach Sgurr nan Gillean.
Our days couldn’t have been more different- I enjoyed largely dry, warm rock, no need for crampons and even some gorgeous sheltered picnicking.
Often we were forced to stay on the very top of the crest which just added to the pleasure.
Sgurr nan Eag to Ghreadaidh took us about 7.5 hours
Scott woke to fresh snow falling and had crampons straight from the bivvy until reaching Glaic Moire nearly 3 hours later.
Much of the time was in the cloud with wind picking up in strength but Phil’s fitness & abilities kept them moving well. The clouds finally cleared on the final rise up Gillean, revealing once more the whole lenght of the Traverse. Ghreadaidh to Gillean had taken about 6.5 hours.
Despite the darkness I enjoyed picking my way off, crampons completely necessary until way below An Dorus where Scott and I passed and compared notes before he joined Phil for the bivvy about an hour after I’d left. The final hour was a delight with the moon casting my huge shadow across the moorland. Catching last orders in Carbost seemed a deserved reward.
One of the unusual circumstances was Phil flying himself into Broadford airstrip and, this morning, we were treated to a quick flight around South Skye before he headed home to England. Many thanks to Scott and Phil for a memorable time in so many ways.