Blog > Classics

Stellar spell of snow conditions. January 29 & 30th

30/01/17

The snow this week came thick and fast and with no strong winds behind it, resulting in a beautiful uniform layer.

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Yesterday this provided a wonderful cushion with no real need for crampons as we headed up the classic NW Ridge of Bruach na Frithe.

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Very different from this time last year where sheets of hard snow gave very serious conditions.

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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.

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Surprisingly a line of fresh prints led off ahead of us as we descended the South Ridge, others enjoying the superb conditions.

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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.

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Phil joined me on the guiding today as Clair and Trevor started their Ridges and Routes course based at Skye Basecamp.

Crampon up

Far colder overnight had cemented the snow even better to the rocks. This meant crampons were compulsory but the combo gave incredibly positive footings.

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My guess is that anyone on the Ridge today will have made superb progress.

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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.

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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!

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All in all a very full-on day in some of the best conditions I’ve ever had on Clach Glas.

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Flying start to the season.

24/04/16

A complex & unusual set of circumstances, coupled with a blast of Arctic air, gave our first Traverse of the year a very unique feel.

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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.

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Our days couldn’t have been more different- I enjoyed largely dry, warm rock, no need for crampons and even some gorgeous sheltered picnicking.

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Often we were forced to stay on the very top of the crest which just added to the pleasure.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Alpine rock climbing. 14th April

14/04/16

Warm rock in the fingers with snow-reflected sun seeming to double the heat; we could have been on the south face of the Midi.

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No Japanese tourists clapping our efforts here though, just a couple of friends taking it all in with eagles circling above them.

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The sheer quality of the climb astounded me again, easily as good, if not better, than it’s classic neighbours. Clean rock, positive holds and great protection but no pushover. A positive effort was needed to avoid being drowned in the exposure, stay alert to what damage the harsh winter may have done or just suppress the temptation to jump for joy.

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South Crack I love you, and Peter had a Cheshire Cat grin even though he’s from Lancashire where smilin’ ain’t manly 😉

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Would have been rude to have run away without climbing the East and West Ridges too and three routes were saluted by 3 Sea Eagles but this pic is of 2

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Winter heaven continues. 9th March

09/03/16

Earlier this week the forecast was not good for Gill & Euan’s day out; so glad I don’t pay much attention to long term forecasts!

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With clear blue skies and tons of pristine new snow it was a no brainer to head out straight from their base at the Sligachan Hotel. Good on the hotel which has re-opened earlier than usual and looked absolutely packed out with residents as a reward.

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I did suspect we had a hard day of deep wading ahead so left our ambitions open but, instead, the very first snow we reached justified crampons. Broad Gully is a favourite of mine with superb rock architecture and conditions were utterly perfect with full foot support pretty much every step.

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Skiers would have loved conditions today as this continued almost uninterupted right to the top of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir. There were a couple of very short wind-scoured harder sections but it was easy to cut back onto the good stuff.

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The vistas just kept coming as we crossed the head of Fionn Choire and out to Bruach na Frithe.

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Euan was so impressed with the “lady of the Trig point” he had to give her a kiss!

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We may not have had skis but such superb conditions weren’t to be missed- we headed back to Coir’ a’ Bhasteir and took a very direct line back to the corrie floor on our butts; definitely Gill’s highlight of the day!

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The quantity of snow that has come down over the past couple of weeks is astounding and there is unusual climbable ice everywhere; hopefully the thaw forecast for the weekend will be kind and leave us something to play on next week.

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Mega conditions continue. 3rd March update.

03/03/16

Ice above 700m has survived well by the look of things today so last weeks classics should all be in this weekend.
Some fresh snow but nothing like quantities I’m hearing about elsewhere. Effect on the Traverse is probably harder work for the first party again but still full nick & highly achievable by a fit team; what is the running total for this season so far???

For those who didn’t gather last week and weekend saw the best all round Cuillin conditions I’ve ever known. Plenty of Traverses over the weekend 20/21.
Beads and I got finally (tried 3 times beforehand) got the 2nd ascent of White Wedding on Tues 23rd with superb ice. By Saturday this was soloed by Andrew Barker on the 4th ascents.
Andrew climbed West Buttress of Bidean @ II/III earlier in the week. Andy Nisbet & Ssandy Allan climbed a line on the Coruisk side of the Pinn on Friday and another called SkyeFall at IV,5 on Sunday 28th.
Uisdean & Adam Russel climbed NE Gully on Mhiccoinnich with Guy Robertson who got the meaty pitch at V,6 and they all climbed another obvious line beside Practice crag at IV that afternoon.
I took to the air from the top of the icicles on Icicle Factory on Thursday after 3 superb approach pitches.; annoyed but now happy to be unscathed. Skye boys James Sutton, Ben Wear & John Smith finally got the 2nd ascent narrowly beating Uisdean, Adam & Douglas Russell. More than a consolation was the parallel line of Spectacula VI,6. The teams then swapped routes and James even tried to complete the trilogy with the Smear but found it brittle & wet. Thanks for retrieving my gear guys.- http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=272086
Scott Webster & Yanis indulged in a sunny Traverse over the weekend while Anna Wells was back for another single day effort. Having to break trail they stopped short of the end but loved the experience anyway. Other teams also enjoyed but failed to complete with route-finding, exposure and general speed cited- great route but don’t underestimate how hard it is!
Escape from Colditz III is recorded as climbed and I’m sure there was plenty more I’ve missed.
Oh yep; Team Neil Adam & Silver climbed HDQ on Am Bastier on Sunday in ace conditions; it appears to be panning out at VIII,9 and uber classic.
Sounds crowded? An average of 1 team per corrie so not really Come & get it while you can cos looking warm from next Wednesday.

Photo credits to Lucy Spark, Scott Webster, Yaris Volmer.

 

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Beautiful Bla Bheinn. Friday 8th January

11/01/16

Stunning light and colours on a quick trip up Bla Bheinn last Friday afternoon.

Awesome Autumn Adventure; November 4th

04/11/15

Special light, incredible colours and magical mists can all be a feature of autumn outings and today had all of them.

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Martin is just back from the Kingdom of Bhutan and it was amazing to hear him say the scenery there reminded him of the Cuillin and had inspired this visit. Previously he has explored the Cuillin on his own but fancied pushing the boundaries a bit.

IMG_0028 (1024x768)Sgurr Eadar da Choire is the pointed central peak

I chose a route that I’ve only succeeded on once before, the alluring ridge of Sgurr Eadar da Choire that leads straight to the summit of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh. After today I am sure to be repeating the route a lot more.

IMG_0030 (768x1024)We started out of Coire an Dorus by a shattered ridge left of the most prominent rib. A high degree of caution was needed but the quality of scrambling was continuous and excellent.

IMG_0035 (768x1024)Top of the first narrow rib

More dry rough rock gave great sport as the ridge soared above us to it’s fine peak and the situations just kept impressing.

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The final 100m of ascent became a bit more broken and rambling but popped us out to a magnificent panorama across the Cuillin bowl and out across the whole of the highlands-

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An early lunch was followed by a very swift traverse south across Ghreadaidh, Banachdaich and finally to the In Pinn with magnificent views changing all the time.IMG_0059 (1024x768)

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Climbing the In Pinn was still highly exciting of course but Martin now understood quite how many more Cuillin adventures there are to be discovered for us all.

August update

28/08/15

No, Skye hasn’t drowned and all guiding stopped. In fact the island has been busier than ever before and, as we rapidly approach September, bed space is still very hard to find.P1020764

The Skye Guides team has been flat out and, despite the worst summer in living memory, we’ve succeeded in getting the majority of ambitions achieved. Feedback from clients has been superb as people realise quite how skilled and knowledgeable our guides are. Equally the guides have been loving the challenges of choosing the right weather windows for Traverses, ingenious ropework to safeguard slippy terrain, keeping everyone focussed and finding the right way in near zero visibility. There is a feeling of immense satisfaction when it all comes together against the odds, some well earned beers, long hot baths and very solid sleep!P1000064

Many thanks to Andy Moles and Neville McBain for the superb images on this page from their successful Traverse on 18 & 19th August.

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The gallery below has a mixture of the best shots from the period; click the pic to view more.

Happy days!

A teasing season on the Misty Isle

29/06/15

Apologies for the long delay in blogging; directly related to how busy we, and the whole of Skye, has been throughout June. The snows did finally recede and, thanks to a superb guiding team and great adventurous spirit amongst clients, we’ve still only lost a couple of days outright. We’ve even squeezed a few successful Traverses in as well as mopping up on plenty of  Cuillin Munros (sorry:-). All proof that any day in the hills is better than being at work!

2015 has certainly won all the awards for the worst start to the summer season that anyone can remember- A client working in the Aberdeen met. office out last week said he’d ended the previous weekend shift with a promise of light south-easterly winds and high pressure; instead he got 2 of the wettest days I can remember. “The pressure in that rain is better than the shower I put into the bathroom last year!”

Friday typified the pattern with heavy rain forecast to clear by lunch. Adam & I left it til lunch to start but still got a good soaking for the first half hour. Things soon improved and Sgurr nan Each gave us some dry rock and views into Glen Sligachan appeared just before we started up onto Clac Glas; mists blowing off with beautiful effects to reveal the climb ahead.P1070084

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Our hopes of glorious sunshine were soon dashed as the cloud cloaked us once more, handily disguising the drops as Adam observed. He coped admirably with the terrain although concentration was needed especially in the final chimney-

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We were finally rewarded with a splash of sunshine and brief windows through to the sea from the South Top of Blaven.

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C’mon summer; you can do it!!

Flying high with the eagles

14/05/15

Lizz had never done any scrambling before but an adventurous and athletic atttitude saw her balancing confidently along the knife-edge crest of Ghreadaidh today.Thanks to Iain who was out shadowing with us for taking these great images.IMG_0421

For some context I’d estimate that only 1 in 50 folk I guide along here have the bottle and skill to pull it off with most folk taking the safer hands & buttocks-on option! The knife-edge only lasts 10 minutes when done in such good style and we were soon  heading down on easier ground but opting for the crest wherever possible.IMG_0432

Almost as a reward we were treated to a sight I’ve never had before with a flock of 8, yes 8, white-tailed eagles rising on the thermals from below us. Footage on the go-pro shows that this display lasted for over quarter of an hour before they rather spookily rose up into the cloud base 500 feet above us and disappeared in an instant.IMG_0445

The sight was spectacular but also gave me an uncomfortable feeling- these birds are just so huge and gregarious compared with true mountain royalty, the Golden Eagles. Goldies are failing to breed with anywhere near the same success as they used to here on Skye in the 90’s and I certainly see them less frequently. The causes are multifold and funding towards research is,  as far as  I’m aware, very minor. I’d like to see some of the enormous quantities of money spent on the White-tailed eagle flagship directed towards working out how to slow this decline.

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An aging population has reduced fertility and I’m aware of my own guilt with ever-increasing numbers of hill-goers inadvertently distrurbing these shy birds by venturing too close to their nests. However, having a bigger bird that eats largely the same diet and needs similar sized territories reintroduced to their Skye stronghold has undoubtedly had a big impact. The RSPB line is that the 2 species don’t compete directly with each other and there are certainly shots of both species feeding from the same deer carcass. It is hard for me, however, not to envisage the “gang” we saw today, completely frightening a goldie off any prey.Glorious GoldenWe continued our traverse to Banachdaich and these ranting thoughts subsided as concentration on footwork absorbed me once more. The clouds burnt off and half an hour was easily wiled away on the summit before a quick descent to beers while legs were soaked in the cool pools.