After 2 mad stormy days everyone was glad the forecast for a settled sunny day turned out to be correct. Robert took my recommendation from last year to bag his last Skye Munro by the classic Dubh Ridge.
AquaXplore ran us in to Coruisk at high speed with just enough time to admire the basking seals. The nature continued with a new plant for me on the approach route that looks like a minature Cuillin red cabbage- any identification help much appreciated-
Cuillin Red Cabbage?
The cloud base lifted for lunchtime and sunburn kicked in as the sun reflected off the rapidly thawing snow.
There was enough snow to slow us a bit but not need crampons as we reached the summit of Dubh na Da Bheinn 5 hours after leaving the boat. Fortunately we had bypassed the summit of Dubh Beag and the awkward abseil to save time.
Happily I found my best ever line of descent down the Garbh (rough) corrie from the castle taking exactly 2 hours to reach the jetty with 5 minutes to spare before David whisked us home.
Antoni, Lou and I headed for the sunny slabs in Coire a Ghrunnda for the first multipitch rock climb of the season.
Early dampness evaporated once the sun appeared and left no excuse to avoid the White Slab itself. This classic pitch is not technically difficult (4b) but gives a delicate space walk that tests the nerves.
Above the Pinnacle Rake we took the most obvious steep corner which gave a superb finale with incut holds and plenty of protection (V Diff.)
There is a lot more snow lying in north facing corries but should continue to disappear if the temperatures will stay in double figures.
In sharp contrast to yesterday Alan and I did this classic traverse with no need for crampons and glorious sunshine throughout the afternoon.
Early showers were a bit fierce but the only negative effect was hailstones on the holds of the final chimney onto Blaven.
Stunning views of the Main Ridge-
Enjoy the gallery-
Sgurr MhicCoinnich, Sgurr Thearlaich and the Great Stone Shoot
UPDATE More up to date photos have been added at the foot of the page from 23 April.
As the first May bank holiday approaches rapidly snow fields in the Cuillin aren’t melting very fast at all; in fact there is more snow forecast over the weekend ahead. The heavy winter has left the old snow very consolidated; nearly a week of warm wet westerlies only removed a small percentage of this with north facing snow slopes appearing almost untouched. Most of the photos here were taken last Friday 19th April. Sue, Jane and I enjoyed beautiful weather and an ascent of Sgurr na Banachdaich.
Crampons will be needed for almost all of the Cuillin Munros with the exception of Sgurr na Banachdaich, Bla bheinn and Sgurr nan Eag. The In Pinn may be possible without crampons if the south facing slab to the foot of the route washes down & gets some sun over the next few days. Approach by the West Ridge of Sgurr Dearg has small snow patches but is quite well stepped.
TRAVERSES & CLASSICS
Classic routes such as the Traverse, Pinnacle Ridge, Coire Lagan will be very serious undertakings. Linking any peaks still involves a choice of adhering rigidly to the crest or scarily traversing steep snow that is sitting on the normal ledge systems; both slow work compared to ideal summer conditions. Clach Glas is almost clear of snow but the ascent to Blaven is definitely still axe & crampon terrain. Descent from the Putting Green is possible but some caution still needed in the first few hundred feet. Kings Chimney will be way preferable to Collies Ledge for a while to come. More abseils will be required than normal so extra tat should be carried. Quite a few parties have been using snow bollards for anchors too.
We are choosing our objectives as carefully as possible to avoid long snowfield descents; going up snow slopes is a lot safer than going down! Particularly daunting are the Great Stone Shoot, Coire a’ Bhasteir, Coire na Banachdaich and An Dorus. See the close-up shot of Great Stone Shoot above. Be prepared to turn in and front point down for some quite long distances with ice axe likely to be in “dagger” position.
South facing crags were incredibly dry and snow free until the latest rain arrived. They are likely to dry rapidly again luckily, just be careful on descents. The Cioch is clear but Eastern Gully has still got some big snow patches in and may affect choice of descent. There’s always the suntraps at the coast if the hills are too cold; guidebooks for Cuillin or Seacliffs can be ordered through this website if you need them.
UPDATE PICS 23 APRIL
An early start to catch the dry weather worked well for Marissa, Jim & I today. We climbed the classic Spur on Sgurr an Fheadain and concentrated on scrambling techniques rather than snow as temperatures have risen to double figures.
Good to see a golden eagle soaring off over Sgurr Thuilm and even better to reach the summit and have all of the Tops clear. This only lasted a matter of minutes before the weather front arrived right on schedule complete with damp cloud.
We enjoyed a quick scree running descent and fortunately the rain held off until we reached the safety of the Old Inn. The pools were as busy as ever and we even spotted a fairy bathing in the icy waters 🙂
A Winter Traverse of the Cuillin Ridge is the Holy Grail of British mountaineering; the finest mountaineering route in the UK but requiring a unique set of circumstances to come into condition. Without going into detail too much that time has come and the crest of the Ridge should have a fairly consistently solid covering of snow from one end to the other that should allow pretty rapid progress. Equally importantly the forecast is for beautiful cold crisp clear skies over the next 3 days at least.
The route has been high on climbers tick lists ever since the first successful Traverse in 1965 by legends Tom Patey, Hamish MacInnes, Brian Robertson and Davey Crabb. I’m contracted to report weekly on conditions to UKClimbing and have been preparing folk as conditions build up with a series of increasingly positive reports. Below are a selection of the most recent posts for your amusement & information:
“Looking perfect for a Traverse now ’til Wednesday (or Thursday possibly). I’ll give up posting on UKC if I don’t hear about anyone going for it.”
“One oversight in the new guidebook is a winter grade for doing individual sections and rounds of the corries. With conditions looking good in the coming week the breakdown below may be useful. It should also be of use for those just doing individual sections.
Winter is when the Cuillin truly takes on its “Alpine” status with conditions affecting the seriousness, line & techniques differently through the day. Descents are particularly thought provoking! With this in mind I’ve opted for using an alpine grading rather than Scottish winter. Timings are for (R) rounds, (S) sections or (A) approach. Approach & descents will vary hugely but allow 3.5 hours to the first summit in all but perfect conditions. Allow a min of 2 hours to descend but the last hour will probably be on a good footpath.
Daylight is about 7-30am to 4pm just now but will vary a lot with cloud cover.
(R) Traverse Gillean up Tourist rte, Descend from Bealach A Bhasteir E-W AD 9hrs
(S) Traverse Am Basteir & Tooth AD 1.5hrs
(S) Bruach na Frithe to Bealach Harta AD 2hrs
(S) Traverse Bidean N-S (col to col on Traverse) D 1.5hrs
(S) Glaic Moire to An Dorus AD 2hrs
(S) An Dorus- Banachdaich AD 2+hrs
(R) Coire na Banachdaich PD 8hrs
(A) Dearg W Ridge PD 3hrs in ascent
(R) Coire Lagan, Pinn to Alasdair D 9hrs
(R) Dubhs from Ghrunnda AD 7hrs
(R) Sgurr nan Eag to Gars-bheinn PD 8hrs
A brief overview is also available –http://skyeguides.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/SkyeGuides_TheWinterTraverse.pdf”
“For those after climbs as opposed to the Traverse an article I wrote printed in Climb in January 2012 gives an overview of a more modern view of climbing in the Cuillin.- http://skyeguides.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/cullin.pdf
Having focussed on mixed climbing in the article, ironically, last winter saw some good ice routes form and we now have a situation where these are reforming & even the Traverse is looking likely. Overall the message is get up there & explore & you wont be disappointed.”
UKC Conditions report Skye 8 December
The excellent conditions and weather last weekend gave everybody a superb time. The winter skills day was well attended & well received by 11 of us on an ascent of Sgurr a Bhasteir.
Next day Jim Higgins & Ross made the 3rd ascent of HDQ on Am Basteir –http://scottishclimbers.blogspot.co.uk/
while Martin (HDQ 1st Ascent) & Pete (HDQ 2nd Ascent) were knocked back on their attempts to tackle a new line close by- http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=209900.
Sadly nobody used the conditions & full moon to try the Traverse but all may not be lost despite a real plastering through the start of this week. A convincing thaw up to 800+m today and another warm blip tomorrow could well work in everybodies favour next week with a return to very cold settled conditions.
I was out on Wednesday (gallery- http://skyeguides.co.uk/deep-winter-play-5th-december/ ) but we just took our rack & ropes for a beautiful wander along the crest rather than swimming up any climbs. Despite drifts on the flanks there was an encouraging crust on the older snow below that made the very crest quite speedy & easy still. Worth watching the stability of the drifts higher up; we broke through an inch deep crust but this may thicken & make windslab more of an issue if it doesn’t thaw as much as I hope.
There was the beginnings of some quite sizeable ice, by Cuillin standards, in south facing corners at “mid-level” including Southern Comfort (IV)- http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=188294
Big winds in with the warm blips this weekend should all help keep things whiter more than black over the coming week and hopefully any fresh powder will drift off.
I noted the request for Skye routes on another post which reminded me of an outstanding mission to put guidebook times on sections of the Ridge in winter. Nearly finished that but will post seperately and also add it to my winter Traverse advice on the website.
My friend Geoff lives at the foot of the Rockies in Canada and wanted to see what all the fuss was about with these Cuillin. Time to show the youth some “sick” stuff 🙂
Sgurr nan Gillean was favourite to stay dry on a day when the damp mists were still swirling and duly obliged with the exception of one short shower.
We had a brief snack in the emergency shelter then emerged to reap the effects of sunshine and showers….
We romped up Pinnacle Ridge to lunch on the summit and then some posing on an obelisk just below.
We headed over to the Basteir Tooth to give Geoff a play on Naismith’s Route. Damp mist was clinging so I just dropped him down the greasy face and top-roped him back up.
From here the awkward abseil down King’s Cave Chimney dropped us back on terra firma and Geoff was suitably impressed with so many “sick” challenges. Not one to shirk at another he happily stripped down for a plunge in the pools on the way out.
We headed home on Geoff’s motor bike in time to collect oysters from the beach and a suitable start to an evening of partying at the Old Inn…
On a showery day Lucy, Alan, Ben & I had a great time following in the footsteps of Norman Collie and John Mackenzie (1889). Also known as the Lota Corrie route the line took the famous duo 5 hours of searching before they breached the steep walls and the route is still a bit of an unknown quantity for many modern climbers.
You have to descend close to the steep southern wall of Am Basteir for 150m until access can be gained. After an initial 10m slab a gully is followed right back up to the Basteir Nick between the Tooth and Am Basteir.
Caution is needed with some loose debris in the bed of the gully but there is superb scrambling all the way up.
Above the Tooth another heavy shower hit us and made the steep moves through The Mouth very challenging.
We chucked Lucy at it with a promise of some traditional Victorian assistance. She placed a couple of pieces of gear to pull on while Ben & I shoved on feet from below. Once up Lucy dropped a long sling for the rest of us to pull up on.
On top the rain stopped once and for all and we whooped our way back to the pub.
I repeated the same route as I did last friday today but added in some new variations for myself with nearly 200ft of new climbing, not bad after nearly 20 years!
We started up Coopers Gully out of the Bhasteir Gorge. After the initial 50ft we took to the clean rib on the right that Rachel, Robin & I enjoyed last week.
Conditions were perfect as the early cloud burnt away and left us superb views all around.
On the 4th Pinnacle, after the initial zig zag, we took a direct line up the face instead of the usual ramp or subsidiary groove. Bit steeper & more exposed but good moves.
A ledge skirts the 4th Pinnacle on the east side and half way around a 15m crack leads directly to the summit block. This proved far more exciting than I planned with very loose rock & not one I recommend or will be doing again.
Alex on our new wee variation on the 4th pinnacle
We finally had company on the top of Gillean for a relaxed lunch before continuing over Am Basteir and the Tooth and a shorter abseil out of King’s Cave Chimney.
Rachel. Robin & I enjoyed a misty day but on bone dry rock with a classic round of Coir’ a’ Bhasteir. We started with Pinnacle Ridge and climaxed with the huge abseil down the nose of the Basteir Tooth.
R&R on the exposed ledge at the start of Knight’s peak
Last time I did the big abseil from the Tooth we ended up with quite a bit of rope damage so I’ve been putting off repeatiing it for a while now. To add to the adventure we decided to test what I had been told, that a 60m rope doubled up is long enough to reach the ground!
Even in good visibility it’s impossible to see the landing from the top but the swirling mist added to the tension as I set off down.
It’s a long way down!
The knotted ends hung out on the windward side of the landing slab but I trusted my luck and dropped off the last huge overhang and reached the ground, just.
All of the spare half metre of rope that was left.
Rachel near the top
and Robin touching down
Luckily I only remembered the date once all of us had touched down and the rope had been retrieved safely!
Had a fantastic climb on a long-term objective today under clear blue skies. Lucy Spark is a regular client with a great sense of adventure so the longest rock climb in the Cuillin sounded ideal to her. At 3000 feet (900m) long we knew there was lot of concentration to be done but big rewards.
The route traverses from left to right with the Cioch marked as C
It is a major challenge of route finding, rope trickery and bold confident climbing first done by Barlow and Steeple in 1920.
Happy to be off to a good start- there is plenty of wear on the rocks showing quite how popular this route once was.
One of the early space walks.
We took about 1.5 hours to reach the Cioch.
After that followed one of the best sections with a long complex descent to the foot of Crack of Doom.
Reaching the Terrace below Crack of Doom
“Descent pitches can appear terrifying and are abseiled by some parties” says the guidebook- descending to the Hexagonal Block.
Glad to finally get the boots off
Great weather at the end of a poor week. Chris Duckett and I did Pinnacle Ridge. Put crampons on half-way up 3rd pinnacle, 2 abseils from top of there then 3 pitches onto Knight’s peak, good snow for downclimbing then 4 more pitches up to the summit of Gillean. A couple of heavy snow showers added a wintry feel to what had started as a spring-like day. 9 hours with little break. Hopefully more wintry still tomorrow after a clear-sky night. Off to look for northern lights,
Heavy overnight on Friday snow clad everything above 500m in a thick layer of fresh snow. I’ve put a warning of “may be impossible in deep powder” in the guidebook description of the Clach Glas Traverse and so it proved. Approaching by Sgurr nan Each there were optimistic moments as progress was pretty rapid.
On Sgurr nan Each
This changed rapidly with aspect as soon as we started the rise from Bealach Clach Glas with everything swamped and no way of knowing what your foot was going to land on.
Our (not very) high point on Clach Glas