Rachel suggested a look at the Pinn would float her boat last week and I nearly baulked. Luckily a weekend of warm rain hasn’t stripped the Main Cuillin Ridge but has left the Pinn nearly snow free. Crampons & axe were uneccesary precautions but couldn’t begin to spoil the pleasure of a delightful warm reunion with me old mucker Mr Pinn.
The Pinn was just a cherry on the cake of a superb alpine outing though. We hit hard snow at under 600m mark and enjoyed perfect consistency right to the summit of Sgurr Dearg.
The sun started to do its damage soon after midday but even this was pretty limited with a keen breeze keeping things cool up there.
Time for a Traverse before things break down Thursday evening and I’d suggest seriously contemplating some head-torch time to make good time on the harder snow. You’ll touch rocks at the toe of An Stac for the first time proper and increasingly after that but noty enough to loose crampons from what I saw.
SHould be some clues in the gallery photos-
The fantastic Harvey Cuillin map has had an upgrade with
- Tougher but lighter paper.
- Updated map corrections to footpaths in particular.
- Crags from the SMC guidebook “Skye the Cuillin” all now marked and indexed.It is well known by Cuillin regulars that the Ordanance Survey maps covering these mountains are close to useless for fine navigation; indeed there are many copies of the old 1930’s SMC map still being used in preference!
Although any map has limitations in such intricate, steep and rocky terrain Harveys went a very long way to improve the situation when they first produced their Skye The Cuillin sheet over 10 years ago.
Why the maps are so much clearer is due to a broad combination of skills and techniques developed originally from producing very accurate orienteering maps. The 1:12,500 enlargement of the Cuillin Ridge very much resembles these fine navigation tools. 15m contour intervals and shading to highlight the ridge crest are just the base canvas for features, many of which are pure rock. Clever restriction of rock features seems to be the key to removing a lot of the clutter that the OS maps suffer from.
Getting the crags marked was actually a project I started way back in 2003 when I was first asked to write the SMC guidebook. A key problem I had found had been locating the cliffs, let alone the climbs. Harvey Maps were very accommodating and anyone with previous copies of the map will find the index of crags as I envisaged it back then. 55 crags from those early stages of planning eventually ended up as a total of 98!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed helping Harvey Maps; there are always small tweaks and doing a new run annually keeps this realistic. There is now a very good representation of just how far into the mountains it is possible to follow the footpaths. Check out those on Bla bheinn, Gillean & Banachdaich in particular.
The 1:25,000 side covers the massive area from Broadford north to Sligachan and South to Elgol in superb detail as well, making it a great tool for exploring closer to home.
It would appear that Skye stayed at least as cold on the tops as the rest of Scotland over the past weekend which I hadn’t anticipated myself. One guy made a fantastic effort on a full Traverse starting by Pinnacle Ridge on Friday, bivvying at Glaic Moire and finally being defeated by winds & blizzards at Mhicchoinnich. He reported near perfect snow conditions with little harder than grade III.
I can certainly confiorm this after 2 excellent days out with Andy & Nick Burton.
Winter and Cuillin virgins they coped very well in the howling gales on Banachdaich yesterday and definitely got the luck they deserved with a Traverse of Blaven Today. Out agin in the morning so I’ll just include a gallery below.-
Temperatures dropped overnight and left us a good thicknes of snow from about 650m today. I did worry about avalanches but snow pits showed a very old layer with 2 or 3 fresher layers resonably well bonded above.
The clouds clung thinly to the Ridge almsot all day but parted frequently enough to let us appreciate the grandeur of our surroundings.
Jim, Merrissa and I ended the week on a high with an ascent of Liathach over on the mainland. On Friday night we braved wild weather just to drive the 70 miles and then a 10 minute walk to the Ling Hut in the dark and driving rain. Next morning little seemed to have changed by 8am but the forecast came right just before 9.
Archive photo of the SMC Ling hut with Liathach behind; our route gained the crest at the right edge and traversed to the obvious high point called Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m)
The ascent is quite possibly the fiercest anywhere in the UK, rising from 30m above sea-level to 833m in little over a kilometre.We put crampons on at about 700m and it was obvious our descent was going to be concentrated.
Along the crest the snow was immaculate with just a small amount of give in a uniform covering.
Roped together we wandered for the next hour in an almost dream-like manner with amazing light on the views all around.
From the summit the ridge still stretched away into the distance but a lack of time and light meant we reluctantly had to turn heel and begin our descent.Luckily a direct slope back into Coire Liath Mhor gave a good fast start to this stage. A lip of rock below made us do a short abseil before traversing back towards our original path.
I realised it had been over 10 years since my last pilgramage to Torridon; this left me with mixed feelings of embarressment but mainly joy at rediscovering the hills I used to know so well. Liathach is 2nd only to Ben Nevis for mainland mountains I have climbed on. It won’t be long before I’m back again.
Anyone unfamiliar with the Harvey SKYE THE CUILLIN map should treat themselves to a copy this xmas. The 1:25,000 scale map covers a huge area from Broadford, up to Sligachan, Carbost, Glen Brittle and right across to Elgol. But it is the 1:12,500 enlargement of the Main Ridge makes it the only map of any real use to climbers and walkers wanting to explore the Ridge.
It’s been an enjoyable task this week helping Peter Child at Harvey Maps with updates for the reprint in January. The project has been ongoing for quite a few years now; they reprint just about annually so map corrections can be easily added.
This year I suggested that some of the larger trails higher in the Cuillin could justify being added becuase they are comparatively easy to follow in good visibility. Pete was then able to double-check the ideas with aerial shots and produce an accurate end result that should aid a huge number of visitors.
Cliff numbering correlation with the SMC Guidebook
There are a total of 98 different crags from the book now all marked as close to the start of the climbing as possible. Previous editions of the map have, since 2004, had 55 crags marked; don’t worry these are all in the right place and match the map index. Fifty-five was the number of crags I thought the Cuillin had at the early stages of writing the guidebook. It was another 7 years before we went to print but the end result, particularly with these latest Harveys updates, means that climbers have a hugely increased chance of identifying and navigating to the cliffs they want to climb.
Signed copies of the Cuillin Guidebook can still be bought direct from us if you want another Christmas present!
2 variations are marked in the Cuillin section for the more adventurous including a traverse of Bla Bheinn down to Camasunary and a detour into Coruisk via the Bad Step.
The 2014 map will also be the first made of the new generation of tough polyethylene that is both more waterproof but also far more resistant to tearing. Great news for all, including our guides who carry their valuable copies every day through all sorts of weather.
Finally I’d recommend browsing the Harvey maps website for a fascinating insight into how modern, high quality mapping is being done. Enjoy:-)
Apologies for not blogging so far this month; plenty going on but very little reliable broadband still!
There’s been a mixed bag of weather and a late surge from the midgies but the majority of missions have been accomplished with the use of cunning tactics and a great attitude by clients and guides alike. Monday last was only the fourth day this year that has been lost to the weather completely!
The work has varied from Ridge Traverses, stag dos and showing travel journalists the stunning Cuillin to stunt filming for a new Gaelic soap. Clients have come from as far away as New Zealand, Majorca and Colorado; ranged in age between 11 to 70 years old. Major achievements include Jenny Dunn climbing her last Munro, Laura climbing the Pinn for her first ever mountain in full “Scottish” conditions and Marcus completing his long-held dream of a Cuillin Traverse.
Basking sharks and Orcas, eagles Golden and White-tailed and the last of the alpine flowers like Devil’s Bit Scabbius have all added to the enjoyment.
Here are some images-
It’s been a funny old week but plenty of action still going on. Guy squeezed in a Traverse with Pete & Andy, Andy guided Chris & Anna across some classic Cuillin scrambles including Pinnacle ridge and the In Pinn.
My week was very varied and admittedly a bit of a blur but celebrating with Schnapps on Sgurr an Fheadian, descending Pinnacle Ridge in the pouring rain and lovely dry rock across the knife-edge top of Ghreadaidh twice in 3 days are highlights.
Enjoy the selection of pics below-
Only a couple of the threatened heavy showers reached Skye this week so a lot of happy climbers. Humidity and heat were a feature so a lot of slimmed down climbers too:)
There were some cracking days on the peaks and a climbing day at Neist where the wildlife stole the show.
Thanks to Guy Andy & Gillian for keeping their clients happy and well throughout the week too.
Here’s a small selection-
Moody In Pinn, photo by Cameron
Quick update while BB is running; hopefully long enough to let me upload. Apologies to anyone missing a blog about their days out or updates on Skye weather. Investing in Highland Wifi is looking likely:-(
Sword fighting on the Cioch
It has been incredibly busy with 7 Skye Guides out working pretty much constantly for the past 5 week; a massive thank you to Gillian, Scott, Andy, Lou, John and Francis. Thanks also to Cameron and Nathan who both added help, enthusiasm and youth on their work placements from the UHI Outdoor course in Broadford.
“Just a short note to say you have one very happy client after my trip up Gillean and Bhastair with Lou. It was just a brilliant, brilliant day. Lou was excellent and we all got something out of it, which as we all had different experience and capabilities was a great testament to her and the Ridge! “
“Both Scott and John were excellent guides. Personally, I was very challenged by some of the terrain, but they were a great help; ten Munros bagged, incl. the In Pinn!”