Winter feels well untruly underway today with snow on the roads at sea-level and more blizzrds forecast.
Next week looks far more settled and cold right through to the start of the winter festival. Fingers crossed for more of the same.
Attendance is looking good too with numbers already booked ranging from half a dozen some nights to over 16 through the central weekend. There are 24 beds available in total each night. Plenty more climbers are weather-watching and planning to come if things are half-decent. If you fit this bracket please give me a heads up unless you have your own van to sleep in. The pub kitchens are having some work done so food won’t be available. If you are local or making own sleeping arrangements you can join us at the bunkhouse for the communal evening meal but we will need notice. Everyone needs to bring their own brekky & lunch.
Loch Harport Oysters on sale in the village but are they good climbing food?
The meet will spill over into the pub next door (obviously just for space reasons not alcohol:-) and there will be illustrated talks or climbing videos early evening most days. Resident staff Farquhar & Seamus are preetty handy on the tunes but any musicians are welcome to join in with the entertainment.
Skye Winter Climbing Festival 2015
Waterfront Bunkhouse, Old Inn Carbost. January 24th to February 7th 2015
An open invitation to winter climbers and walkers with an interest in the Skye mountains.
Following on from the success of the past 4 years the Skye Winter Climbing Festival has expanded to a whole fortnight! Yep, 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 period but there is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had.
How does it work?
Nothing complex- Come for as many days as you want. There are beds for 24 people available throughout the fortnight; first come first served. Use the meet as a base for climbing with a regular partner or come and match up. Collectively we make sure that nobody is left partnerless, short of inspiration or too far out of their depth. You can self-cater but, in the past, we’ve pooled together for evening meals with one of our non-climbing friends knocking up a filling hearty meal ready for whenever we get off the hill.
£14 per night for a bed and £10 per night for evening meal (optional).
Background and information Skye Winter Festival
For the past 4 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet. 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 enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. As in summer it is the peaks and ridges that are the greatest attraction with adventures possible in almost any conditions.
Guests have come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb plays a big part for many but only to a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures they’ve had.
What’s to do?
Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn Evenings are informal; the accommodation has a spacious lounge with TV or there’s the pub next door. We’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips, watched videos and guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.
If you’re interested e-mail email@example.com or call telephone Mike on 01471 822 116. Bed reservations will need to be paid for but we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking. Wwe’ll get you to complete a booking form with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.
Got your own campervan- You’re still welcome to join us socially. Willy Sutherland’s campervan spot with hook-ups is at the Glen Brittle junction just half a mile away.
Last minute climber- We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about space though.
Unsure?- Many of the Winter Meet regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering is route advice and information on the ground but 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.
Travel- Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts.
Confused by this blog post?- The commercial aspect of the festival announced in November has been removed to open the meet to a broader audience. If you are one of the regulars who has now found that a far longer meet is planned go book more time off work 😉
Social- The Old Inn is the climbers’ pub in Skye but also a busy local. It’s a lively spot with organised bands and impromptu jamming. In the past we’ve had slideshows and talks, guitars & games. Let us know if you’ve got pictures or musical talents. The bunkhouse itself has an open plan lounge and kitchen area with television.
The Old Inn probably the best pub in Carbost
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!
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.
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.
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;-)
Sorry about the radio silence but blogging is the lowest priority when life gets hectic I’m afraid. Last week the weather improved drastically and I enjoyed getting out 7 days out of 8.
They were all great outings but highlights included finally placing an icescrew (1st time in the Cuillin this winter), meeting a couple of Italian guides at the Pinn who were up as guests of Al Todd (who skied the Great Stone Shoot this year) and a couple of hot days on the wonderful cliffs at Elgol (see videos on the Skye Guides Mountaineering Face Book page- I’ve put a selection of galleries below from most days.
Conditions have warmed up considerably but you’ll see great quantities of snow on the northern Cuillin (Pinnacle Ridge gallery below) which I would guess will be with us until about late May. Elsewhere the only serious quantities are leading up to An Dorus and a small amount left in the Great Stone Shoot (pic in Italian invasion gallery).
Biggest news of the week was the successful campaign to win £24k of funding to help with the much needed improvements to the Bla Bheinn (Blaven) footpath. Considerd by many as having the finest views in Scotland Bla Bheinn probably attracts more visitors than any other peak in the Black Cuillin.
Skye’s Bla Bheinn path repair project has won EOCA’s Alpine category – securing us £24k funding for path repairs! Huge thanks to all who voted.
In the office enquiries and bookings flooded in as folk realised that Easter and Spring holidays are fast approaching.
Elgol Day 1-
The annual Belgian student outing around Coire na Creiche & Glen Brittle beach-
4/5 Gully approach to Pinnacle Ridge- spot the ice screw pic!-
Italian invasion at the Pinn-
Even hotter day at Elgol-
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:-)
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
The Black Cuillin landlords have announced that permits will be issued for teams making ascents of the Inaccessible Pinnacle this summer.
Traffic jams are commonplace on most fine days
A spokesman explained- “Queueing to climb the In Pinn has become a real problem in recent years. To sort this out a system with hour-long slots will be allocated between 4am and 5pm. A new high-speed internet connection at the campsite will allow climbers to book a slot either before they leave home, as they depart the Glen or even when they reach the foot of the climb.”
“The situation has got worse in recent years” agreed local mountain guide Mike Lates of Skye Guides. “Something certainly needed to be done. I’m just happy that they aren’t charging for these permits.”
Solitude on the Pinn as it used to be.
The campsite facilities have had a total overhaul this winter and the fine weather has allowed work to finish ahead of time. Wet-weather attractions available now include an extensive bouldering wall, cafe sauna and jacuzzi.
Spring 2013 News from Skye Guides.