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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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Skye Winter Festival 2016. 14-27th January

22/02/16

The first week of the Skye Winter Climbing Festival was very productive with keeness, weather and conditions allowing great climbing every day. The weather for the second week wasn’t the best but Skye still produced its magic for everyone who ventured out.

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The small selection of the pictures here may make a few of you jealous but there were some stupid early starts, wild weather to battle, grit, determination and incredibly hard work needed to achieve this and we didn’t enjoy it one bit so don’t feel too bad 😉

 

The meet started with a huge bang from Skye boys James & Doug Sutton making the first winter ascent of Crack of Dawn. Grade VIII is as hard and serious as any route on the island and well untruly keeps the Cuillin on the hard man’s radar.

Crack Dawn nightLate finish on Crack of Dawn

Weipeng, Maymay & I had a more gentile day taking in a feast of light & colour on an ascent of Bla Bheinn. Their Sony camera produced some of the best quality shots of the week.

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On Friday Pat Ingram and I looked at a new crag low in the Cuillin to avoid the deep powder higher up. Park Lane V,4 wasn’t as frozen as hoped for but gave good some very good climbing.

IMG_0824Pat Ingram stepping into the main line on Park Lane

 

Beads & Dave Bowdler got a beaut of a route following North Rib of Banachdaich Gully at grade IV,5 with steep well protected climbing.

North Rib Beads approaching the crux of North Rib, IV,5

Saturday the good forecast was slightly out but just added more snow & ice to the fun. Lucy & Nathan must have had 1.5 hours on the belay waiting for me to top out on Owl Chimney IV,5; thanks guys.

P1110510Fierce weather on Owl Chimney IV,5 *

The route was technical right to the top but well protected. A bonus for all of us was seeing the Owl Pinnacle which is as elusive as the real bird from almost all angles in the corrie. Beads & Dave added a direct start to South Buttress just to our right at IV,4.

P1110536The elusive Owl Pinnacle

Meanwhile Michael Barnard & Pat were climbing Tres Difficile V,6 a steep line immediately left of the TD Gap summer route. They then moved onto the south face of Alasdair and a line immediately right of Michael’s route from last year Skye High. They abseiled off after a pitch with Michael keen to come back and add anothe pitch to complete the route.

P1030102Michael high on Tres Difficile, V,6 TD Gap.

A 5am start on Sunday allowed Michael and me to get 2 new routes climbed on the Stone Shoot face of Thearlaich. Both were very technical and I was very glad to be following. The Bogeyman, VI,7 was a serious and sustained route that looked as promising as the route next door (Curse of the Hobgoblin V,6) but was very sparse on gear and had more than it’s share of loose rock.

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Far more solid but desperately steep the line closest to the top of the Stone Shoot gave Mr Charlie VI,7 which I finished off by squeezing under the summit cairn itself.

Mr Charlie

On Monday Michael, Julian Goddard and Mark Pratt had a long day climbing Fox’s Rake III,4 in not quite ideal conditions with more snow than ice but all good fun and a headtorch descent.

actionJulian on Fox’s Rake

Tuesday had me kicked out of bed at 5 again as Michael had a mission to finish his route on Alasdair. Pat had promised me that the first pitch was very good and he wasn’t lying; a beautiful line with positive hooks and good gear all the way.

Temperatures were rising rapidly as Michael explored the options above before finally returning to the belay soaked through. I took the obvious easiest line of weakness up a tapering ramp above the steep initial wall. It looked blank and smooth to start with but a bit of courage was rewarded with a cluster of bomb-proof gear before running it out on a series of positive edges and small hooks. Michael’s sling was still there at the top of Skye High from last year and I was able to see the quality of that route as we abseiled straight down the line; inspiring stuff.

IMG_0860Michael’s quality route The Sheriff’s Ransom V,6 on Sgurr Alasdair

 

With the thaw setting in we intended to lower the bar for Wednesday’s ambitions; it seemed likely that the In Pinn would be stripped bare and make a suitable outing for what seemed likely to be the last day of winter climbing. It was very obvious we were wrong about the thaw from quite an early stage but this was embraced with glee by the others; I’ve been pretty scared on the Pinn in full winter garb so was reserving judgement.

IMG_0882Climbers for scale below the firigtening Inacceessible Pinnacle

The climb was pretty epic with Michael leading the route in 2 halves and then me,Mark and Johnny following. All captured nicely on a Go-pro on Johnny’s helmet you can enjoy it here- Inaccessible Pinnacle

Outings later in the week were more sedate but any efforts were rewarded hansomely as ever with drama and scenery like only Skye can do properly-

IMG_0932 IMG_0931Ardtrek point with Annmarie

P1110590 P1110617Core Lagan in full thaw!

P1110649Dry tooling at Fiskavaig

 

The annual dinner was a highlight as ever. Iain addressed the Haggis in stunning style that matched his dry-tooling earlier in the day; in fact that’s how he learnt to cut the haggis with the ice axe so accurately. Beads gave the after dinner speech, the before dinner speech and the during dinner speech. Slainte Mha!

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Click on the images below, once for the thumb-nail and again to view full size.

 

Beautiful Bla Bheinn. Friday 8th January

11/01/16

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

September and something of an Indian Summer.

06/10/15

I did get comments after my last post that I mentioned the poor summer but the photos didn’t reflect it so here’s a couple of shots from the start of September showiing folk having fun despite the damp.P1080628A cold looking team at the foot of the Pinn.

Sunday 6th was pretty grim with cold wind and heavy showers but we got our timing just right to catch an hour of less heavy precipitation. It poured down again shortly after we left the In Pinn but this day typified what we’ve been doing all summer, close scrutiny of forecasts allowing us to get ambitions achieved.

Karen & Mo were up for a week of shadowing and had been briefed to bring sunshine with them from Plas y Brenin which they promised but it couldn’t keep up with Mo’s driving 🙂

P1080631Kevin & Fiona enjoying the brief lull & dry rock.

The sun finally arrived on Monday with a stunning cloud inversion that I sadly missed but our guides and clients all raved about.

Karen watching the mists burn off Lochan a’ Ghrunnda

I had a great day at Neist on Tuesday with regular Jane Parfitt. A particular highlight was climbing Man of Straw, the cover shot of Jane’s coveted Seacliffs guidebook.

P1080649Jane loving the sea & sun on Man of Straw, VS.

With the exception of Cioch and In Pinn ascents, in various degrees of poor weather, this season has been just too wet and cold for Cuillin rock climbing.

On Wednesday 9th I finally managed my first major Cuillin rock climb of the year and even managed to combine it with a glorious days work. We opted for Pinnacle Ridge as Robert (76) had never climbed it in his previous 8 rounds of Munros. Incidentally he has now completed the 9th round and is back on Skye starting his 10th which should be done before he reaches 80! Meanwhile modest old Brett (21) was happy to take the scenic route to Am Basteir on such a lovely day; for the record he has only Ben More on Mull to climb to compleat his 1st round of Munros.

I particularly like this shot of us on the exciting Traverse on Knight’s Peak where Robert appears to be levitating along a light-beam from Mo; perhaps that’s how he does it!

Mo and I left the others to descend to Sligachan while we headed for a line on the Bhasteir Face of Gillean. Some debris littered the ledges but 3 pitches of good climbing gave us Indian Buttress, HVS 5a.

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Indian ButtressProbably no stars until someone takes a sweeping brush to it but a good adventure in the sun.

Well enough of the tales; please enjoy some sunny pictures as much as we enjoyed being out there. The rest of September was largely warmer & sunnier than any point in the past 10 months.

 

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P1080699Alan & Tina; his first ever mountain day!!

 

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P1080721Rainbow over Glamaig

IMG_0973Helen in heaven on her first day of climbing

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P1080902Brokn Spectre from high on Western Buttress looking down on Coire Lagan and across to the In Pinn.

P1080881Wonderful light on a reverse round of Coir’ a’ Bhasteir

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IMG_1015Ridge from the Bridge, last day of September 2015

Winter walking days; February 20-23rd

27/02/15

Weather always strongly affects what we suggest to do on any given day and there have been some challenging forecasts to interpret.

Damien & Sue booked a few days of winter walking around last weekend. Friday saw us take a 7 mile hike around the coast via Suisinish and Boreraig, villages abandoned in the Highland Clearances.

P1050607 (1024x768)Rising up out of Boreraig with Rum and a looming snow cloud in the background

We pushed the boat out on ambitions and made an ascent of Sgurr na Banachdaich, the easiest Black Cuillin, in perfect weather on Saturday ahead of an enforced rest day Sunday.

P1050634 (1024x768)Sue snapchatting everyone (apart from her mum) from the top.

We opted for 2 short (1.5hr) walks between showers and coffee shops on Monday, firstly out to the lighthouse at Neist Point

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and then amongst the magical rock formations of the Quiraing.

 

Clear & crisp in Colditz, 19th January

20/01/15

Between the intense storms this winter we’ve been dealt some of the most stunning clear days I’ve experienced. The entire northern Highlands were snow-clad and cloud free for the whole morning before a weak front sent in an awesome display of special effects. Enjoy a selection in the gallery below.

P1040957 (800x600)First wisps of cloud on the weak front approaching abive South Buttress

I was back on Bla Bheinn again today with Escape from Colditz the aim as an ideal introduction to ice climbing for Charlie & Tom.

P1040967 (600x800)Waiting to escape from Colditz

Also along was dad Michael, a time-served climber still using his 1970’s kit but he more than made up for being “burnt by the kids” on the walk in. I coaxed him off his wooden tools and onto shiny curved shaft Piranhas; it’s under a decade since they were last made! He directed complex operations on the belay and coached technique to the others superbly, especially the ancient art of back &  footing.

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The route was good and icy and plenty climbable although the ice was never quite good enough to justify placing an ice-screw.  The route involves a wide variety of techniques so Charlie & Tom had a rapid learnig curve that they dealt with in a way that must have made their old man proud.

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As they ran off downhill on springy knees Michael & I exchanged climbing tales and marvelled at the sheer beauty of our world.

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First climb of the Winter. 5th December

06/12/14

After what seems like a long wait Winter finally arrived properly in the Cuillin today. BC Buttress on Sgurr Thearlaich came up trumps with great conditions despite only a matter of hours.

P1040157 (800x600)Full of Cuillin promise…………..

Iain, Jamie and I climbed Le Diedre Blanc with a slightly easier start.

photoBC Buttress. Our route follows the orange line but started by the short wall to the right of the the white pyramid.

This gave us a 2 star  route at the slightly more amenable grade of IV,4.

P1040174 (600x800)Iain starting up pitch 2

There were some wintery showers

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but we were rewarded with some spectacular light and views from the summit as we rigged the abseil back into the Great Stone Shoot.

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Forecast is for alternating freeze & thaw for the week ahead so hopefully things will continue to improve even more.

November delights.

21/11/14

No sign of winter yet but its been another glorious week of late autumnal weather.

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Mike & I were treated to a feast of light effects, warm sunshine and plenty of dry rock on a round of Coire na Banachdaich.

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Filming on the Cioch for Travel App, 13th May

15/05/14

Cioch theatreClimbers laying it on for the cameras

Had a fun & exciting day out with Elaine & Kerrin in the sun on Tuesday. They’re making high quality travel apps which is a hightec Lonely Planet using videos for those struggling to suss what that means. See this link to Humanity TV  for a fantastic trailer featuring Iceland. Scotland was high on their list to cover in the next issue and I was recommended to them by the Skye based artist Julie Brook

The guys were a pleasure to work with, filming didn’t interfere with the climbing, the weather was perfect, eagles came out to play and both Elaine & Kerrin had monstrous grins as they revelled in the excitement of climbing the Cioch. Good luck with the enterprise!

Special Effects. 10 & 11th May

15/05/14

Overnight mists are taking a while to clear through the days recently but gving some wonderful effects.

Gail & I held faith with the forecast & climbed Pinnacle RidgeClearing mistsClearing mists in Coire a’ Bhasteir

pin4Nearing the top of the first pinnacle

 BasteirbestAm Basteir

Tourist RouteBusy day on the Tourist route.

Next day the mists were slower to clear but we still stayed largely dry as Stuart, Sheena & Lorrimer completed their Skye Munros on Mhadaidh & Ghreadaidh. Antje and Ian just weren’t taking things seriously….

Captions pleaseCaptions please 🙂