Summer has been slow to arrive but the past 2 days have been fantastic. Having a day off from guiding it was too good an opportunity to miss. Iain is gathering multipitch climbs for his MIA logbook and was more than keen despite doing the Ridge 2 days ago and warming down on Pinnacle Ridge yesterday.
Iain admiring our target.
I’d never climbed on South Buttress so it was time to test out how accurately I’d written the descriptions for the guidebook. The obvious line of Central Route gets a 2 star recommendation and was very worthy indeed.
Pitch 1 is the crux pitch with a 5a technical grade; quite intimidating so early in the season I have to admit!The rock was solid and holds positive straight off the ground. Things soon got steep with a thin finger crack giving both protection and holds while the feet smeared happily on the beautiful rough rock.
The steepest bulge showed signs of retreat but this was bypassed by a couple of delightful moves out right which then gave a puzzliing dilemma of whether to return to the crack or link a series of positive edges up the wall above. The crack option won and led to a luxury sunbathing spot to belay. This pitch was 45m not 20m as the guidebook says.
Iain led a long pitch above (4b)by a series of walls, slabs and chimneys to a shady belay at the foot of the prominent straight finishing chimney. This was every bit as good as it looks in the pictures with just enough holds and protection but not too easy.
As a warning to others it should be said that there is a lot of loose debris immediately above the chimney; caution should be exercised but didn’t cause us any problems.
We unroped and enjoyed a final 50m of scrambling (30m in the guidebook) before a small terrace led left to the waterworn slabs of the descent route. These proved to be so clean & delightful that it really added to the quality of the outing; probably a climbing first for me! One final bonus was that this cool shady line brought us back out right to where we had left the rucksack!
Birthday Groove is on the South Buttress of Blaven; The sun didn’t shine on us but Antoni and I enjoyed another classic Cuillin rock route.
2 big pitches (70m & 50m) up Birthday Groove gave us some great traditional climbing, largely on dry rock. We’d carried our sacks to avoid a painful descent but I really didn’t fancy the squeezed final pitch so dodged right into the final, and best, pitch of Virgo which takes a parallel fault line.
Antoni made a fine job of leading this sustained long pitch which is distinctly undergraded in the guidebook at Difficult.
We continued to the top for a magnificent view of the Ridge; Antoni’s first view despite having been there 3 times before!
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.
With a Ridge Traverse high on Mark’s ambitions I decided a day of intense training at Elgol was in order after 2 hard days in the snow.
First was an hour of abseiling until Mark was completely happy doing everything himself.
Next was some intense footwork on the easy slab which took Mark from a rock hugger to a smiling rock gymnast in a matter of minutes. We had to dive for cover as a heavy shower passed over us but the rocks were dry enough to climb minutes later.
After lunch we crossed the beach to the main cliff. The noise of crashing waves reverberated under the huge rooves and created a seriously intimidating feel as we perched on our tiny ledge. As we covered the important sequence of what was going to happen I watched the next shower storm across the Minch towards us but a tiny cave at the foot of Fertility Right kept us dry.
Climbing a Severe standard climb on damp rock, rucksack on back and in approach shoes gave a realistic insight into what Mark is going to find on the TD Gap & Naismith’s Route when he returns with some fine sunny weather for a Traverse:-)
On Wednesday Guy Steven gave them a revision of crampon and axe skills before climbing Great Gully on Blaven. Amazing weather & views all day-
Today we opted for some sunny rock climbing down at Elgol which culminated in Louis leading his first route in over 5 years.
Mists clung to the Cuillin and heavy showers were sweeping through so Ally and I headed to Neist Point yesterday.
Not wanting to venture too far from the car we set up an abseil at the top of Sonamara so that we could cram in as much climbing as possible.
My favourite warm-up route isn’t in the new guidebook. It’s a Very Difficult standard climb just round to the right of Sonamara that stays dry in the lower half thanks to an overhanging rib of rock above. I’ll christen it Shelterstone, V. Diff, 20m for now and get it recorded somewhere.Walls of water swept in towards us but seemed to part and miss us, somewhat biblically, every time. We even had bursts of warm sunshine.
We squeezed in ascents of Sonamara and Baywatch before getting Ally set up for his first lead. He placed the gear back into Shelterstone whilst on abseil then I came down to check it. Pleasently surprised to find every placement a bomber it was an easy choice to send Ally straight back up without much further ado. Duck to water I’d say;)
Privileged to go to work today; Beinn na Caillich with her veil of mist hugging like a shawl, the colours in the trees driving through Torrin, hot sunshine and not a breath of wind, fantastic climbing, great company and a sunset to boot.
Ally works with the John Muir Trust in Kilmarie and fancied trying his hand at climbing. After the standard single day “learn to climb” action I decided to test us both on the impressive line of Hairy Mary. I found it twice as hard & steep as last time. Luckily Ally has huge arms (from dragging deer carcasses around) that hung on so well that he even got one stuck! As the other option was swinging off into space & lowering off for an early bath both of us were mighty relieved 😉
Ally about to set off on his space-walk!
Can ya spot the sharks circling?
Great to get back to some rock climbing in the sunshine today with Fyona & Alistair at Elgol. We’d been blown off the crags at Staffin last week which added extra pressure to my brief to convince these climbing virgins that rock climbing is for them.
After an hour of training on the wall in Luib we headed down to sunny Elgol and the wonderfully user-friendly practice slab at the east side of the bay. Consisting of sandstone ribbed with horizontal breaks its’ a great place to learn the importance of foot work. The right hand side then has some big jugs leading through an overhanging section giving a great opportunity to realise that leaning back on your arms isn’t as difficult as it looks.
The quality of light today was astounding with the earlier showers having cleared any haziness away.
Looking out to the island of Rum
After a couple of weeks holiday it has been an absolute pleasure to come back to work this last week. I’ve been fortunate enough to have 8 consecutive days of rock climbing.
Forgot the camera on the first day out but Dave & I had a great day approaching via Cioch Slab to the foot of the intimidating sounding Crack of Double Doom (VS 4c). I’d forgotten how fine the main pitch is; 50m of continuously testng moves and all well protected.
Next day was Direct Route on Eastern Buttress (Severe) with Ant & Paul; again a route that I’d forgotten how good it was with 9 pitches of superb rock & plenty of challenge.
We went to Neist next day with the guys doing their first leads after some intense practice in gear placements and setting up belays.
Next day the guys were tested and passed with flying colours as they led themselves up all 6 pitches of Window Buttress (V Diff)
Back at Neist next day with Tom, Susan & daughter Lisa who showed her folks how it was done with fine ascents of (Severe) and Tatties (Severe). To be fair Tom & Susan did superbly as well and were particularly happy with the short session of ropework for scrambling that we squeezed in.
Tuesday was a sun-fest at Kilt where Victoria, Elise & I climbed the Rpmper (Severe), Secret Service (VS, 5a)
and then Elise & I climbed Jamboree
(VS 4c in the book but HVS 5a at least)
Next day we had John Doughty for company whose first trip to the Cuillin was over 50 years ago! He gave me the brief of a long open slabby route.
Central Route starting by Mallory’s Slab & Groove takes on the full thousand foot height of the huge Western Buttress. We indulged in 10 pitches of “just what the doctor ordered” on a very full day out
On Thursday Icky, Elise and I decided to climb the route on the cover of the new Sea-Cliffs & Outcrops guidebook, Man of Straw at Neist. The setting by the swelling seas was superb and the route excellent to match; worthy of 3 stars in my opinion with moves and protection that make you think all route with superb moves in a stunning position.
Long may the summer last!!
Celia has climbed on bolts to a high level at home in Calgary and today had her first taste of climbing with traditional gear on the delightful dolerite at Neist. After warming up on Sonamara & Baywatch we moved over to Financial Sector where Matt, Beads & Murdo were already playing on Midas Touch.
We took their recommendation and first climbed this superb 25m VS. It deserves all the stars that it is given in the new seacliffs guidebook.
Out to our right Murdo was pointed at Shocks’ n’ Stares as a suitable route for him to lead and he made an impressively small amount of fuss.
Beads in a great position on Shocks’ n’ Stares
As we abseiled to the bottom for our next route it started to spit with rain but the craic was still good on the ground as Matt was engrossed in the crux moves of Terminal Bonus.
We opted for the right hand twin route to Midas Touch, an HVS called Insider Dealing. The climbing was just as good and both Celia and I finished before the rock got too wet. Pure Dead Brilliant!
There’s a weather pattern just now of overnight mists with the odd heavy shower chucked in. Through the day these are burning off in some very hot sunshine only for the clouds to build up again late evenings. With a good strong breeze chucked in to keep the midgies at bay we really couldn’t ask for a better summer set-up; long may it last! Here’s today’s selection-
Guy & Nick on South top of Ghreadaidh; Pinn behind.
Francis looking back at his first Cuillin peaks
For the second day on the trot we couldn’t resist the beautiful looking pools.
The water is a positively pleasant temperature
Guy also found some shallow-water-soloing to entertain us-
Malcom & I made the most of our day off by visiting one of my virgin crags to try a the obvious central line.
We were treated to the full range of emotions; ecstacy with conditions being perfect with a warm breeze keeping midgies off, dry rock then a real stiff starting move that put us off so long it started raining. We were on the verge of running away but decided to take a look from above to see if the route was worth coming back for. What we saw didn’t encourage us hugely looking very steep & finishing in greasy loose stuff!
The rain stopped and the rock dried in front of our eyes. The move off the ground was now seeming a lot more positive so Malc tied on & went for it. A wee bit of gardening was needed to find gear but the holds were all just superb. Near the top Malc made a couple of warning noises about the steepness & blankness so I ducked out of photography mode & into attentive belayer 😉
As the next shot shows I also found a need to really focus on the superb crux sequence at the top of the route. Fantastic effort Malcom on a beautiful route. 40m of very high quality climbing at about E2 5c. Techno Snob was the name we chose after much wracking of brains.
Hannah Burrows-Smith is taking a break from Alpine guiding and has been working here for the past few weeks. We opted for a “busmans holiday” with a hot approach to the huge cliff on the back of Sgurr Mhiccoinich. We opted for Mongoose Direct, a line of cracks that splits the centre of the cliff. The lowest 2 pitches were very high quality but the crux 3rd pitch spanked my ass. We reverted to the original Mongoose line that joins Dawn Grooves. Above the quality of rock deteriated, motivation dwindled and so we took an escape line out right below the top pitches. Not the most satisfactory result but we did some amazing climbing and had a highly exciting time!
The crag in profile this morning.
Hannah sorting out the 50m abseil down Rotten Gully
Looking up the line
Pitch 1- straight into the laybacking
Hannah on the hard high quality second pitch
The crux pitch that defeated me tackles the white walled corner above.
On the traverse pitch of Dawn Grooves
Very hot & very busy just now. Wee selection of memories-
Sweltering Traverse 24th May
Overhang Cure E2 5b; New route at Elgol. 25th May
Dawn Glory 24th May
Skye Guides annual BBQ- ie the only one we get between winter & midgies! 25th May
Early Traversers on Sgurr Thearlaich today, 26th May
Good day with regulars Hazel, Dunc, Connor & Holly yesterday.
It was a busy day so we avoided queuing for the Pinn by starting on Mhicchoinnich with an ascent of King’s Chimney.
All rounded off with a great scree-run descent and wonderful evening light out to Rum
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