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After work Afterburn; 31st May


After work today Francis, Lou, Nathan & I all sneaked in some final climbs for May in the beautiful light at Elgol. I’ve never rated School-house Buttress much compared to the the main cliffs at Suidhe Biorach but have changed my mind now.

Lou & Francis were in action on Beekeepers Bother as Nathan and I arrived. Somehow I’d managed to avoid this, the best looking line on the crag. Their raving was enough to inspire me and their presence was enough to stop me wimping out when it got hard. A little hollow in places but superb climbing. Nathan followed in fine style and finished his week of work placement with his second E1 of the week.

I recommended an unlikely looking E2 behind the holiday cottage; bit of a sandbag it turns out as it is now given E3. Francis hung in well and enjoyed the surprisingly complex route finding for long enough for me to run around and take a fine selection of shots. Enjoy the gallery


Best view in Skye? Sgurr na Stri 29 March.


With the high peaks so clad  in white I suggested to the Furze team that we should, instead, visit the lowly but fantastic Sgurr na Stri.

Taking the Aquaxplore RIB into Coruisk gave a bracing but rapid approach to the jetty and a chance to envy the seals basking on the rocks.

As if the view from the head of Loch Coruisk isn’t enough, the graduaal rise towards Druim Hain threw up evr increasing numbers of snow-clad peaks until the entire Main Ridge was in view.

John, Somerset & I headed up to the summit of Sgurr na Stri while the others headed down for lunch at the Camasunary bothy (Michelin 3* views:)

The peak has 2 summits and on reaching the first summit a raven seemed reluctant to depart. Looking across at the 2nd summit 50m away a huge bird was sitting beside the cairn. With my 16X zoom I snapped a quick shot, studied it and concluded that it was just another raven. I was told I should have lied to keep the client happy but instead went one better. Our friend continued to sit there and eventually turned his head. This time the photo revealed a beautiful hooked beak and definite hints of gold.

Eventually our friend flew off, we scrambled up to his perch, sunny snacks then we had to leave. We spied the rest way below but caught them at the bothy in time for a delux picnic on the beach and the long but stunning  walk back out to Elgol as the sun glinted magically.


Shinty Victory. 5th February


Back row; Cameron, Max, Lachlan, Callum. Front row: Ruari (c), Nuan, Aaron

Congratulations to the South Skye shinty team who won the P4/5 tournament in Portree tonight. 10 teams from across the island competed but before now the trophy read Portree, Portree, Portree so this was a major accomplishment by the boys.

The South Skye team had lost the round-robin match to Portree Tigers 1-0.  The final was a superb close match; a brace of goals from Aaron set SS up well but a crucial penalty save by Max Stanicliffe at 2-1 up kept SS ahead.

Stalwart defending kept hearts in mouths and substitute Lachlan Macpherson knocked in a 3rd goal just before the final whistle to seal a well-deserved victory.



More surprises on the Ridge. 2nd February


The sublime conditions I predicted nearly happened yesterday but not quite; a heap of fresh powder overnight settled into a beautiful but scary crest on top of the narrowest section of ridges.

Chris and I headed up the West ridge of Dearg with an aim to do a round of Coire Lagan. The path was as icy as the road from the start and we donned crampons below 700m. The next hour was a sublime sunlit wander over solid snowpatches that soon merged into an icy blanket.

Encountering powder surprised me but the covering was only thin and easily avoided as far as Sron Dearg. Beyond I didn’t fancy the normal easy bypasses which were banked out with hard snow and a layer of powder so we roped up to tackle the narrow crest instead. Things were feeling quite intense by the time we reached the Pinn 20 minutes later.

Perfectly timed Cameron MacIvar was just appraoching the crux move on the Pinn in a bright orange jacket. There are some other excellent pics on his facebook page in the link above.

After taking a few shots Chris & I headed down surprisingly deep powder all the way to the head of the An Stac Screes before having a spot of lunch.

Traversing Mhicchoinnich was now looking seriously in doubt: would we be able to find the anchor to abseil from at the top of King’s Chimney? Intensity built up again as we gained height but we hit a section of perfect neve once more  just 200m from the summit and I felt a wave of confidence. A few steps further and my optimism was dashed as the beautiful looking crest turned out to be what Chris described as a “Patagonian-style” wave-top of deep powder.

Back-tracking still required concentration but finally reaching the safety of Loch Lagan was quite a relief. The atmosphere relaxed completely as we were greeted by Angus from the Old Inn who was up with his snow-boarding mates and the Great Stone Shoot in mind. Conditions weren’t suitable but it was great to see a variation on local interest in the Cuillin.

Back to more wild storms in the next few days; this seems to be turning into one of the biggest winters I’ve known in the Cuillin.

Skye Winter Skills Day, December 1st


11 of us enjoyed superb conditions and wonderful weather on an ascent of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir on Saturday the 1st. Amongst the group was a mix of summer hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers from Skye. Many thanks to everyone who turned up to make it such a huge success.We all climbed the left hand (NE) ridge of the beautiful pyramidal Sgurr a’ Bhasteir on the right.

I worried that Friday’s heavy rain might not stop but the skies cleared, temperatures dropped and everyone survived the icy roads to meet at Sligachan at 8am. The peaks were plastered with snow with descriptions varying from “Himalayan” to “iced cakes”.

The footpath was treacherously coated in black ice and gave everyone a full body work out just to stay upright. It was quite a relief to finally don the crampons at the steepening by the Basteir Gorge. Those wearing them for the first time were amazed at how positive they suddenly felt.

Underfoot conditions improved hugely once we reached the snow-line. Progress was tempered by a photography-fest as glorious vistas opened up all around us and a golden eagle even gave us a fly-by. After lunch Donald and Martin opted to head down to give themselves plenty of time to negotiate the icy slabs. The eagle again soared above us as we made very good speed to reach the summit and even more spectacular scenery.

Summit of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir 898m

At Bealach na Lice crampons were removed to allow some practice at ice-axe arrest on a quick descent back into Coir’ a’ Bhasteir. We also briefly looked at how to treat delicate Cuillin ice before having to put crampons back on for the painful return over the icy slabs. We all managed this and most of the return journey before darkness finally engulfed us and the head-torches came into their own.

Everyone had a great time and one suggestion is to set-up a local facebook group for anyone keen to get out.

Free Winter Skills this Saturday 1st December


Saturday December 1st
Sligachan, 8-30 am. Free Winter Skills day. Suitable for those with summer walking experience with an interest in the Cuillin in winter. Also anyone with winter experience keen to meet other locals. Bring normal hill-walking kit. Some crampons and axes available. Contact Mike Lates on 01471 822 116 or e-mail

With snow on the ground and a cold forecast through to the end of the week this is a rare opportunity to plan a good day out.

The day is aimed at Skye and Lochalsh based folk with experience of exploring the Cuillin in summer. We will head into Coir’ a’ Bhasteir or up Sgurr a’ Bhasteir and mix new skills with walking to keep warm!

Normal hill-walking kit with good quality boots crucial. Gaitors & spare gloves too. Please call with questions and if you need to borrow crampons and ice axe; ideally we’ll try to fit these beforehand. Daylight is very short so we need to set off promptly and head torches are important.

This is a social as much as anything so please don’t feel intimidated. As the wording says above please do come along if you already know what you’re doing and just fancy meeting up & helping out. Please drop me a line if you are keen but no commitment needed.




Missing beach!


I haven’t visited my local bouldering spot on the Moll (NG563 316) since last year so was a bit shocked to see a big rockfall as I approached.





As I got closer I realised that the change was actually that my beautiful flat shingle beach had been washed away revealing jaggedy ankle-twisting boulders.





Here’s a shot of me playing last year; at my feet you can just see a white band of quartzite-

The next shot shows the same quartz band  now that the shingle has been washed away-

The bad landing put me off anything at all poky and I’m now faced with a choice-clear what I can & buy a bouldering mat or sandbag the base and spend a few hours reconstructing 10m of beach. There are good anchors at the top so top-roping is the other option.

It may only be wee but I don’t know of many solid outcrops of rock with so many positive holds on Skye. Once my arms hurt enough I took a wander further south along the shore towards the fish farm. There were a few more spots to play around but all with poor landings again.

It’s a fascinating section of shoreline with obvious otter debris but it was the huge array of ancient car debris that provided most amusement. The trees are all far too big to be able to have got cars through for many a year. Antique car buffs would have a field day.

Driest place on Skye? Neist 8 November


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;)

The man who met Norman Collie


Skye-born Munro-bagger’s link with Cuillin history.

In May this year our Skye Guide Malcom Airey guided 79 year old Alasdair MacPherson, along with his daughter Fiona, on an ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Malcolm was amazed to hear that Alasdair had once met the great Cuillin pioneer Professor J. Norman Collie.

Alasdair was born in Kraiknish by Eynort in 1932, the 2nd of 7 sons born to Duncan & Margaret MacPherson. In 1938, on a return journey from an auntie’s house in the Braes, he was taken to the Sligachan Hotel. It was here that Norman Collie was pointed out to him in the hotel lounge. Although his own encounter was very limited it seems that Collie was well known amongst the local crofters both through the hotel and accompanying him on the hill.

Collie had discovered the joys of climbing on Skye in 1887 and went on to pioneer many climbs throughout the world but made no secret that his heart lay in the Cuillin. He had retired to Skye shortly before Alasdair’s encounter with him and lived at the hotel for nearly a decade looking out on the peaks he knew so well. He died in 1942 and was laid to rest in a grave adjoining that of his Skye Guide and good friend John Mackenzie for whom he had so much admiration.

Alasdair himself left the island at the age of 18, qualified as a veterinary surgeon at Glasgow University and is now retired and living in Stonehaven. Having climbed the hardest of all the Munros he now has only 34 peaks left to compleat his round.