January 24th to 2nd February 2020; 10 days for our 10th Anniversary!!
An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an active interest in the Skye mountains in winter.
It’s that time again 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. There is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had!!
2020- A full week in the Glen then to up to Skye Basecamp for the weekend and annual dinner.
7 days of stepping straight out of the door and into a Cuillin winter wonderland. This was how the festival started back in 2011! The Glen Brittle Memorial Hut is situated at the foot of the southern Cuillin with easy access to Coir’ a Ghreadaidh, Coir’ a’ Banachdaich, Coire Lagan and Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda.
After 7 nights in the Glen the festival moves to the big smoke and 2 nights in the luxury of Skye Basecamp.
Over the past 9 years The Skye Winter Festival that has seen high levels of activity including over 60 new winter routes. The Cuillin offer massive challenges no matter how much or how little snow the gods decide to give us so there will be action every day.
The Skye Cuillin is an Alpine-style range offering mountaineering and climbing of the highest calibre that attracts real mountaineers but there is also a huge attraction for those who just enjoy being in amongst mountain scenery of such grandeur.
The festival is open to anyone between these 2 extremes and our only rule is that nobody gets left out! Come alone or with a climbing partner.
Guests come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.
Over the past 9 years we’ve well and truly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2018 Skye was the place to be with Traverses happening for over 8 weeks and multiple new routes. There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.
It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.
What’s to do?
If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas. On the ground there are plenty of folk with good knowledge including the guy that wrote the guidebook…
Accommodation and Food
The meet will start in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.
Skye Basecamp will be our hosts for the following weekend.
Beds cost £20 per night in both venues.
The Memorial Hut and Basecamp both have good kitchens for self-catering.
The annual dinner is a big communal evening meal on Saturday 1st February at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine French fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us and let your hair down!
If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve beds. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.
Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.
Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £20 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meal will cost £10.
This is very much a climbing event and the traditional banter associated with it. Wonderful characters and craic are the norm and over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.
The Annual Festival dinner is cooked communally.
Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL–#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebook page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.
Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.
Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.
Unsure? Don’t worry if you don’t know the Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, 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.
Don’t be intimidated- if your ambitions are modest there will be somebody similar who knows any time on Skye is quality and happy to just rock back and enjoy!
Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts- there’s a part of the part of the booking form to help put you together with others offering/needing lifts
Recovering from a heavy night on the Fondue (supplied by Romain) teams headed out all over the Glen Brittle corries.
Steve Perry & Antoni went out on Casteil a Garbh Choire and did a good mixed line-
Image gallery below-
Just spotted a notice in the WHFP announcing that the Highland Ranger service is carrying out maintainance on the Coire Lagan path on Saturday (19th). Please do call Jenny on 01471 820 527 if interested in volunteering (I think so she can bring enough shovels etc.)
Icky & I were lucky enough to have completed a Traverse back in 2001 and, instead, fancied trying some of the ice we had spied in Coire Lagan last week. We invited Neil from Portree to join us for his first play with 2 technical ice axes.
Sadly the sun and thaw over last weekend had stripped this south-facing buttress right back to bare rock. Instead the North-west Ramp of Sgurr Sgumain looked a good option once more.
We put on the crampons from the lochan and headed up beautiful solid neve, mixing it with a few steps of ice for Neil to get used to some steeper manouvres. Normally I head out left to the foot of the ramp but today a direct approach pitch looked possible.
Heathcotes Gully lies directly above Neil’s head; the normal start to NW ramp lies out left.
Heathcote’s Gully is an 80m Moderate route that acts as an outflow for all the water pouring off this side of Sgumain that gains the NW Ramp route at half height. It has always looked unattractive in the past; in 1892 Heathcote described it as “steep with scanty footholds”. Today it was largely banked out with a couple of short ice steps. I found lovely solid placements in the first step but needed some clever footwork to reach the good ice in the second. I needn’t have bothered racking all the gear because the compact waterworn walls yeilded not a sausage. The belay above was little better; a well-equalised mix of warthog, bulldog, axes & 2 very shallow blades.
Fortunately the stance was good and Neil cruised up the steep sections with Icky close behind. I’m sure this feature has been climbed in winter before, probably unnoticed under a good bank-out, but will add a grade of II with a note about no rock gear to the SMC records.
Having climbed this route a few more times since the guidebook went to print I would suggest that grade I is a bit of a sandbag. The steepening was well banked out for Neil and I to move together but slabs above involve an unprotectable rising traverse, required delicacy and the position is daunting. Grade II is far more suitable.
Sgurr Sgumain (947m)
As we continued towards Alasdair the narrow crest and steep flanks ate into time and darkness wasn’t far away so we decided to make one long abseil to the safety of snow slopes below. Another first for Neil this and, as before, he coped admirably.
On the long walk out of Ghrunnda we were passed by the Traverse team of Guy Steven, Donald King, Kenny Grant & Duncan still romping along despite having been on their feet since half past one in the morning!
Robbie only had the Pinn left to complete his Cuillin munros but quite fancied climbing the Cioch. From the top of the Pinn it was obvious that the good covering of snow ruled out traversing the peaks of Coire Lagan so instead we just crossed corrie. A first for me bagging these 2 classics in this way and the Lochan Traverse Route was pretty superb too.
Rime on the Pinn again focussed the attention
Me posing on the Ciochin the afternoon sunshine
I was out with Vipan and Helen for 3 days this week. They brought sunshine and dry rock so we chose to do the fun bits of the Cuillin. Day 1 was the round of Coire Lagan, day 2 we climbed sgurr nan Fheadain, Druim nan Ramh and An Caisteal and then finished with a romp up the Dubh Ridge. A great few days on some of the best bits of the best mountains in the UK!
Approaching Sgurr Alasdair
Starting up Sgurr Nan Fheadain
Higher up the Spur
Abseiling on Druim nan Ramh
More airy scrambling!
The Dubh Slabs
More slab action!
The forecast is as changeable as ever and I opted for starting wet on Tuesday & the dry forecast for Wednesday to do the bulk of the Traverse. Kim & I stashed our kit in a misty & damp Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda before heading out of to Gars bheinn at the south end of the Ridge. We emerged from the gloom just east of Sgurr nan Eag and were treated to spectacular views & effects.
Heading towards Gars bheinn
Above the clouds
Brokn Spectre; a good omen
We returned to the gloom of Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda collected water then settled down for food, wine & whisky before a comfy night.
At 6 o’clock yesterrday morning we woke to find the ground covered in snow & a blizzard howling around us; patience was needed but by 9am we were making exit plan.
Kim braves the blizzard for a pee
The first hope came with a small window showing bright sunshine below so we adopted a more optimistic atttitude and set off at 10. Climbing up the south-west flank of Alasdair wasn’t too bad but we were greeted by the full wintry blast on the summit. I’ve long talked about avoiding the hair-raising roof-top of Thearlaich by descending the Great Stone Shoot but this was the first time I’ve carried out the plan.
Quickly re-ascending “Bomb Alley” to Bealach Mhicchoinnich we found Collie’s Ledge out of the wind & snow free. There was still a strong prospect we’d have to face an extra (very cold) night out with little food to pull it off but a sense of optimism started creeping in.
Tony saw we were motoring so kindly let us through on the Pinn and we reached An Dorus, which I consider the half-way point along the Ridge, before 3pm.
Steep 2nd top of Mhadaidh
The 2nd half became a balance of speed, stamina & nutrition; we timed out for a welcome brew at An Caisteal.
One of the exciting steps on An Caisteal
We finally summited on Gillean at 7pm. Kim refused to celebrate until he’d climbed back down the West Ridge but then all thoughts were set on beer & food.
The walk-out in the evening light was sublime-
Macleaod’s Maidens & South Uist
Red Red Cuillin glowing with success
We won on the gamble against the snow and then timed things just right to avoid getting held up by anyone on the Pinn today. Some parties had waited for up to 2 hours apparently.
Margaret ecstatic with achieving her In Pinn ambition and safely landing back on solid ground.
In the afternoon we headed over to Mhic Choinnich with more snow flurries but great views back to where we had come from.
Chris taking it all in on his first visit
The sun was even hotter yesterday so I chose to approach the Pinn by an enclosed gully in the Banachdaich Slabs. This had the added bonus of beautiful cold water for drinking right up to over 800m.
Glad to have reached the shade
A sea of mist lying east of Skye gave some beautiful effects and, as Mark pointed out, it was a wonderful day just to take it all in.
The eastern Black Cuillin, Garbh-bheinn, Clach Glas & Blaven with the Affric peaks snow-clad behind
The hills were nearly empty and we saw just 2 solo climbers going up and then back down the long crest of the In Pinn. This would have created havoc on a busier day but a wonderful peace kept everything calm.
Falcon Scott celebrating a long-held ambition
Mark & Iain take in the views
A classic stacked abseil descent on a classic day
A nippy breeze was quite welcome just as we started our ascent. It didn’t stop us having a dip in the lochan on the way down but was a sure sign of yet another cold front returning; today has been bitter but still dry.
Thanks to Chris Sutcliffe for sending this great shot of the Cuillin above the sea of mist taken from Bealach na Ba above Applecross where he enjoyed the uber-classic Cioch Nose.
Blaven far left and Beinn na Caillich far right
We’ve just a last minute cancellation for our cottage that frees it up for the next fortnight. Please contact us by phone, 01471 822 116, or e-mail Catriona on email@example.com if you are interested in booking. Book price was £495 for Saturday to Saturday but we are open to offers for any let of 3 or more consecutive days.
Glas Bheinn cottage is a traditional stone built cottge in the village of Luib just 25 minutes from the Skye bridge. It sleeps 4 people in a double and a twin room.